Summary: God keeps his word to give Abraham and Sarah a son. Abraham, though, is told to sacrifice his son, but God provides a lamb.
Genesis 21:1-3, 22:1-14 ”Promises Kept”
It is not easy walking a life of faith. Each and every one of us has discovered that, while we have lived in a relationship with the Lord as God’s sons and daughters and as disciples of Jesus Christ. The story traditionally called, “The Binding of Isaac,” reminds us once again of this truth once again.
This passage of scripture is one of the most troubling in the entire Bible. God seems out of character—much more like the blood thirsty gods of the Canaanites. Abraham, though a man of faith, doesn’t appear to be a loving father. Still, as confusing as these verses are, they contain a profound message for those of us who walk with God by our side.
THE WAITING PERIOD
Abraham and Sarah’s journey of faith started with a call from God to follow God to an undisclosed “Promised Land.” Our journey of faith started in the waters of our baptism, or when we responded to God’s grace and love and allowed ourselves to be people of God’s family.
Since our journeys began, we have waited for God’s kingdom to be fully established. We have, like Abraham and Sarah, lived as aliens in a foreign land. Though patriots, we are more than patriots. We have answered the call to be servants—servants of the living God. While we wait, we live to be God’s lights that shine in the darkness—To love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength—all of who we are and what we have—and our neighbor as ourselves.
We have sought to be faithful, obedient servants. We have wrestled with what it means to love God totally in our relationships and in our places of work or school. We have battled the influences of the affluent, materialistic, selfish society, in which we live. To be honest we have all too many times succumbed—allowed our light to dim—and simply blended in. We have asked ourselves what it means to be Christian parents or a Christian teenager. For the next few weeks we will loosen our grip upon our wallets and purses and attempt to be faithful in our financial management, and generously sacrificial in our giving to God’s ministries.
There have been successes along with several failures. Though it all we have sensed the presence of God. God’s love and forgiveness were real to us when we made wrong decisions or acted in a manner that did not honor the Lord. The Holy Spirit has been present to pick us up and empower us to make the next step.
FURTHER DOWN THE ROAD
The Lord had visited Abraham and Sarah when they were old—well passed the time for raising children. While enjoying Abraham’s hospitality the Lord said that Sarah would conceive and bear son through whom a great nation would come forth. Sarah had laughed. Abraham thought it was too much for which to hope. Isaac was born nine months later.
Several years had passed and Isaac was now a young man. Abraham and Sarah had gloried in seeing their son grow and mature. They were proud parents. One day the Lord appeared to Abraham and everything changed. Abraham was to sacrifice his son. The story doesn’t tell of any reaction by Abraham. He only gathered wood, a donkey, and Isaac and set out for Mount Moriah. I’m sure, though, that several questions were spinning around in Abraham’s head: “Haven’t I done enough, already?” “Why Isaac, it was through Isaac (and no one else) that you promised to make a great nation?” “This isn’t fair. Why don’t you ask some other father to sacrifice his son?”
This is where the journey of faith gets hard. Many of us have experienced such times. We learn that the cancer has returned. The power of our addiction overwhelms us again. Our marriage shatters and we experience the painful reality of divorce. The relationship doesn’t heal. We find contaminated soil on our land and we don’t know how to get rid of it, or we can’t find funding for the vision that we believe the Lord has given to us. We are tempted to throw our hands up in despair. We are tempted to quit.
Yet, in a sense, nothing has changed. God is present even when God seems so far away. We still experience God’s love, grace and forgiveness in the midst of our struggles, disobedience, and selfishness. The Holy Spirit comes to help us up when we fall and empower us to take the next step. Because of God’s love, grace and forgiveness, we are able to respond by loving the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength—all of who we are and what we have—and by loving our neighbor as ourselves.
Like Abraham, we trudge up the mountain not knowing what the future holds, but hoping that God will provide a ram.