After these things God tested Abraham. He 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 that I shall show you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.
When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”
The angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, “By myself I have sworn, says the Lord: Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed My voice.” So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beer-sheba; and Abraham lived at Beer-sheba. Genesis 22:1-19
Psychologists, dark-humored comedians, and some haters of the Judeo-Christian faith have gotten a lot of mileage out of this passage of scripture. They paint it as an example of a twisted divine being, one who advocates child sacrifice and strained parent-child relationships. But this type of portrayal misses what this story really says. It is not at all about child sacrifice (Abraham trusted that the Lord would provide the animal for sacrifice. No child was killed in the telling of this story.) And Abraham kept listening to and following God.
Abraham had waited so long for the child that God had promised. And yet once Isaac had arrived, was this child, and the concept of family, meant to take the place of God at the center of Abraham and Sarah’s life?
I have seen people who focus so intently on their family, that they treat God and other people as if they had no importance in the world. (I have also known folks who spend all their time focused on their work, their hobbies, their volunteer activities, and maybe even church, that they ignore their families. There must be some balance in life.)
God tested Abraham. Where was his focus to be? On the child alone? Or on the God who tells us to love the Lord with all our heart, and our neighbors as we love ourselves? And at the end of the path to mountain of sacrifice, what Abraham had told to his son did happen. The Lord provided the ram caught in the ticket by its horns.
I wonder if I focus enough on God, that I live my life trusting God to provide?
God, help me to keep You and Your word at the center of my daily life. And as I focus on You, help me to truly love my family, my friends, and all the fellow pilgrims in faith that You put along my path daily. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.