Genesis 22: The First Love

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.

No questions.

No objections.

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.

3 responses

  1. That’s a story I forgot. I probably forgot on purpose. How can you give up something you love for something you don’t see or feel. Fear of what could happen if I don’t believe moves me, however. I want to be able to give up what I love for God. Again, fear holds me back. You’ve given me some things to think about.

    • I hear you. This is a really difficult story. Yes, God provides in the end but Abraham must go through hell first. There is nothing easy about that.

      I hope you are doing well. Seriously, we should hang out next time I am in Eugene. I will make sure to let you know when I come down.

  2. That’s a great point about why does it take so long for the word “love” to be mentioned in the Bible. I never thought about it like this before. I think it’s because God needs to build up the story so that the reader knows just how much Abram loves his son — everything from the years of barrenness to the wait for the promise to come true to the joy when Isaac is born (that’s a lot of chapters in Genesis). Then comes the bigger question of who does Abram love more — God or Isaac.

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