Genesis 22:1 After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 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.” 3 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. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. 5 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.” 6 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. 7 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?” 8 Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together. 9 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. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 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.” 13 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. 14 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.”
We don’t know how old Isaac was at the time of this story, but I’m thinking Isaac was at least 12 years old or more. He walked up the mountain by himself so that would indicate a boy of some strength. We are told earlier in the story that Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born, and about 80 years old when God called him from his original home toward a “promised land”. So I’m thinking Abraham had been walking with the Lord for some 30+ years by this point.
It’s notable because early in his journey, not more than a year or two after meeting God, Abraham was not nearly as faithful a man as we read about here. You may recall he lied to Pharaoh telling him that Sarah was not his wife, but his sister – this way they would not kill Abraham and steal his wife but would instead honor Abraham as the older brother and probably give him a generous dowry to marry Sarah. Which is exactly what happened. It was later revealed to Pharaoh in a dream that Sarah was Abraham’s wife – not his sister – so Pharaoh gave Sarah back to Abraham (for fear of punishment by God) and let Abraham keep the goods Pharaoh had given to him. In fact, Abraham did essentially the same thing a few years later to another king!
Abraham relied on deception instead of trusting the Lord for protection.
There is no such lack of faith in Abraham in this story. There is no hint of hesitation when God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac on the altar. It suggests that Abraham trusted God to make good on his promise to give him children and descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky. But God did not make Abraham go through with it.
I don’t know what I would do if I discerned the Lord commanding me to sacrifice my children. I’m guessing I would refuse. But Abraham did not refuse, though Isaac was ultimately spared. It brings to mind, of course, the fact that God the Father did not withhold his only son Jesus from death on a cross for all our sakes. It boggles the mind when you think about it.
Thank you God that you did not withhold your own son for us. Amen.