Genesis 22:1-2 (NLT)
Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called. “Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.” “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”
By ‘Debo Onabanjo
After a long wait of 25 years from when the Lord first called and entered into a covenant with him, Abraham and Sarah against all odds had Isaac, the child of promise. Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah 90 years old when Isaac was born.
What we learn from the story of these two biblical characters is that when our Lord makes a promise, it can be trusted. Abraham’s greatest desire to have a male child through Sarah became a reality when all seemed hopeless. After having experienced a lot of challenges as part of his walk with the Lord, it was reasonable for Abraham to expect to live out his remaining years in peace. However, God had other plans for Abraham and decided to put his faith through the wringer.
A cursory reading of the story surrounding today’s verses brings an obvious question to mind. How could a loving God who had made promises to bless Abraham through his seed now ask that Abraham should go and sacrifice his son as a burnt offering? There is no doubt that this instruction by God would be repugnant to any right-thinking person. But the introduction tells us that this was a test, although Abraham was not aware that it was a test. If you were in Abraham’s shoes, what would you have done?
Abraham could have tried to reason with God and offer to give all of his livestock – and he had plenty to sacrifice to God. Even though it is not mentioned, it would have been unreasonable for Abraham to have discussed this matter with his wife Sarah. It is inconceivable that after having waited 90 years to have a son, Sarah would have acquiesced to God’s instruction for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering.
In addition to animal sacrifices, which were quite common in the ancient near East where Abraham lived, some of the pagan nations also sacrificed their children to their gods. If pagans could sacrifice their children to idols that could not do anything for them, God wanted to see if Abraham had enough faith and respect to give up Isaac.
Without any equivocation on his part, we read that “the next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about.” (Genesis 22:3). Just imagine with me for a second what must have been going through Abraham’s mind. Before he set out with Isaac, he had already sacrificed him in his heart.
On day three of their journey, Abraham parted from his servants and proceeded alone with Isaac. He placed the wood he had chopped on Isaac’s shoulders while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the father and son walked on together, Isaac, who was definitely a grown lad by this time, realized that something was missing. He had no doubt witnessed many animal sacrifices by his father and therefore questioned him.
“We have the fire and the wood,” the boy said, “but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”
In one of the most powerful faith responses recorded in Scripture, Abraham responded, “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son.” They walked on together and after they arrived at the designated place, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. We are not sure if at this time it finally dawned on Isaac that he was the designated “sheep” for the offering, but there is no record of any struggle as Abraham tied his son Isaac and laid him on the altar on top of the wood (Genesis 22:9). Without further ado, Abraham took the knife and prepared to kill Isaac and offer him as a burnt offering to the Lord.
But at that moment, the angel of the Lord called to Abraham and told him not to lay a hand on Isaac. The angel said, “Do not hurt him in any way, for I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.” (Genesis 22:12). Abraham passed the test. God had no desire for Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, but chose to test Abraham’s faith to be sure that Abraham was willing to do anything for him, including offering his only son as a burnt offering.
Are you prepared to do anything for the Lord?
Gracious and loving God, you freely gave up your only Son to die in our place. Help us to be willing to do anything as a demonstration of our faith in you. We pray in the name of Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Amen.