MDB 14: Genesis 22

Nathan Shurden

"Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you."--Genesis 22:2

Abraham and Sarai waited and wondered when God would fulfill his promise. But as the years past and still no son was born, Abraham and Sarai began to doubt. "Will we have a son to be an heir, just as God promised?"

When it appeared all hope was lost, Sarai took matters into her own hands. She gave Abraham her servant, Hagar, as the means through which the promised heir would be born. The planned worked, in one sense. Lo and behold, Ishmael was born! He, however, was not the chosen heir, for he was not born God's way. He was the son, not of Abraham and Sarai's faith and union, but the product of their doubt and disobedience. So much for plan-B.

Then, against all odds, plan-A worked. We are told that the "Lord visited Sarah, as he had promised. And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age...the name of his son was Isaac" (Gen.21:1-3). Finally, the son of God's own choosing had arrived, the heir of His blessing. Abraham and Sarah breathed a sigh of relief.

But wait. What? After the years of waiting, the doubting, the missteps, and now the fulfillment, God instructed Abraham to do the unthinkable. He was to take his only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering.

It was a test. Each step Abraham and Sarah took, God was stretching their faith. "Will you trust me?" And though this new instruction seemed contrary to God's covenant promises, he must have remembered that God's delay in providing Isaac also seemed, at least on the surface, to go against the plan of God. How would Abraham respond?

"God, I will trust you?"

As the knife hung above Isaac, just before it plunged into his breast, an angel called out, "Abraham, Abraham. Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing that you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me." (Gen. 22:12)

Abraham learned to fear God by trusting God's word to be fulfilled in God's way. Even when all outward indicators would lead him to question and doubt, God's word in God's way was plan-A, and there was no plan-B. He had to trust God to receive Isaac, and he had to trust God to keep Isaac. In both cases, he learned the same lesson: "The Lord will provide." (Gen.22:14)