Genesis 22: God calls an old man who has longed his whole life for a son to sacrifice that son, whom he loves, as a burnt offering. And the man agrees.
He just rises early in the morning, like he did with Ishmael, and heads to the place God will show him to kill his little boy.
Every action, every word between the man and his son, every step toward the mountain drips with heaviness and grief. A simple phrase: “So the two of them walked on together” makes me pause to catch my breath. It is so dramatic. It is so awful!
Why has it come to this? Hasn’t Abraham proved he is willing to follow God and trust him?
The boy asks a question: “Where is the lamb?” And the man, in a moment of either desperate hope or false comfort, says that God will provide one. Is he telling Isaac what he really believes or telling him what he wants to hear? I don’t know.
But the man goes through with it. He ties the boy up. He places him on the altar. He raises the knife in his hand to slash the boy’s throat . . .
And then a voice.
“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.”
The man looks and sees a ram stuck in some bushes. God has provided. His son is spared. The man breathes the sweetest sigh of relief and offers his thanks to this God who has shown himself to be different than the others.
He does not require child sacrifice. He will provide a substitute.
But at the same time, this God will ask you to put that which you desire most on the altar. This God will not play second fiddle. He can give you what you desire most, but he will not be overshadowed by it.
Whom You Love
Chapter 22 has the first mention of “love” in the Bible. I am kind of amazed that it took that long! But what I find most interesting is the context in which this word first shows itself.
- The first love is between a father and a son
- The first love comes in a call for sacrifice.
- The first love is spoken in conjunction with a confusing command.
- The first love requires Abraham to give EVERYTHING.
What a beautiful, honest, raw, painful, and realistic picture of love. Maybe it was a good idea to wait this long to mention it.