Abraham’s offering of Isaac is recounted as perhaps the most significant testing of a man’s faith in the Old Testament. Abraham after finally receiving a son in accordance with God’s promise is asked by God to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering. Abraham does not withhold his son from God and the sacrifice is only interrupted at the last minute by God’s voice from heaven.
We come to learn Abraham’s faith and trust in God was successfully tested (Gen 22:12). We learn that Abraham actually believed God was able to raise Isaac from the dead (as this would have been necessary for God to fulfil His own promise to Abraham concerning his son) (Gen 15:1-6; Gen 17:15-19; Heb 11:-17-19). We are also able to view the story as a powerful foreshadowing of God’s all sufficient sacrifice of His own Son, Jesus, on the cross many years later.
In its immediate context the passage of scripture is compelling. However, when we consider the environment where Abraham (then called Abram) is first introduced the whole ordeal is amplified. The tail end of Genesis 11 tells us that Terah, the father of Abraham, Nahor, and Haran packs up his family, leaves Ur of the Chaldeans and heads for the land of Canaan after the death of his son Haran. However, Terah and his family only make it as far as a city also called Haran where they settle and Terah eventually passes away. What becomes apparent from this introduction is that Abraham had intimately observed the impact that the death of a son (Haran) can have on a father (Terah).
Fast forward to the offering of Isaac. Not only is Abraham having to wrestle with God’s instruction to sacrifice his own son, a child who he and his wife had waited so long for, but also has to battle his own memories of Haran. When we consider Abraham would have had a very vivid picture in his mind regarding the emotional impact, grief, sorrow, and pain that occurs when a father loses a son, his decision to trust God becomes so much more significant.
Not only did Abraham’s trust in God apply to his current situation, not only did he believe God would come through for him now concerning Isaac and his future, but he also believed God would deliver him from the very reality he saw his own father suffer through in his past. Abraham’s faith was significant because it exalted God’s sovereignty over the past, present, and future. According to his own reason everything about his past would have been telling him no, everything about his current situation and the love he felt for his son would have been telling him no, and everything about what he believed regarding the future would have been telling him no. Nevertheless, his faith in God overcame this fear: past, present, and future. He knew that the only way God could deliver him from these fears and fulfil His promises concerning his son Isaac would be to raise him from the dead subsequent to the offering. He believed in God and the resurrection from the dead. It is no wonder Abraham is referred to as the father of our faith.
Here and now
Applying this to the here and now, even if we have past experiences that have confirmed the potential for hurt or disappointment, we can trust God through any situation. Even if we have a history covered with pain we can believe God is able to bring healing. Where there has been death, darkness, and sadness God can bring life, light, and joy. If we allow God to lead us through every situation, He will do even what we consider to be impossible. Through this, He is able to give us new memories, memories where God is at the centre, memories where we have trusted Him, memories where He has come through and we know Him to be faithful.
If we avoid situations where we need to trust in God, we avoid situations where God can be present in our lives. If we choose not to shy away from these situations we can create an environment where God is able to demonstrate His faithfulness and provision on a very personal level.
Finally, an on topic worship song by Josh Baldwin – Abraham