Abraham and Isaac: Difficult Issues

I’ll be posting some backlogs of Newsletter Articles I’ve written in the past. Sometimes ideas don’t come so easily, but having nearly three year’s worth of archived posts doesn’t hurt. This first post, interestingly enough, covers the recent story we had just covered during our Wednesday night Explorer’s lesson: the Sacrifice of Isaac.

The story picks up sometime after Isaac’s birth, we don’t really know how long it’s been, but we know Isaac’s old enough to talk and think. God then asks Abraham to go to a mountain and sacrifice his son, his only son Isaac, whom he loves. Of all the disobedience and dishonesty Abraham has shown in his days, on this point, he makes no objection or complaint. He packs up some supplies, grabs his son and heads to the mountains.

As Abraham and Isaac are climbing the mountain, Isaac wonders, “Dad, where’s the sacrifice?” Abraham, who has waited 100 years for this boy, has to look at his son and say, hopefully, “The Lord will provide the sacrifice.” Abraham then proceeds to bind his son and set him on the altar. Abraham has the knife in position to kill his son, his knife begins to move, and a voice cries, “Abraham!, Abraham!” God saw his obedience and stops the act before it happens, providing a ram for the sacrifice.

This story has baffled theologians and Bible readers for centuries. Why would God ask for something He expressly forbids later in the Bible? Why does God seem to change his mind? This scripture, of a father having to sacrifice a son sounds awfully familiar to me as a Christian. God would have know n the plan, even from that early stage in Biblical history. I think the Bible uses this story as a way to foreshadow the Passion narrative in the Gospel accounts. Isaac, the only son, loved by the father is almost directly parallel to Jesus, whom in John 3:16 is called God’s “one and only son.”

Abraham is called here to do something all of us would consider impossible. God asks for a man to leap out entirely on faith, with the slim hope that an alternative will be offered. God did reward Abraham’s obedience with the provision of the Ram. But consider Jesus’ position: no alternative and the sacrifice must go on.

It may not seem like it, but this story is about trust. God tested Abraham, yes, God does send an occasional exam. Abraham was asked by God which was more important: God’s provision or the son he held in his arms? Could God continue the promise through another son? Of course. Would God renig on his promise? Of course not. So Abraham has to trust that God would keep his promise despite the call to sacrifice his son.

As the story closes, who do you trust? Where is your treasure? Is it in God? Is it in the promise of your children or your spouse? Is it in your job, your bank account, you house?

Take some time today to consider what you could let go if God asked you to. The hardest person or thing to let go may be where your trust lies. Make sure it doesn’t overshadow God’s promise and plan for your life.