I am sharing this Bible study from my personal collection because of the way it touches me again and again, every time I read it.
“I got up this morning at 4:30, prayed and took a shower so I could spend some time in the word and focused on God before work. I prayed that God would direct my attention to scripture that would speak into my life at this moment and of course, he did.
I began reading at Genesis 22, the chapter where God tells Abraham to take his son Isaac and offer him as a burnt offering to God. So many problems with this situation: First, Isaac was Abraham’s only son. Well, almost. You see, right before all this happened, if you look at Genesis 21, you will see that Sarah ordered Hagai, her maidservant, who had earlier bore a child for Abraham (at Sarah’s request), to leave their camp. Abraham, torn between his love for his first child and his love for his wife, sought God and God told him to go ahead and send them away. Therefore, Isaac was the only child Abraham had after he parted with Ishmael.
Let’s stop right here. What I am seeing is Abraham being asked to part with someone very dear to him. After all, Ishmael was fifteen years old, and so for fifteen years, he was the hope of Abraham. He was the heir, the seed to continue Abraham’s family lineage. God had promised to make Abraham a great nation and long before Isaac arrived, Ishmael appeared to be the answer.
I had to look into this further. So I flipped back a few chapters to where that all began. In Genesis 16, Sarah was so desperate for Abraham to have children, she took matters into her own hands. She offered her maidservant to Abraham because she saw that she could not have kids. Hagai became pregnant and Abraham had a son. The problem I see here is that Sarah took matters into her own hands. She didn’t trust that God’s promise could work out any other way, so she took control of the situation. After Hagai had the child, problems between the two women intensified. Both were jealous; Sarah was jealous because Hagai had a son by Abraham, and Hagai was jealous that Abraham loved Sarah. Things simmered for fifteen long years, until Sarah found out she was pregnant. Then they began to boil. When Isaac was weaned, the volcano exploded. Sarah grew angry at Ishmael and demanded Hagai take her son and go. The only problem was that Ishmael was half-brother to Isaac and son of Abraham. Sarah’s control issues had come back to bite her. Ouch!!
Okay, so fast-forward to chapter 22, and see that God told Abraham to take Isaac up to the top of a mountain and sacrifice him. The problem: God didn’t tell him which mountain, just that he would tell him when he got there. Also, Isaac was Abraham’s only son and therefore, his last hope. God had told Abraham that he would make Abraham the father of many nations, and then turned around and told him to sacrifice his only son. I can imagine that Abraham was really confused.
I know the journey must have been an emotional one for Abraham. He was the only one who knew the real reason why they were traveling up an unknown mountain to sacrifice to God. It was a confusing one to everyone else. Where’s the lamb?
Isaac asked his father as they walked up the mountain, “I see the firewood and the fire, but where’s the lamb?” I imagine Abraham had a lump in his throat at that point and had to fight back tears as he looked at his young son. Not knowing what else to say, he said, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” At that moment, Abraham spoke redemption for Isaac and provision from God! How awesome is that? I never noticed it before. Abraham held fast to a glimmer of hope, that God would take care of this situation. He was willing to give up the most important thing in his life for God, and yet he held tight to God’s promise even when things didn’t make sense. He’s my inspiration.
As I envision Abraham setting up the altar, I can see tears streaming down his face. Isaac couldn’t understand. Why was he crying? But then, as Abraham began to bind up his only son, I imagine that they were both crying, as Abraham finally had to admit why they had come without the lamb. It’s not in scripture what was said, but as I imagine this happening in real life, Isaac would not have just submitted himself to death without having some questions answered. Why, Father? What are you doing? Don’t you love me? Isn’t there any other way? Is this really necessary? No Father, not my life! Don’t ask me for my life! I can’t imagine there was a whole lot for Abraham to say. He was doing the will of God, despite his own will. It hurt him. Deeply. Not only was he sacrificing his son, he was doing it knowing he had to go back and tell his wife, whom he dearly loved, what had happened to their son. Their son whom they waited an entire lifetime to have. Isaac was given to them when they were both past their prime. He was their hope and promise.
Then God, seeing Abraham’s devotion and faith in the unseen, finally came through.
After Abraham did everything he knew he was supposed to do even when it didn’t make a whole lot of sense, God stepped in and gave back what he was sacrificing and provided. Abraham was able to take back his son and offer God’s provision instead.”
I cannot claim to know how God works, but I know that He is faithful and He is good to His people and honor them when they trust Him. Thank you, Lord, for this truth.