Summary: When God asks for a sacrifice, nothing is too great. He will always provide. (3rd in 3 part series on Abraham)
December 16, 2001 Heb. 11:17-19; Gen. 22:1-19
“You want what?!”
There is a difference between giving a gift and making a sacrifice. A pig and a hen were walking down the road when they saw a poster advertising the forthcoming harvest supper. It said that ham and eggs would be served. The hen said to the pig, "How nice it is that we can help the minister." But the pig replied to the hen, "It’s all very well for you you’ll be making a contribution, but I’ll be making a sacrifice!" - 1500 Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching compiled by Robert Backhouse
1. Sacrifices are expensive. (vs. 1-2)
Normally, when you are trying to get someone to give up something that they want to hold onto, you downplay how much that thing is going to cost them. For example, if my wife was to do the silly thing of asking for a diamond necklace for Christmas, she might say something like this. “Oh, here’s the one I want. And look; it’s on sale now for 50% off. It’s only $1000 now instead of $2000! That’s a steal! It’s only a month’s pay. Aren’t I worth a month’s pay?”
God didn’t follow that strategy here. He made sure that Abraham knew that what He was asking for was going to cost Abraham more than he could possibly afford. It wasn’t just going to break his bank; it was going to break his heart. Look at how God describes this expensive gift in verse 2. Think about what thoughts each of those descriptive words would have prompted in Abraham’s mind.
“your” “He’s mine God! You gave him to me! You promised me a son!”
“only” “He’s the only one I’ve got! And seeing how long it took me to get this one and how old I am now, it doesn’t look like I’m going to get another one!”
“Isaac” “He’s the source of laughter in my home, God! You remember how depressed Sarah always used to be – she’s been happy ever since you sent Isaac into our lives. How can I tell her that you want me to sacrifice Him?”
“love” “I love him, God. How could I do something like that to a person that I love? That would hurt me so much! And while we’re on the subject of love, how could you, who say you love me, ask me to do something that would cause me so much anguish?”
Abraham had already experienced what it felt like to lose a son. Ishmael, Abraham’s firstborn son, had been kicked out of Abraham’s house by Sarah only one chapter earlier. True, Ishmael had been a trouble-maker, but he was Abraham’s firstborn. And yes, as much as 13 years and perhaps more had passed since the day that Abraham lost Ishmael. But it still hurt deeply. “God, I can’t go through that pain again.”
When we are asked to make a sacrifice in order to give a gift that we cannot afford, we rationalize. We come up with all kinds of reasons for why that sacrifice just doesn’t make any sense. Abraham could have done the same thing. Abraham knew that child sacrifice was one of the reasons pagan religions and Canaanite religious practices were an abomination to God. To kill his son would be murder. Murder is a sin. God wouldn’t tell him to commit a sin. Besides that, God had specifically said that it was through Isaac that God’s promises to Abraham would be fulfilled. It didn’t make sense for God to command a murder in general. And specifically, it didn’t make sense for God to command him to murder the son of promise. He must have heard God wrong. He needed to get his spiritual hearing aid looked at.