Isaac on the Altar
After Ishmael was banished, Abraham had only one son! The expression of the love he had felt for Ishmael was now lavished solely on Isaac. God saw the intensity of that love and decided to put it to the test. He commanded Abraham to go to a special mountain in the region of Moriah and there he was to sacrifice Isaac, his only son—the son he loved so much—as a burnt offering! Nothing God could ever ask of him could possibly require more surrender. What a horrible night Abraham must have spent! But early the next morning he loaded a donkey with firewood and headed off with Isaac and two of his servants. The journey of about 50 miles took three days. When they finally arrived, Abraham asked the servants to stay behind while he and Isaac went a little further to worship alone. With a confidence that is difficult to understand, Abraham assured his servants that both he and Isaac would return. The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us that Abraham fully believed that if death was necessary, God would resurrect his son (see Hebrews 11:17-19). Isaac shouldered the wood while Abraham carried the fire and a knife, and they headed to the top of Moriah. There a flat rock created a perfect altar. All that was missing was a lamb for the sacrifice. Isaac noticed this . . . and questioned his dad. He obviously had no idea what was about to happen. Abraham replied, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” While the wood was being placed on the altar, Abraham must have shared the startling news, “Son, you are the lamb God has provided.” He no doubt shared his absolute confidence that God would raise him back up. After all, God had promised many times that from this son He would produce offspring that would be more numerous than the stars in the heavens and the sand on the seashore. There had to be a tangible future for Isaac. Abraham bound his son allowing no last-minute fear to obstruct God’s plan. Then he picked up the knife. He was about to plunge it into Isaac’s chest when the angel of the Lord (most likely Jesus himself!) stopped him. Abraham had proven the extreme level of his faith. In return, God was able to demonstrate His love and protection in a remarkable way. Sure enough, there caught in the thickets near the altar was a ram. Abraham tore the ropes off his son. No doubt weeping with joy, he tethered the ram to the altar. God, Himself, had provided the necessary sacrifice for the burnt offering. Abraham named the place “The Lord Will Provide.” God made it clear that day that a child sacrifice was not what He wanted. He wanted a heart that was completely devoted to Him. The only child God would ever allow to be sacrificed as a demonstration of such commitment and love was His own!
Are there people or things in your life that you love and cling to more than God would desire? If God asked you to give them up, would you be willing, or would you forever be angry with Him? Is God the primary object of your love and faith?