Take your dear son Isaac whom you love and go to the land of Moriah. Genesis 22:2 (MSG)
A Sacred Commitment – The Sacrifice and Sons Series – Part 2
“Leave your country, your family, and your father’s home for a land that I will show you.” God told Abram. (Gen 12:1)
This was new. At this point in time, life was tribal. You stuck with your tribe. You lived with your tribe. You ate with your tribe. You married within your tribe. You killed with your tribe, or you were killed with your tribe. But to leave your tribe? In a world that had no maps or dictionaries or google or knowledge about what was beyond their borders? Abram may have been the most progressive man of his day. The point is, God was going to do something NEW through Abram. And that new thing?
In a world where tribalism ruled, and you had to kill, or you were killed, Abram would start a new tribe that would BLESS.
This was revolutionary.
SIDE NOTE: We still live quite tribal, if you think about it. And the call to BLESS rather than to curse is alive and well.
As well as land and notoriety and blessing, God promised Abraham decedents. Which meant that he would have children. Which meant that Sarah would fall pregnant. Which seemed unlikely at the time the promise was given.
But that’s the thing with newness, right? It never feels possible. In the beginning, the destination seems out of reach. The promise seems absurd. Ridiculous even.
But that’s all that Abraham had when he left his fathers land: a promise.
Promises are problematic. We are quick to make them and slow to follow through if we follow through at all. Always be careful when you promise in words that you follow through in action. Promises aren’t suggestions or ideas or what ifs. A promise is a sacred commitment.
When God promised Abraham that he would do something new through him; and then later, when he asked Abraham to count the stars because that’s how many descendants he would have, he wasn’t making a suggestion or putting forward his idea: it was a promise. New tribe. New life. Promise.
But in Genesis 22, God said to Abraham, “Take your dear son Isaac whom you love and go to the land of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I’ll point out to you.”
Does this request shock you? Because it should. That’s why the story is in the Biblical text. It’s meant to make us think, search, and dig up questions. If it doesn’t, then you’re not reading it right. Why would God ask Abraham to do this? Wouldn’t it be a breach his promise? Can God go back on his word? Is he above his own law or is he intrinsically connected to his own decrees that he must follow them himself?
The biggest question that comes from Genesis 22 is what kind of God would ask a father to murder his son?
Because the question leads us somewhere else.
There’s an ancient proverb that says: “A promise is a cloud, fulfillment is rain.” Abraham had seen both the cloud and the rain. The promise and the fulfillment. The big question for him now was: Would God go back on his word?
The answer is in the drama of the story itself. It’s a narrative that’s going somewhere. Perhaps rather than testing Abraham, the whole story shows us that God doesn’t go back on his promises. Perhaps Abraham's faith wasn’t in the fact that a sacrifice replacement would appear and Isaac would be saved, but that through him and this story all would understand that God would never require that kind of sacrifice. God would never ask for the rain back.
Written by Lizzy Milani