Genesis 22:8 Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." And the two of them went on together.
Is it truly an act of unconditional faith or a monstrous lie?
When the wee lad Isaac asked Abraham about the missing sacrifice, his father’s reply has always bothered me. Did Abraham avoid telling the truth about the situation because it would terrify Isaac, or did he actually believe that God would provide a last minute alternative to His original demand? It’s puzzling to me because there’s no easy answer to that question. If Abraham was doing the first, then he was fully prepared to make a monstrous sacrifice which involved a religious lie; if it was the second, then he only conditionally accepted God’s command outwardly because he inwardly believed that God would not let him go through with it – in other words, Abraham was being double-minded and not truly faithful.
It’s a great story because it has a ‘happy ending,’ but what if Isaac had been slain? Would we still be celebrating Abraham as the Father of three great faiths today? It makes me wonder if faith is meant to be taken to the brink of an abyss in order to strengthen our dependability on God. When Abraham eventually saw the wild ram in the thorns, he must have felt total relief. Did he break down and cry? Did he ask Isaac for forgiveness? Did he feel closer to God because heartbreak had been avoided?
When I look back over my life, I realize that there have been several critical life-or-death moments that I have safely passed through only because God provided the means of grace to endure, overcome, and carry on. In some of those moments, my faith was stretched to its limit; at other times, I was relatively unaware of God’s provision for mercy and healing.
I guess I won’t be able to find the true answers to my questions about God, Abraham, and Isaac on this side of Life. In the end, God provided a miracle which changed the course of history and kept His plan of salvation through the sacrifice of His Only Son Jesus intact. When all is said and done, God’s Will prevails even through the most perplexing and mysterious of events.
Questions for personal reflection
When has my faith been sorely tested? What did such an event do to my relationship with God?
Prayer: Lord God, sometimes Your ways disturb us and Your demands lay heavy obligations upon us. We feel burdened by Your words and unsettled by Your works. Help us to remain with Your keeping and prevent us from failing You faithfully. In Christ’s Name, we pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment on today’s message, please send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.