Today’s text: Genesis 22:1-19
Over the last few weeks, we’ve been a fly on the wall of Abraham’s life. In Genesis 12, we saw how God called Abraham and gave him incredible promises: promises of descendants and land, a promise that God would bless those who blessed Abram and curse those who cursed him, a promise that through Abraham the nations of the world would be blessed.
As we’ve explored Abraham’s journey with God, we’ve seen how those promises have seemed at times unobtainable. For one thing, Abraham and Sarah were unable to have children. And yet, despite their attempts to force God’s promises to come true by Abraham fathering a child through Sarah’s servant, God insisted that his promises would be fulfilled through Abraham and Sarah.
Only when both were old, and Sarah well past child-bearing age, did God miraculously enable them to have a son of their own: Isaac. After long years of triumphant faith and struggling doubt, it must have seemed like things were finally started to coming together. With Ishmael (the son born of the slave woman) out of the picture, it looked like God’s promises were settled and sure. In fact, in Genesis 21:33, we read that Abraham worshipped Yahweh, the Eternal God.
And then, several years later, that eternal, enduring God called on Abraham to do the unthinkable: to kill his only son. Abraham was faced with a dilemma: How could God’s promises – which seemed to be coming true in Isaac – possibly be fulfilled if Isaac was to die?
And yet Abraham had learnt to listen to God. And so he got up the next morning, and set out for the region of Moriah. But why? In 2 Chronicles 3:1, we’re told that the temple in Jerusalem was built on Mount Moriah. Not all theologians are convinced that the Moriah in Jerusalem is the same place as that of Genesis 22. If it is, there is perhaps a link to the temple where God accepted sacrifices for the sins of the people, and a link to the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus, God’s own Son. Regardless, it seems like there might be another reason Abraham is told to go to Moriah: it’s not nearby.
Why the long journey?
God called Abraham to give up everything he had in obedience to God. And Abraham decided to trust God. He decided to trust that God would provide; to trust that God would see to it that the apparent contradictions of his command and his promises were resolved.
In the end – but at the last moment! – God did intervene. Before Isaac was slaughtered, God’s angel called Abraham to stop. Abraham had shown that he truly feared God. Abraham had shown that he trusted God no mater what.
It’s easy to say that we trust God. It’s easy to say that we love God “more than life.” In practice though, more often than not it’s another story. There are countless good gifts from God that we so often allow to have ultimate importance in our lives. There are even evil desires that wage war against our very souls that we can be loath to give up. In Genesis 22, God was testing Abraham by asking him to make an ultimate decision: who or what was he living for? That’s a question that we should be asking ourselves every day.
The amazing thing, though, is that God doesn’t “test” Abraham before making his promises to him. God’s promises were made back in Genesis 12. God called Abraham “righteous” because of his faith in Genesis 15 – even though Abraham would continue to stumble and doubt. God wants us to have him as our ultimate desire. But his love for us doesn’t depend on that.
Putting God first might not come easily to us. I suspect it wasn’t easy for Abraham. But let us be encouraged that, God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. (1 John 4:9-10)
Even so, it is for those who trust God that God provides. God has provided a sacrifice for us – even Jesus his Son. One who knows what it is like to be human, who can sympathise with us in our weakness. (Hebrews 4:15) If we refuse to trust in him, then we are turning our backs on his promise of an abundant life with him forever. But if we trust him… he will save us. For on the mountain of the Lord, God has seen to it.
Let us choose to trust him.