The story of Abraham and Isaac is like a movie you watch time and again because you notice something new every time. Like all the best stories, it elicits a plethora of emotions.
For years, I viewed this story as inspiration. Abraham obeyed without question and went through all the actions of sacrificing what was most important to him because God asked him to. Wow! After waiting for so many years to have a son with Sarah, he has one and he’s willing to give him to God in the most permanent sense. It makes the things I “give up” cheap and pitiful by comparison.
At some point I began to see Abraham as human. Just because the Bible doesn’t talk about him questioning God’s request doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. It’s just not essential to God’s narrative. But Abraham and Isaac didn’t begin the journey to Mt. Moriah until the next morning. In a fitful night of sleep, Abraham had to have wrestled with God’s command. “God, you promised! You said I would be the father of many nations. Isaac is the son of your promise. Why would you ask me to sacrifice him? SACRIFICE?! I thought you were faithful to your promises. How can You keep your promises and take Isaac from me? It doesn’t make sense. I don’t understand. You promised…”
Hebrews 11 talks about Abraham reasoning that God could raise Isaac from the dead. Talk about a man of faith! Up to this point in scripture, God hadn’t done that yet. Maybe He mentioned something about it to Abraham during that fitful night, or on the three-day journey. Abraham’s hypothesis allowed for God to keep His promise and still require this of Abraham.
Isaac was old enough to carry the wood for the burnt offering and old enough to recognize that they would need something to place on the wood: a sacrifice. Abraham reassured him by saying the Lord would provide. I wonder who Abraham was trying to convince more: Isaac or himself? Together they built the altar, placed the wood just so, and lit the fire. At that point, a struggle probably ensued. Abraham began to tie Isaac up. I’m sure Isaac cried out, made apologies for doing whatever he had done to upset his dad, and begged to be released. With tears in his eyes, Abraham continued to tie the knots and carry Isaac to the altar. He raised the knife to kill his promised son, making eye contact with him before having to look away with a sob. That’s when the angel of the Lord stepped in. Abraham breathed a sigh of relief and untied Isaac, who, I can only imagine, ran as far from his father as possible.
We never see Abraham and Isaac together again. Scripture doesn’t say what damage may have been done to the relationship, but Abraham walked back down the mountain with his two servants. There’s no mention of Isaac traveling with them. Even though Isaac’s life was spared, Abraham sacrificed a lot.
The story of Abraham and Isaac foreshadows the story of God the Father and His Only Son, Jesus Christ. God sacrificed His Only Son so we would never have to burn our offerings again. Jesus begged for another way, but submitted to His Father’s will. God turned away from the cross while Jesus took on the sins of the world. But, unlike Abraham and Isaac, Jesus WAS the substitute lamb. He literally (not figuratively) rose from the dead. His relationship with the Father remains, because He sits at His right hand.
We don’t have to make sacrifices, (Jesus finished the job) but we are called to worship the One who remains worthy of them.
Either He’s worthy… or He’s not.
He will not be subjectively worthy, occasionally worthy, or almost worthy.
And if He’s worthy at all, He is worthy of all.
No exceptions, exemptions, or withholdings.
Nothing is off limits.
If I placed it all at His feet, He would be worthy.
If the ram were not in the thicket and no angel interrupted,
He would still be worthy.
It’s worship, not sacrifice.
The sacrifice has already been made.
The price has already been paid.
Our thank-you note is praise.
“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.” Revelation 4:11