Summary: the faithfulness of Abraham in his willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac.
Have you ever had your love tested? The true love test comes when the person closest to you says “If you truly love me, you’ll…” You’ll buy me that 3-carat diamond ring. You’ll give up smoking. You’ll take me to Hawaii. You’ll pick up after yourself. You’ll spend more time with me. Some true love tests are tougher than others. The one we read about today is the toughest I’ve ever heard of or read about. God put Abraham’s love to the ultimate test.
I have to be honest as we begin this morning and say that ever since I can remember, I have found this Bible story perplexing, if not troubling. In fact, as a young boy in Sunday school I remember thinking that this test of love crossed the line. It went a little too far. How could anyone, especially a loving God put a Father through such intense anguish asking him to kill his long awaited son? I always thought that if I were ever put to this test, I would fail. Was God giving Abraham a cruel test?
For me perhaps part of the cruelty comes from my super sensitive nature. I’d never admit this to Jim Kelly, but I don’t like fishin’ mainly because I feel sorry for the poor fish on the hook. I can’t watch PBS specials of lions attacking pray without getting depressed. I try to rescue chipmunks from the neighborhood cat. I even tried to rescue a poor caterpillar this week from a swarm of fire ants that were eating him alive.
So the thought of sacrificing a little lamb, let alone a human being challenges my sensitivities and understanding of all loving God. The other challenge is an intellectual one. How could God go against His own His own law, even though it hadn’t been given yet to Moses or the descendants of Abraham? Late in the Old Testament God makes it perfectly clear that human sacrifice was terribly wrong. This is one of the things that separated Jehovah God from the gods of the surrounding nations. God strictly outlawed human and child sacrifice. So why would he ask Abraham to do it? Was this a cruel test? Why did God go to such an extreme to test the faith of Abraham?
2) Before I try to answer that question let’s reflect on the amazing responses of Abraham and Isaac to this test. As a father I don’t know how Abraham raised a knife toward his son without even questioning God. As a son I don’t know how Isaac cooperated without a complaint or question. Isaac was no small boy. He was a young sturdy man and Abraham was a frail 120 years old. If my dad had taken me in the woods with a knife and rope and asked to tie up my hands, I would have said, “see ya.” But Abraham obeyed God the Father, and Isaac obeyed his father. They went quietly like sheep to the slaughter. No one forced either one of them into it.
Abraham never doubted God. He just took God at His word. And it was no small task to do that. He loved Isaac. This was the boy he had waited for for 25 years. This was the promise that enabled him to leave his homeland during his retirement years and wander around the country sleeping in tents, living out of suitcases. This precious child was the one who was going to carry on the family name, becoming the father of a mighty nation.