Genesis 22: 1 – 14
After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2He 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.” 3So 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. 4On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. 5Then 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.” 6Abraham 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. 7Isaac 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?” 8Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.
9When 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. 10Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. 11But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12He 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.” 13And 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. 14So 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 story of Abraham’s life is one of agonized waiting – for the promised land, for a child, and at the pinnacle of his faith, for a positive outcome to a long, and possibly final, journey with his only, beloved son. If Abraham felt hopeless, or angry, or confused, or anguished during the three day journey to the mountain, we don’t know it. All we know is that God commanded, and Abraham apparently complied immediately. And what about Isaac? We know he’s old enough to reason (v 7), to walk for three days (v 3-4), and to carry wood (v 6). He’s not a young child! When he saw which way the wind was blowing, he could have overpowered his ancient, decrepit father and escaped. Instead, he allowed himself to be bound, trusting in his father and his father’s God.
The story of Abraham’s life is also one of action. Indeed, the previous ten chapters of Genesis describe a life that can only be classified as epic. Over and over, God called Abraham to a challenging task, and over and over, Abraham responds with “Here I am.” This story, called the “Binding of Isaac,” is usually lifted up as an example of Abraham’s obedience and faithfulness. I often wonder, what other proof did God need after such a lifetime?
The answer for me lies in the moral of the story: Abraham called that place “The LORD will provide.” The test wasn’t proof of Abraham’s faithfulness; it was proof to Abraham that God will remain faithful to His promises. Moreover, when God calls Abraham to a difficult task, He provides what is needed to accomplish His plan. When Abraham told Isaac that the lamb would be provided (v 8), or when he told his men that the two of them would return together (v 5), it was not a father calming his anxious child, or making false promises to himself; it was a firm conviction in God’s steadfastness.
God does not call us to ease or to comfort, but to presence, and grace in our struggle. During Advent, while we wait in darkness for the promised light of Christ, let us worship the God who believes in us, abides with us, asks much of us, and is beside us all the way.