Thoughts of Isaac

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (Gen. 22:6-7)

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. (Gen. 22:9-10)

If you aren’t familiar with this story, it is powerful and I recommend reading it in context in Genesis 22. The short version is that after decades of working in his life, God asks Abraham to take his son Isaac; whom he loved, who was a promise and a miraculous answer to prayer, and sacrifice him with his own hands. At the last possible minute, with the knife in his hand, ready to kill his boy, an angel of the Lord stops Abraham. Whew… not a moment too soon. Isaac is saved… through God’s provision of a substitute for his life. A Ram would take his place on the altar.  

What do we make of a God who asks the unthinkable?

Over the years, I’ve heard many varied explanations about what God was trying to accomplish in Abraham’s life. What I find myself wrestling with most, is a part of the story I’ve heard almost no one explore. I want to know how Isaac felt. Not a neat, sterile theological explanation… but a real sound thought.

Being the Sacrifice:

What did it feel like to be sacrificed, by someone you love and trust. To have someone else’s mission valued above your own life. Military kids often know. Missionary and ministry kids often feel the tension. Many are very effected by the experience… both positively and negatively!

Abraham and Isaac, both experience this “mountaintop moment”, but in very different ways. While Isaac also experienced God’s deliverance, he first experienced being kept deliberately in the dark about what was about to happen, being bound by his father, put on the altar and watching his dad raise the knife to slay him. Just consider for a moment the testing of each heart in God’s pattern of sacrifice. His dad was willing to kill him in order to obey God. I can only imagine the issues this stirred in both of their hearts. God-induced terror, God-testing through a sacrifice. Seems to me like a lot of information about Isaac is missing from the story.

Listen to Isaac’s words again… “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering.”

How Do Logic & Faith Intersect?

Did Isaac spend the rest of his life looking over his shoulder for the next time God would set him up? Did he wrestle with questions of his faith and self-worth as a result of being placed on the altar by both God and his dad? Did he have serious trust issues with everyone else he met? Any fear issues?

No, because God was faithful to His Promise!

Abraham’s counsel to his son Isaac… “God would provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering!” These are words of a father who knew God.

My Take:

Sacrifice is a necessary part of faith in God (Rom. 12:1-2). Without it none of us would learn to rely upon God to direct our paths (Prov. 3:5-6). And even worse we would find ourselves leaning upon our limited understanding of how the world works and doing only those things that are within our natural affections and imaginations (Eph. 3:20).

But, sacrifice has its draw back… it kills what is placed upon the altar! The goal is to stop the flow of life and energy that is hidden in the flesh and mind, so that a new source of life can be unlocked and nurtured from the spirit. Wow, amazing thoughts for anyone to ponder. The Apostle Paul tells us that we are to be living sacrifices; daily on the altar, looking for the energy that is revealed in the renewed mind, the spiritual mind that responds to the Word of God. All I know is that there are real truths that can only be released by my willingness to be sacrificed and feel the painful struggle of risking my perceptions, desires, passions, my will and even my life.

The Tension of Sacrifice is Letting Go:

Like Isaac I must come to a place where I understand that I will need to live with some tension in my perceptions. I must live with mysteries unfolding before my eyes. Isaac did it and it shaped his life as a son, a promised son to Abraham. Rather than fear his father, he chose to honor his father’s desire. Rather than dispise faith in God, he chose to serve God and walk in the blessings of Abraham’s example of trust. Rather than walk away in offense, he chose to become one of our well known Patriarchs of Biblical character. The choice; to not be offended, is the choice of letting go and allowing God to provide Himself a sacrifice… the Ram in the thicket in your place!

And why?… because sacrifice shapes the way we see everything!

Jesus said, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” (Mt. 4:17)


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