By Ken Vogel, Woodbury Pastor of Groups
Scripture: Genesis 22:17-18
In the preceding chapter, we saw God fulfill his promise by blessing Abraham and Sarah with a son, Isaac. We also experienced Abraham’s great distress as he disinherited and exiled his first son Ishmael, along with the boy’s mother, Hagar.
Today, the story continues to unfold as God dramatically puts Abraham’s faith to the test by directing him to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac! The story is sparsely told, and unlike the case of Ishmael’s exile, we learn nothing of Abraham’s emotional response. Rather it is his actions that are emphasized as he obediently sets out early the very next morning to faithfully fulfill God’s command. We can only imagine Abraham’s internal conflict over the course of the three-day journey as he contemplated losing his only remaining son and heir.
The drama moves toward resolution when Isaac asks his dad, “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham’s answer to this innocent question provides our first insight into his heart’s response to this very difficult situation, “God himself will provide the lamb…my son.”
The dramatic tension peaks as Abraham raises the knife over his bound son, resolutely committed to obediently carrying out God’s will despite the immense personal price to be paid. Then, suddenly, an angel’s voice stops Abraham’s hand, stating “Now I know that you fear God…” and it was at that moment that Abraham “looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns.” Abraham’s big, unshakeable faith in God to provide was proven true, so he named that place “The Lord Will Provide.”
This episode concludes with an unexpected and hugely significant event. In response to Abraham’s faithful obedience, God issues a binding, everlasting covenant by swearing to faithfully bless Abraham and his descendants beyond measure!
Application: When reflecting on Abraham’s story, my first response is to examine my own heart and to wonder “How big is my faith?” As a parent, I can only imagine the turmoil Abraham experienced when faced with the prospect of sacrificing his only son in obedience to God. But Abraham’s faith was huge! He remembered what God had done in the past, and in response, he trusted that God would provide a supernatural solution to the seemingly unresolvable dilemma. And God did!
So how do I respond when God clearly calls me to faithful obedience? Do I respond immediately, faithfully, and without question as Abraham did? Or am I slow to respond, weighing the personal costs as part of my decision criteria? What is my heart attitude? Do I respond joyfully and expectantly, or reluctantly and grudgingly? Am I willing to surrender myself completely to the One who created me, trusting that He will provide and will remain faithful to the everlasting promise to bless those who trust in him? Or do I strive to be the one in charge, seeking to control the circumstances and outcome?
Prayer: Faithful Father, when you tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his only son, he trusted with all his heart and all his soul and all his strength that you would provide–and you did! Today, I pray that you would bless me with big faith like Abraham’s. Holy Spirit, provide me with the strength and power and will to surrender myself completely to you, setting aside any fear or selfishness I might have. Lord, you have demonstrated the extent of your faithfulness by sacrificing your only Son, Jesus so that we might live eternally with you. Thank you for such unconditional love! Thank you for such amazing grace! Glory be to our God and Savior. In Jesus’ powerful and beautiful name, amen.