“Father,” cried the lad as he ran out from under the tent flap. “I’ve come to say good night.”
Abraham reached out and embraced his son. “It is good you are going to bed early. We have a long journey tomorrow. You must get your rest.”
“This will be my first time to go with you to sacrifice to Yahweh. I am so looking forward to it”
Abraham clutched Isaac tightly and heaved a great sigh.
“What is it father?” asked the boy.
“Nothing to concern yourself about, my son. The journey ahead will be a long one, and I am not looking forward to it as you are. Now get to bed, it will be time to get up all too soon.”
As Isaac went back to the tent, Abraham continued his work. Tears fell on the grinding stone as he sharpened the tool that would be used in the sacrifice. The knife must be sharp to ensure a quick and sure kill.
As he worked, a cry of anguish went up. “God, this is the son of promise given to me in my old age, and now you are requiring his life, and not only that, but at my own hand.” Abraham’s heart was breaking for he did not understand, yet he believed his God was a God of mercy and love and had purpose and reason for all things.
If he could give his own life in place of his son, he would gladly do so, but that was not what was being required of him. The sacrifice would cost him more than what he wanted to give, but God had spoken and Abraham chose to obey. Even though it felt as though his own heart was being ripped from his chest, he trusted God and believed He would restore what was given freely though not willingly.
The next morning, Abraham saddled his donkey and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son. It was still dark as they began their journey, but not nearly as dark as Abraham’s soul. Isaac was so excited and spoke about all he saw about him and asked many questions, which Abraham answered patiently. He relished his son’s enthusiasm and laughter, even though he, himself, felt the sorrow of the death to come.
They had traveled three days when Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. Everything in him wanted to turn back. He wanted to fall on his face and cry out to God. “Why, why are you doing this to me? I cannot bear it.”
Abraham heard a small still voice say, “My grace is sufficient. Trust me.” With that, he set his heart like a flint to do that which God had instructed him to do. He took the knife and the fire in his hand and he and Isaac went together to the place God had designated for the sacrifice.
Isaac looked about him and could not understand why his father had not brought the sacrifice. Where was the lamb? Abraham was driven by his purpose. He bound his son and placed him on the altar he had just built, along with the wood. His pain was so intense; he was oblivious to all but what needed to be done. His purpose carried him to another plateau beyond feelings. He did not hear Isaac cry out, “Why, father? Please do not do this to me.”
Abraham reached for the knife, sharp to his touch, and raised it. As he was about to plunge the instrument into his son, he heard an angel of the Lord speak to him. “Abraham, do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”
With that, Abraham lifted his eyes and saw a ram caught in a bush. With tears streaming down his face he quickly untied Isaac and held him in a tight embrace. Abraham explained to Isaac what God had required of him, and Isaac understood.
“Oh my son, our God is so faithful and full of mercy. He had provided the sacrifice.” With a heart filled with thanksgiving, father and son sacrificed the lamb and paid homage to their God. With joy in his heart, Abraham turned to Isaac, “Let us return home my son, that I might give you back to your mother.”
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