Skip to main content

See also:

Don't dread the test

Sometimes we wonder if we could have done what Abraham did.  Would we have sacrificed our own son to God?  This was surely a unique test, but we too are tested every day.
Sometimes we wonder if we could have done what Abraham did. Would we have sacrificed our own son to God? This was surely a unique test, but we too are tested every day.
Tom Spence

Read Genesis 22:1-14

And so we come to the story that defined Abraham.

Abraham has been told that the will be the father of many nations. He has been told that the world will be blessed through him.

He doesn’t see this happening, so he has a son through his servant Hagar.

Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed in the mean time.

In the course of his travels he has passed off his wife as his sister. He was afraid that the place he was in did not know God and would kill them if they knew they were married.

So Abimelech the King of Gerar took Sarah. His intent was to have sexual relations with her.

God stepped in and fixed that. Abimelech was told in a dream that Sarah was in fact a married woman and that he was as good as dead.

Abimelech pleads with God that he did not know and makes restitution to Abraham.

Abimelech wants to know why Abraham did this. Abraham shared his fears and then added, and by the way she is my half-sister.

Isaac is born. Hagar and Ishmael are sent away.

Abimelech acknowledges that God is with Abraham in everything he does and makes a pact with Abraham, mostly stipulating that Abraham will be square with him going forward.

For everything that has been a part of the story of Abraham , the story seems to have finally reached a point where all is right in the world. The world is right side up.

Abraham has a son. He has the instrument through which God’s promise will be fulfilled.

People recognize that God is with Abraham.

Things seem to be going Abraham’s way.

He is living in God’s favor.

And then we come to this 22nd chapter and some time later:

God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

When God said he was going to destroy Sodom, Abraham pleaded with God.

Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked. If there are 50 righteous people, would you not spare the whole for them.

God said he would. But there were not 50 righteous men to be found.

But Abraham does not give up so easily. It is like a reverse auction with God.

What if there were 45 righteous men?

Ok, 40?

20?

How about 10?

In each case God went along with Abraham’s pleas. But there were not 10 righteous men to be found.

Other than Lot and his family, Abraham probably didn’t know 10 people in all of Sodom, but he pleaded for their lives ever so vigorously with God.

But when God tells Abraham to take his own son up on Mount Moriah and sacrifice him as a burnt offering, what does Abraham do?

He got a good night’s sleep, cut the wood he needed, packed his donkey, picked out two servants to go with him, collected his son, and began the trip.

Remember, this is the man that through his line and his seed the entire world will be blessed, and what does he do.

He pleads like crazy for a bunch of yahoos in Sodom whom he doesn’t even know and have surely rebelled against God at every opportunity. He pleads for the lives of all of them appealing to the Judge of all the earth.

He loses his cases, but Abraham goes down swinging.

Then God tells him to go kill his own son and make a burnt sacrifice out of him and what does Abraham do?

He loads up his donkey with wood for the fire and heads out first thing in the morning.

He fights like crazy for Sodom just in case there might have been a few righteous people among this town known for its wickedness, then just says, OK, and heads out to execute his own son without so much as a whimper.

This is a man who is hard to understand.

Yes, we understand obedience to God.

We understand trusting God.

We understand that everything and everyone belongs to God.

We claim to understand the love that led God to sacrifice his own Son for us.

We say we understand that in this sacrifice we are saved.

But how do we understand Abraham?

· Abraham who passed his wife off as his sister to save his own neck now just does what God says.

· Abraham who was a little impatient with God in this having an heir business conceived a son via his maidservant and then subsequently sent them away now just simply obeys without questioning.

· Abraham who negotiated with God for the lives of people—wicked people—whom he did not know, doesn’t bargain at all for the life of his own son.

· Abraham who gives up his son without so much as a “How about an offering of three bulls, a goat, and two chickens instead?” This is the man whom we call Father Abraham.

How could Abraham just pack up and set out on the last days of his son’s life without even giving him a farewell party?

How do we understand this man?

We gain some understanding into the man that Abraham has become in the departure of Hagar and Ishmael.

But God said to Abraham, “Don't be worried about the boy and your slave Hagar. Do whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that you will have the descendants I have promised.”

At this point the typical human would have would might be called cognitive dissonance, that is the facts that we know cannot be reconciled in our minds.

You have dissonance if you hold two contrary beliefs in your mind at the same time.

Such as?

God will bring you offspring through this son—through Isaac.

Go and kill the boy Isaac and make a burnt offering of him before he has any children.

Through this son you will have many offspring.

Go kill him.

If Abraham ever had cause to argue with God, he seemed to have it now, but he just saddled up and headed out to do what God told him to do—kill his son and make a burnt offering of him.

How does a man do this?

I think for most of us, we might put it in the realm of things we could not bring ourselves to do. We might confess to God that we are not worthy, that we can’t live up to God’s expectations.

Most of us would say to God, “Take me instead.”

But Abraham does as instructed. It is not as though he is distraught. He is fully cogent and purposeful. He sets out on the task that he has been given by God.

He is on a mission from God.

It is a mission to kill his own son, but it is his mission nonetheless.

How does Abraham choose to follow this order to make his son a burnt sacrifice when God has promised him that through this very same son will come a great nation and blessing for the entire world.

How does Abraham choose to kill his son over believing that through this son will come a great nation?

The answer is, he does not.

To Abraham, there is no dissonance. He is not carrying two conflicting beliefs in his heart and in his mind.

He knows that through God all things are possible. This is perhaps something he learned by conceiving a son with his wife when she was well beyond child bearing years.

God’s ways may not always be understandable, but they are possible.

Now, we find ourselves as the foot of Mount Moriah and Isaac is wondering if his dad didn’t forget something. Maybe he has a touch of sometimers.

When Isaac asks his dad if they had forgotten to bring the lamb and Abraham replied that God himself would supply the lamb, he probably did not understand what he was saying.

Maybe he said this to get his son up the hill.

Maybe he had some inkling as to what would actually transpire.

Maybe these were prophetic words; for sure God did provide a sacrifice at the top of Mount Moriah and a Lamb to take away the sin of the world as well.

But Abraham ascended the mountain ready to do what God had commanded him to do, somehow knowing that God would fulfill his promises, though surely not understanding the how of all of this.

You know the story. Abraham goes all the way up to the point of killing his son when the voice of an angel in heaven cries out to him and says, “Don’t touch a hair on his head.”

It is at that point that Abraham sees a Ram caught in a thicket by its horns.

God had provided the sacrifice.

Abraham named the place, The Lord will provide.

We know the story. Most of us are thankful that God did not call us to this test.

But we must know that we are tested. Don’t confuse this with being tempted. God will not tempt us with evil, but know that we are tested.

We are refined.

We are strengthened.

And we must not dread the test. We should not run from the process. God calls us to act in faith all of the time.

The paradigms of the world and faith in God should create dissonance in our minds. They both can’t live side by side in harmony.

Faith in God and not understanding the “how” of everything should not.

God told Abraham Isaac would bring him many descendents.

God told Abraham to kill Isaac before he had any kids.

Abraham chose faith over understanding.

The proverb tells us to trust in God with all of our heart and not to lean on our own understanding.

Abraham understood this piece of wisdom before it was ever recorded on parchment.

Do we understand?

Do we walk by faith and not sight?

Does everything in our lives have to line up perfectly before we trust in God?

Will we trust him when things don’t make any sense at all?

If we can resolve everything in our minds, are we even acting in faith?

Most of our testing comes in the form of believing God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength and setting aside the thoughts of this world that would cause dissonance.

Abraham’s testing was surely unique, but ours is ubiquitous. Abraham’s testing surely stands as a monument to faith for all generations but our testing in this upside down world is continuious.

Our testing is ever so frequent.

We must take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.

We believe God’s promises—period. In the middle of this crazy world, we believe God’s promises.

There is no however, but, except for. We believe and we trust that when the things of God appear to be in conflict with each other, we just don’t know the whole story.

But we know to trust.

We know to obey.

We know to walk by faith.

And we do this without anxiety, for we are told not be anxious. We cannot add a single day to our lives though worry.

We walk without fear of what will happen because fear comes from the Evil One.

The only fear that we know is the fear of the Lord and that same Lord has told us through his apostle that perfect love casts out fear.

Trust, obey, and walk by faith not sight.

Don’t be anxious.

Don’t be afraid.

Don’t dread the tests that are ahead of us.

Amen.

~

~

For those who belong to the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Burns Flat, Oklahoma....just a little more for you.