“What I greatly feared has come upon me,” I heard a pastor say when his wife died of cancer. Sometimes, God asks difficult things of us. He was asking this pastor to keep trusting, keep serving, even though his better half had died.
Abraham understands difficult requests. For seemingly out of the blue, God asked him to do the impossible.
“Take your son, your only son Isaac,
whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah.
Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains.”
What? God’s request seems random, cruel, and out of character. God called it detestable when parents sacrificed their children to Molek (Jeremiah 32:35). Why would God ask this? Remember, the one thing Abraham desired was a child (Genesis 15:2). Our heart’s desire can easily turn into an idol. Was Abraham in danger of loving Isaac more than God?
Abraham doesn’t balk, argue, or complain. He obeys. Because Abraham knows God. He had been walking with God over thirty-five years. He wholly trusts God’s character, even if God’s request doesn’t make sense.
Throughout the story, we glimpse Abraham’s faith. When they arrive at Moriah, he tells his servants, “We will worship and we will come back,” implying Isaac will return with him. Abraham believes God will establish his covenant through Isaac, as promised, even if it means raising Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11:19). When Isaac asks about the lamb for the offering, Abraham replies, “God himself will provide the lamb.” His words beautifully foreshadow Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.
Abraham binds Isaac. He lifts the knife. “Do not lay a hand on the boy… Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your only son,” says the Angel of the Lord. Abraham looks up and sees a ram caught in a thicket. He unties Isaac. Together, father and son sacrifice the ram. We will worship and we will come back.
Abraham names this place, “The Lord Will Provide.” What God required—faith, courage, even the sacrifice—God provided. When God asks Abraham, “Will you trust me, even though what I am asking doesn’t make sense?” Abraham answers, “Yes!” and becomes the founder of our faith.
God doesn’t always provide explanations this side of heaven. Decades later, my widowed pastor friend is still trusting, still serving God. He eventually remarried. Though he may never understand why his first wife died, this he knows. The Lord will provide!
Questions to ponder:
- Read Genesis 22. Abraham’s wife Sarah is missing from this story. Do you think Abraham told her what God had asked of him? If you were Abraham’s wife, how would you respond?
- Has God ever asked something difficult of you, something you didn’t understand? Did it cause you to draw nearer to God in faith, or to move further from him in distrust?
- Are you withholding anything from God? What is your heart’s desire? Have you ever struggled with putting that person or thing above God?
- Can you say from experience, “The Lord will provide”? How has God provided for you?