Have you ever wondered what it would’ve been like to walk in Abraham’s shoes? Here’s Isaac, the child of the Covenant, your only natural son; and God is asking you to do what?!
I’m not yet a father, but for all you fathers out there who are familiar with this story, I’m sure you’ve thought of the terrible pain and tension that must have been whirling in Abraham’s heart. How could God ask such a thing? How should Abraham respond?
The writer of Hebrews seems to indicate that Abraham believed God would eventually raise Isaac back from the dead (Hebrews 11:19). Abraham had faith that God would make good on His promise to establish a people through Isaac. Still, in Abraham’s place, I would’ve been sweating bullets.
The application from Abraham’s perspective is pretty straight forward: what is it that you’re holding back? What are you afraid to lay at God’s feet? Now, lay that at God’s feet.
But have you ever wondered about Isaac’s perspective?
We don’t know exactly how old Isaac was at the time of the offering, but we do know that he was informed enough to understand how a sacrifice was supposed to work. Look at the question he asked his father: “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (Genesis 22:7). I can’t say for sure, but it seems like Isaac was starting to put the pieces together, and likely getting a little nervous.
Whether Isaac recognized it or not, the Christ-like imagery in his story is undeniable. Compare these two verses from Genesis and John:
“Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife” (Genesis 22:6a, NIV).
“and [Jesus] went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha” (John 19:17, ESV).
Like Christ, Isaac was made to carry the instruments of death and sacrifice to the place of offering. Unlike Christ, Isaac was ultimately spared. But up until the point that angel showed up, Isaac had no clue what was going to happen.
By this point in his life, Abraham was quite old and perhaps a bit weak. Some have speculated that Isaac would have had the strength to resist. Even if he was a young man, it seems reasonable to assume that the only way Isaac was on that altar was by his own compliance.
Here’s the point: Abraham faced an incredibly difficult decision; there’s no doubt about it. But Isaac also faced a decision, he had to decide whether he should take matters into his own hands or whether he should trust his father.
While we serve a perfect and loving Father, to follow Him is to take up our cross. There are no halvsies here. You’re either all in and willing to take up that cross, or all the way out. Like Isaac, part of our attempt to honor the Father looks like obedience. The other part is trust, established by love. Without trust, we cannot follow God into the hard places. Without obedience, we falter in the midst of challenge and trial.
Do you feel the love of God in that way? Do you know Him well enough that His love has created a deep and unfaltering trust? Sometimes the road to this type of trust requires a journey to which there seems to be no way out. Ultimately though, that trust rests on the love of the Father, who is unshakeable and intimately invested in our lives.
Written by Andrew Stoddard