In Genesis 22, we see God doing something in Abraham’s life that Abraham needs, and that even angels, rulers and authorities may be watching. He said to him, verse 1, “Abraham!”, and Abraham answered as a slave answers his master: “Here I am.”
I like that. Abraham lived where I want to live—in the nexus between “Here I am” and “There you are!” Many people want to see God at work. Some are attracted to the excitement, some want to lay doubts to rest, but they very much want to say to God, “There you are!” However, those who can honestly and consistently say to God in delight, “There you are” are those who honestly and consistently say to God in submission, “Here I am!”
Verse 2: “Take your son…” “Uh, Lord, I have two sons. You remember Ishmael? He is living with his mom down in Paran right now. And Isaac.”
“Your only son…”
“My only son?”
“Oh, Isaac! My Laughter.”
“…whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah.”
“Hey, that’s not a bad idea. A trip with Isaac – a sort of father and son thing. Do a little hunting – I’ve heard the wild goat hunting up there is really good. We’ve never really done that kind of thing together. It will be great!”
“Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”
How could Abraham believe what he heard? Surely, he must have known that God would not require human sacrifice. If I awoke to a vision in the middle of the night, and in the vision God said to me, “Take your son, whom you love, and sacrifice him to me,” I would figure that I shouldn’t have put the banana peppers on my pizza that evening. I wouldn’t think for a moment that God was really asking me to kill my own son. Shouldn’t Abraham have known that as well?
The answer is, “no”. Abraham did not have a Bible. He did not have the prophets. He did not have 2,000 years of church teaching on Scripture. Moses had not yet given the law that forbade human sacrifice. Abraham came from a land where child sacrifice was not unknown. He had come to a land where child sacrifice was sometimes practiced. To Abraham, the call to sacrifice what was dearest in order to prove one’s allegiance to his god made sense. Abraham would not have had moral qualms about sacrificing his son.
What would have been utterly incomprehensible to him was the call to sacrifice the Child of Promise, the child of the covenant! God had made to him irrevocable promises, promises about heirs and about land, and for those promises to be kept, Isaac must reach adulthood and must have children himself. If he were to sacrifice Isaac, the line would be cut and the covenental promises broken. “The single plan-of-God-through-Israel-for-the-world” depended on Isaac, his Laughter. It looked as if Abraham’s laughter would be silenced.
If ever there was a time to hesitate, it was now. And yet, early the next morning Abraham set about obeying God’s command. Abraham understood the necessity of prompt obedience in the life of faith. Delay would have been devastating. So early next morning (v. 3) he saddled his donkey, took Isaac and two servants, cut the wood and set out. Now Moriah was located near what would later be called Jerusalem, about 45 miles north, northeast as the crow flies.
Now comes the question: Why Moriah? Why a three-day walk? Why not send him to Hebron, which was much closer?” Abraham, as far as we can tell, did not ask. He just obeyed.
Notice verse 5. When they were within sight of the mountain where the sacrifice was to take place, Abraham said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” We will come back. Was Abraham delusional? He was on his way to sacrifice his son, and yet he says, “we will come back.” But this was no delusion. As the author of Hebrews tells us, Abraham reasoned that God would being Isaac back to life, if that’s what it took. The “single plan-of-God-through-Israel-for-the-world” could not be terminated; God would fulfill his promises, Abraham was certain of it! Abraham was only able to obey in such circumstances because he knew something, something we also must learn: how to reason by faith!