Summary: Child abuse or Faith and Obedience?
Many of you might remember, B.C., before cable, when TV stations would have a “Test of the emergency broadcast system”. Or how about on the first Saturday of each month when the siren down by the Satellite Inn is tested? When we first hear it our heart jumps, thinking, wondering whose house is on fire. Then we remember, oh, it’s 11:00 am on the first Saturday of the month, it’s only a test. The first verse of our scripture today tells us the same thing, it’s only a test.
I don’t think that makes it any easier to take, though. What kind of God has a father murder his own son? What kind of God puts a son through the kind of trauma that, today would be called child abuse? Obedience was, of course, Abraham’s dominant quality. He was apparently ready to sacrifice, along with Isaac, the covenant God had made with him, a covenant that required a son.
Critics, though, often call this "divine child abuse." We like to think, maybe Abraham misunderstood God’s intentions. He saw his "heathen" neighbors practicing human sacrifice, and God told him to do this, so it must be okay. We must remember the culture at the time this was happening.
Yet I can’t help but wonder, did Abraham discuss this with Sarah before taking their son up the mountain? And if Isaac had not come back, how did he plan to explain it to Sarah? I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to be in Abraham’s sandals trying to talk my way out of that one! Can’t you hear Sarah? YOU DID WHAT? BECAUSE WHO TOLD YOU? AND I SUPPOSE IF HE TOLD YOU TO JUMP OFF A CLIFF YOU’D DO THAT, TOO?
This is one of the most powerful expressions of faith and obedience you’ll find in the Bible. God tests Abraham by laying claim to his son Isaac. Isaac is the how the covenant is supposed to be fulfilled. Abraham is willing to obey God, although he has to be wondering how God will fulfill the promise. Hebrews 11:17 says "by faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac."
What a great act of faith! You might say to yourself, “I could never have that much faith!” Oh, but you can! Remember two weeks ago when we read where Abraham was called to set forth on a journey. Genesis 12:1, “Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you.”
But it took years for Abram separate from his father; and it was because of death rather than of deliberate obedience. Then Abram was reluctant to separate from Lot. Now in chapter 22 Abraham has come to his ultimate test. Abraham was about 111 and Sarah was soon to die. God has brought Abraham to the point where he must give priority to either his faith or his family. The greatest test of his faith now confronts him.
Abraham didn’t get to this level of faith overnight. It took years of growth. You are all at different levels of faith and your obedience falls in line with your faith. Obedience becomes easier with more faith because, as you grow in faith, as you come to rely more on God, believe in His way, and do His will, then, when faced with a more difficult situation, you will find it easier to obey God.
NOTE: I’m not saying it will be EASY to obey God, but it will be EASIER. As you grow in faith and God has supported you and helped you through tough times, you understand that you can rely on God to do what’s best for you.
It’s a give and take deal. God receives Abraham’s trust and Abraham receives God’s mercy. There is giving and receiving both for Abraham and for God. And it works that way for us, as well.
Abraham had GREAT faith, but I’m sure he still had questions.
Why? Haven’t I been told not to murder? Haven’t I been given a son miraculously in my (and my wife’s) old age? If my heir is killed, how will God’s promise that my descendants will be as “numerous as the stars of the heavens” be carried out?
Psychologically, Abraham had to be overwhelmed by the command of God to kill Isaac. How is a person to sacrifice his son? How could he kill the person he loves?
In verse 6 it says, “Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering & laid it on his son Isaac, & he himself carried the fire & the knife.” That must have been one of the most difficult moments in Abraham’s life – to see his son carrying the wood that was going to be used to consume his son’s body, and to hear Isaac say, “Father?”