By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death. Hebrews 11: 17-19
I have spent a lot of time reflecting on what these verses are referring to over the past year or two. God promises Abraham that he will be the father of many nations and his son, Isaac, is part of that promise. God was pretty specific with this promise, recorded in Genesis 17, but before Isaac meets Rebekah and has sons of his own, God tests Abraham.
“Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” Genesis 22:2
That must have seemed strange. Abraham had promised that this son was the one who His promise would be fulfilled by, but God is asking him to sacrifice this son. I am not sure what may have been going through Abraham’s head, but despite what could have been, he was obedient and acted in faith.
So Abraham takes a couple of his servants, his donkey, and Isaac, and set out for the place God had instructed him to go. On the third day of this journey, Abraham sees the place God had for him. He leaves the two servants behind with the donkey and goes to “worship” with Isaac, promising they will both return. He had to have truly believed that God would provide a lamb, if he was saying they would both return. He had to have truly believed that God’s promise was still true. He had to have known with everything in him that God was God.
One thing that didn’t stick out to me until now was that Abraham put the wood that was going to be used for the burnt offering on Isaac. Abraham took the fire and the knife, but they walked together and Isaac was carrying what Abraham was going to use to sacrifice his only son. Isaac probably could have said no. He probably could have said Why don’t we just bring the servants, and let them carry it? But he was being obedient to his father, and he was carrying what was to be his death, just like Jesus carried His cross.
Abraham believed God would provide a lamb for the sacrifice, but Isaac had to have noticed something was up when his father was binding him on the altar even when his father assured him that God would provide the offering. The lamb.
And God waited until like the last possible minute for Abraham to back out of this, before sending the angel to let him know that he had passed the test.
This time, the son was spared.
And there it was. A ram caught in the thicket. Abraham expected a lamb. God provided a ram. If you have been following my blog for a while, you know that a ram in an adult male lamb, it is the strongest in its flock, it protects its flock. More than Abraham expected God to provide.
Surely God would make him and make his descendents as numerous as the stars in the sky and sand on the shore.
This time the son was spared. The sacrifice was provided. By a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. Just like a couple thousand years later, another Only Son would have a crown of thorns placed on His head.
This is not what His followers expected from the promised King. No, not death on a cross. This doesn’t make sense.
This is not a test.
But there was no angel to come and stop the sacrifice this time. An angel came to strengthen Him when He was praying in the garden, but as He was carrying the cross to the place He would be crucified, there was no one to say Don’t lay a hand on that boy.
This was not a test of obedience, but God sending His only son, the promised Lamb. The One who would take away the sins of the world. The One promised from the beginning who would strike the enemy’s head, who would be pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that we deserved, but instead brought us peace was on Him. And through that sacrifice, and by his wounds we are healed.
So many times when we follow God, it doesn’t exactly make sense. We don’t see what is ahead as we are carrying our cross. We don’t see the ram in the thicket as our sacrifices are made. And we don’t have an angel of the Lord appearing from heaven to tell us that we have passed the test.
What are you carrying?
To me, the phrase “carrying our cross” also carries the need for surrender. It means that I am carrying what I need to lay down in sacrifice. Isaac didn’t have to carry the wood that was going to be part of the altar he would be slaughtered on forever. Jesus didn’t have to carry his cross forever. No, they just needed to be obedient to their father. What they were carrying was temporary, and a reminder to us that we need to lay down in sacrifice the things we need to surrender.
What are you carrying today? What do you need to lay down and surrender? Really take a moment to consider this. What is that heavy burden on your heart? What feels too much to bear?
After God provides the ram as an offering, Abraham names the place “The Lord Will Provide”. Because when you act in obedience even to death of self, God is God.
Beautiful One, name your sacrifice, surrender it, than name it again, and remember He is God.