Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’
Abram responded to God’s call to go many times in his life, and many of God’s commands must have seemed confusing at best. Go! Leave your family for a strange, new land. Go! Circumcise yourself. That must have seemed like a divine prank. (Genesis 17) Go! Sacrifice your only son. (Genesis 22) Imagine leaving your house, family, and support system, mutilating yourself, and trusting that the deity giving you these commands had good intentions. Imagine struggling with infertility for decades of your life, to receive a miracle child, and then to sacrifice the child to the same deity.
The sacrifice of Isaac is one of the most commonly painted scenes from scripture. It’s a pivotal moment in the life of Abraham, and therefore an important event in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. What does such a command do to a person? How would Abraham look and feel when he raises the knife above his own child? His faith and obedience are taken to the limit, but he still responds when God tells him to go.
Abram was not always perfectly obedient, but his faithfulness (as Paul wrote in Romans 4) was credited to him as righteousness. He did not have centuries of Jewish law to guide his actions, or the teachings of Jesus, or the guidance of Church elders to consult. Abram had to put his trust fully in God and believe that all would be well.
Though God isn’t calling you to sacrifice your child, but may we have the faithfulness of Abraham and the trust to respond when we hear God’s command.
The Angel Prevents the Sacrifice of Isaac, Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn, 1635