This passage is perhaps the most difficult verse in all of Scripture for me. Many of us are familiar with the testing of Abraham by God Himself. God told Abraham to take his son, his only son, Isaac, whom he loved, and go to the land of Moriah; there he was to offer Isaac as a burnt offering.
I marvel at Abraham’s faith; he never questioned God or His motives. How could his decendants outnumber the stars if the child of the promise was slain? Why would God have given him a son when he and Sarah were advanced in age, only to have him killed? God gave the patriarch his instructions one day and we are told “he rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey…split wood for the burnt offering, and went to the place of which God had told him” (Genesis 22:3). On his journey to Moriah, he took Isaac and two other young men with him. I cannot fathom the heaviness of his heart, knowing what he had been asked by God to do.
Abraham fully trusted God in whatever He chose to do; he told the young men with him and Isaac, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you” (Genesis 22:5). Isaac carried the wood for the burnt offering much like Jesus hundreds of years later, bore His cross. As they walked along together, Abraham’s heart must have been in a thousand pieces when he heard Isaac ask, “My Father! Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (Genesis 22:7) Abraham responded, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering my son” (Genesis 22:8).
Isaac trusted his father. He watched Abraham build an altar; he allowed himself to be bound and placed on top of the wood, and saw his father stretch out his hand holding the knife to slay him.
And we know the rest of the story. The angel of the Lord called to Abraham and said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me” (Genesis 22:12). It was then that Abraham looked, and saw a ram caught in a thicket by his horns. The Lord had indeed provided the sacrifice. Abraham came down from Mount Moriah with his son. But there are some of us whose Moriah story has a very different ending. We did not get to come down from the mountain with our child/children.
I am thankful that unlike Abraham, I was not asked to “go to the land of Moriah and offer” my sons, whom I loved, as a sacrifice. I don’t know that I could have responded in the way Abraham did. Both of our sons died; we did everything possible to save them, but to no avail .Was God in control when they died? Absolutely. Could He have written a very different ending to our Moriah story? Certainly. But He did not.
While our outcome and Abraham’s were very different, the “test” was the same. Abraham could have chosen to obey God, or not. We can choose to allow the deaths of our sons to define us, or not; we can become better or bitter…and I have spent some time being bitter. We can rail against God, refusing to trust Him in the “hard”, or we can give Him the “hard” and ask Him to use our life experiences to bless others. We can be grateful for the time we were given with our sons, or choose to dwell on all that we lost.
In the day of the prophet Habakkuk, the Chaldeans’ invasion made the land barren. Habakkuk was a believer, but like us, he did not understand the ways of God. Why had God allowed the Chaldeans, a group of people who were more wicked than the Jews, to punish the Jews? They raided the land; nothing prospered. Habakkuk had a choice. He could rail against God, failing to see or acknowlege God’s goodness in any area of his life, or he could trust God, knowing his sovereign Lord allowed whatever circumstances he faced. He penned these words:
Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exalt in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The LORD GOD is my strength” (Habakkuk 3:17-19a).
Dear Lord, help us to remember that You alone are our strength, that You are our help at all times, but especially in times of grief, discouragement, doubt, and uncertainty. Thank You for offering Jesus, Your only Son, whom You loved, as a sacrifice for our sin. You understand our Moriah experience. Like Abraham, Jesus obeyed Your will by going to the cross and offering Himself as a sacrifice for Your chosen people. Thank you for His life, His death, and His gloroius resurrection. This we pray in the precious name of Jesus, Amen.