The Story of Abraham and Isaac

Abraham Going to Sacrifice Isaac by Lucas van Leyden is licensed under CC-CC0 1.0

The Story of Abraham and Isaac
You will recall that in the days that we are describing, in order for people to worship God, they would construct an altar out of earth or stone and then place an offering on top of it as a present to God. In most cases, the sacrifice consisted of a domesticated animal like a sheep, a goat, or a young ox—some kind of animal that was used as food. The term “sacrifice” was used to refer to such an offering.

People who worshipped idols, on the other hand, were known to engage in behaviors that we find both strange and horrible. They believed that if they offered as a sacrifice the most valuable living beings that were their own, it would satisfy their gods, and they would take their own small infants and slaughter them upon their altars as sacrifices to the gods of wood and stone, who were not actual gods but simply images.

God wanted to make it clear to Abraham and all of Abraham’s descendants, as well as those who would come after Abraham, that he was dissatisfied with some sacrifices, including those in which live humans were sacrificed on altars. And God devised a method to instruct Abraham so that he and his descendants would never be able to forget what they had been taught. Then, at the same time, he wanted to test how loyal and obedient Abraham would be to his commandments; how completely Abraham would have faith in God, or how big Abraham’s confidence in God was, as we would say.

Therefore, God gave Abraham an order that he did not intend for Abraham to fulfill, although he did not tell Abraham this when he gave him the command. He said:

“Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love so much, and travel to the region of Moriah; there, on a mountain that I will show you, give him to me as a sacrificed offering.”

Even though Abraham’s heart broke when he heard this command, he would not have been as shocked to receive it as a parent would be in our day, since such gifts were relatively common among all those people who lived in the region where Abraham lived. Abraham never, for one second, disobeyed or questioned what God had spoken to him. He was aware that the child whom God had promised was Isaac, and that God had also promised that Isaac would have children, and that those offspring would become a powerful nation. He also knew that God had promised that Isaac would have children of his own. He couldn’t see how God could keep his promise to Isaac if Isaac was sacrificed as an offering, unless God raised him from the dead after the incident.

But Abraham committed himself right away to obey. This is a mandate from God. He brought along two young men and an ass loaded with wood for the fire, and he headed in the direction of the mountain that was located to the north, with Isaac, his son, strolling with him. They traveled on foot for two days, spending the nights in the open country, resting in the shade of trees. On the third day, Abraham looked up and saw the mountain in the distance. And when they got closer to the summit, Abraham addressed the young men and spoke to them:

“Stay here with the ass while I go up that mountain with Isaac to worship; and after we have worshipped, we will come back to you.” Because Abraham had faith that God would somehow bring his son Isaac back to life, Isaac was burdened with the wood that had been taken from the ass, and he and Abraham continued their ascent of the mountain together. Isaac spoke out as they strolled along, saying:

“Father, the wood is already here, but where is the lamb that we are supposed to offer?”

And Abraham answered to his son, “Don’t worry, my son; God will give himself a lamb for a sacrifice.”

They eventually arrived at the location at the peak of the mountain. At that location, Abraham erected an altar by piling up stones and soil, and he put the wood on the altar. After that, he bound Isaac’s hands and feet and put him down on the altar prior to actually sacrificing him. And Abraham raised his hand, still clutching the dagger he was going to use to kill his son. in a second.

But just at that moment, an angel of the Lord appeared in heaven and spoke to Abraham, saying, “Do not be afraid.”
“Abraham! Abraham!”
Abraham then responded by saying, “Here I am, Lord.” After that, the angel of the Lord spoke these words:

“You are not allowed to lay your hand on your son in any way.” Do no harm to him. Now I know that you love God more than you love your only son, and that you are obedient to God because you are willing to give up your son, your only son, to God. Because of this, I know that you love God more than you love your only son.

Abraham’s heart must have been filled with such relief and delight when he heard these words from heaven. What a relief it was for him to learn that it was not the will of God for him to take the life of his son! After that, Abraham turned back and saw a ram that had been entangled by its horns in the dense underbrush. Then Abraham took the ram and gave him up as a substitute for his son in the sacrifice of a burnt offering. Thus, Abraham was correct when he claimed that God would provide a lamb for himself, and God did just that.

Abraham gave the location where this altar was erected the name Jehovah-jireh, which means “The Lord will provide” in the language that Abraham spoke.

This unusual offering really served a very useful purpose. It was a sign to Abraham and also to Isaac that God was indeed the owner of Isaac, since Isaac had been offered to God. Furthermore, it was a sign that Isaac and all of Abraham’s descendants, including Isaac’s descendants, had been surrendered to God. Then it became clear to Abraham and to all the people who came after him that God did not want children or men to be killed as worship offerings, and while all the other people in the area offered such sacrifices, the Israelites, who were descended from Abraham and from Isaac, never offered them; instead, they sacrificed oxen, sheep, and goats.

Because they had conveyed their gratitude to God, they believed that these gifts, which required a great deal of effort, must have been acceptable to God. However, they were relieved to learn that God does not want men’s lives to be sacrificed but that He adores the living gifts of love and compassion that we give to one another.

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