I had one of those experiences recently. I thought I knew how the story went, and then I was surprised by one little fact that I had never heard before. And that little fact changed everything.
My ah-ha moment happened when I was sitting with some friends listening to another friend tell a story I’ve actually heard before. And by “sitting with friends,” I mean sitting in church with 800 or so others. And “by another friend,” I mean the pastor, who I guess I can’t really call a friend because we’ve never formally met. But, by the way he spoke, I felt as though I was sitting in a small group of long time friends just sharing stories. He was that good of a communicator, and you could hear a pin drop in the room.
Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” Genesis 22:1-2
So, you know, just your average day in the land of the Old Testament. You might remember the challenges Abraham and Sarah faced to conceive Isaac, and now God is asking this of Abraham. What’s even more baffling to me, though, is Abraham’s response in the next verse.
Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. Genesis 22:3
The first few times I read this story, I concluded that the writer must have left out a very important talk track between God and Abraham. Something like this:
Abraham: “You want me to do what? God, do you know what Isaac means to me? I don’t understand. Please God. Please explain to me what you are up to.”
But now, I’m wondering if my imaginary talk track was more wishful thinking for Abraham. Or, if I could be so worthy of inserting myself into this magnificent story, this would have been my talk track with God.
See, here’s the thing. Abraham and God had a relationship long before chapter 22. Abraham questioned God, and wrestled with his commands. He even complained a little from time to time. But by this point in Abraham’s journey with God, He just does what He says. No questions asked. That is some trust with a capital T.
And that wasn’t even my ah-ha moment as I sat in church that day. My friend (the pastor) went on to say that Isaac was an adult when this event unfolded. Flash back to Fourth Grade Sunday School, and the old flannel board that had the sticky cut out of Abraham and Isaac. I’m pretty certain Isaac was maybe six-years-old.
I came home that Sunday, and did some research. Most Bible scholars report that it’s difficult to predict the exact age of Isaac, but many believe he was in his late teens, 20’s, or possibly even 30’s.
Do you see what this means? Isaac was fully aware what was happening. At some point he realized he wasn’t just on a three-day camping trip with Dad. He helped build the altar. He carried wood and rocks up a mountain. He prepared his heart for worship with his earthly father, and Heavenly Father. And then, this:
Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Genesis 22:6-7
Good question, Little Camper. I mean, Big, Adult, Man-Child, Camper. See, this is what trips me up. I always, always pictured a little boy asking this question, in a little boy voice.
Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. Genesis 22:8
I’m certain if Isaac had a smart phone in Moriah that day, he would have tweeted, #SMH. (That means, “shaking my head” for you non-hashtagers.)
Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. Genesis 22:1-13
Here’s my takeaway. Abraham trusted God. He trusted Him for everything, and in everything. Even though he and Sarah conceived Isaac, and Sarah gave birth to him, Abraham knew Isaac belonged to God before he belonged to him.
Isaac belonged to God, his Heavenly Father, first, and his earthly father, second. Just like we belong to God to first. Just like our children belong to God first, and us second.
I wonder what Isaac thought about the events on Mt. Moriah. I’m now certain he was old enough to ponder that epic camping trip for a long time to come. I wonder what he thought of his dad’s faith that day. I wonder how seeing that kind of faith modeled to him impacted his life. I wonder if my daughters are seeing that kind of faith modeled to them.
Sometimes, in those quiet moments, when I quietly observe my daughters, and see the crap they face living in this time of history; I hear God whisper, do you trust me, Krista? Do you trust me?
Oh how I want my answer to be a firm and confident, YES!
I’m working on it.