It has been a crazy couple of days in our household. My husband, Jeff, has been confined to the couch because of a bad back. This has meant that I have been doing double duty as mommy and daddy to our toddler, and praying Jeff makes a speedy recovery. Tonight, as Jeff slept off his pain meds, I got Elisabeth ready for bed. We played in the tub, brushed our teeth, and put on our jammies. As part of our nighttime ritual we also read a bed time story, and our story for the evening was that of Abraham and Isaac.
As a Christian the story of Abraham and Isaac fascinates me. As a parent, it horrifies me. For those of you reading who may not be familiar with the Old Testament tale I will paraphrase it briefly. Abraham was chosen by God to be the father of the nation of Israel. He was an old man when God chose him, somewhere around the age of 100, and his wife, Sarah, was no spring chicken. God promised Abraham that Sarah would have a son, and that Abraham would be the father. This was to be the start of the nation of Israel, and God promised that Abraham’s descendants would be greater than the stars in the heavens. As God promised, Abraham and Sarah had a little boy and named him Isaac. Needless to say, Abraham and Sarah loved Isaac very much, for they had gone years without children and had given up any hope of becoming parents. I am sure that the miracle of Isaac’s birth dissolved any doubts they may have had about God and His divinity.
Now the story of Abraham and Isaac doesn’t end there, it’s really where it begins. God knew that Abraham trusted Him, but there was a lot that God was going to bless Abraham with. God had to make sure that Abe would be faithful and He asked Abraham to do the unthinkable. God told Abraham that He was going to have to sacrifice Isaac on the altar. Can you imagine Abraham’s reaction? Sacrifice his only son? The very boy God had given him and Sarah? This was their only son! How could God ask such a thing? I am sure that every thought you would have Abraham had, and as a mother, I am pretty sure God’s plan for Isaac was NOT run by Sarah. Even so, Abraham, faithful and trusting completely in God, took Isaac up on the mountain where sacrifices were made. He endured Isaacs’s questions about the lack of a sacrificial lamb, and even went so far as to tie his son down upon the altar. Isaac, trusting his father completely, didn’t even struggle. Abraham had raised his hand to strike Isaac dead when God finally said, “STOP!”
There are so many things that struck me about this testament of faith tonight that I genuinely don’t know where to begin. For one, Abraham didn’t know how the story would end. He didn’t see the parallels between the sacrifice of his only son and the sacrifice of Christ. His faith was a completely blind one. Abe just knew that this was what God had commanded, and he trusted that God wouldn’t ask him to do something that wasn’t for his own good.
In addition, I see now that God had to make sure that Abraham knew he could trust God, fully. Abraham, had he not done as commanded, would have missed seeing God come through in a miraculous way, and he also would have lost out on knowing that our God is a God that can be trusted. Trust is something you can command all day long, but only in practice does it become genuine. Abraham practiced that trust and benefited eternally from knowing that our God is a God who works for the good of His people in all circumstances.
Lastly, I saw that God didn’t jump in at the first sign of discomfort. He didn’t come to Abraham who was no doubt riddled with despair and grief that morning and say “Ahhh, never mind, I just wanted to see if you would do it you crazy old man!” Nor did he come as Isaac and Abraham climbed the mountain. No, God came right when it was apparent that Abraham trusted Him fully, right as Abe was about to go through with God’s command. God not only tested Abraham’s faith, He tested his obedience.
Sometimes we are so much like Abraham. We read things in the scriptures, or know through prayer what God is telling us to do, but we hesitate. It just doesn’t make sense. Move to another country? Sell my possessions? Go to that college? Marry that person? Serve at THAT church? Stay single? Not have children? The requests God lays before us can be so outlandish by human standards that we just can’t see a loving God making them. The thing that we can take from the story of Abraham is that God doesn’t ask us to do things that aren’t for our good. We must follow through on the act of obeying him; on the act of trusting Him. He might stop our hand just as it is raised and our very sacrifice lies before us. In following Him, and trusting Him in everything uncertain, we’ll find that there is only one thing we will end up sacrificing to Him…our doubt.