Have you ever been so amazed by a gift that you forgot all about the giver of that gift? You might have carefully decided on, saved to purchase, and intricately wrapped this perfect gift, but if it becomes simply a thing that you own instead of something that was entrusted to you, you will use it selfishly, and the love with which it was given will have been lost. Unfortunately, humans often do this with God. God gives them skills, opportunities, loved ones, etc., and if those gifts are seen as personal property, the Creator and Giver of those gifts is rejected, and worship is misplaced (either onto the item for being perfect, or onto one’s self for having possession of such perfection).
In this text, God tests Abraham, who has been given the “perfect gift” of a long-awaited child. God does not mince words. He tells Abraham to prepare to offer his precious son back to God as a sacrifice of worship to God, the Giver of that child. I wonder if Abraham thought, No, Lord, you can’t be serious. Why? I suppose that is what I would ask. We don’t have record of what Abraham thought in that moment, or in the three days it took for them to get to the appointed site of the sacrifice, but I imagine he was praying every step of the way.
Abraham obeys God in each detail, and he leads others (his son, his servants) to do likewise, assuring them God is at work, even though they don’t see how. I think C.S. Lewis’s words about the Lion Aslan being “not safe, but (he’s) good” apply to the God of Life. It was not foolishness but faith. God gave His word. God kept His word. God gave Isaac to Abraham. God’s good gift, apart from God Himself, held no blessing. Abraham received the gift of his son on the Giver’s terms, loving them both, but worshiping only God. Abraham’s faithfulness was met with relief as God provided a ram to be ultimately sacrificed.
Do you know this was not the only unbelievable three-day-long nightmare in the Bible? The disciples of Jesus suffered great heartache, confusion, and doubt after the crucifixion was finished and before the resurrection took place. Does God throw His people some curve balls that seem downright wrong? Maybe. But He is never in the wrong. We just haven’t heard the end of the story yet.
“After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.’ So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. Then Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.’ And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together; And Isaac said to his father Abraham, ‘My father!’ And he said, ‘Here I am, my son.’ He said, ‘Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’ Abraham said, God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.’ So they went both of them together.
“When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and lad him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am ab.’ He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’ And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, ‘The Lord will provide’; as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” -Genesis 22:1-14