How many of us have read this bitter sweet account of Abraham’s amazing faith and trust in God in Gen. 22 and been humbled and challenged by it? This ‘son of the promise’ as Paul calls him in Romans, which was, in himself, a miracle for Abraham and Sarah, now required by the same God who gave him. The thought is unimaginable – particularly so when you have kids of your own – and it’s as if God is asking Abraham what He asks all of us today: ‘do you really believe everything is Mine?’
But while volumes could be written on what we find in the text of Genesis 22, i want to focus for a moment on what can be learned from what is not written in Genesis 22. What you do not find written in this historical account is a loving father, desperate to be both obedient to his God and hold onto his son, who wavers between the two sides. In fact, with what could be seen as an almost chilling decisiveness (if we didn’t rightly understand it as an unwavering obedience to a trustworthy God), after God asks Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, we read, “So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.” (Genesis 22:3 ESV) The text offers us nothing in the way of commentary at that point on how Abraham feels about this whole arrangement, let alone his wife. We just read that the very next morning (and early no less) he packs up what is needed and goes! We will see his anguish and difficulty later in the story and there is, of course, the commentary the author of Hebrews gives us in Heb. 11:19 stating that Abrahams obedience was (amoung other things) based on the belief that even if he did kill Isaac, that God could raise him back from the dead. But again, what we don’t see here is any rebellion or quarrelling with God’s command. And from this we see what a faithful response to any of God’s commands should look like.
But – even more than this – there’s something else we don’t see in this text:
However logical and right it would seem for it to be there, nowhere do we see Abraham repeatedly pulling Isaac off the altar; holding him to his chest and weeping, or perhaps praying for more ‘clarity’ on the command. God’s command is clear and Abraham follows through obediently – undoubtedly, in anguish the every step of the way and probably questioning as well many times – but obedient to the command none the less. What could so easily have become an idol in Abraham’s heart, he offers up to God willingly and says – in effect – You are worth more! And to be very clear here, Abraham is not giving up smoking here or the hope of getting that second car: he’s giving up his miracle, never-going-to-have-another, only son! This is a level of faith and trust in God that i doubt many Christians have today! But Abraham will not hold anything back from his God b/c he sees – in the end – it’s all His anyways!
And here … today … what i learn personally from what we don’t see in this text, is that when God requires something of us and we place it on the altar, it is to STAY on the altar! As i release getting this job as firefighter to God and place it on the altar, i still find myself repeatedly slipping, shuffling, sometimes just ripping, it back off the altar; clutching it to my chest, only to see the foolishness of doing so and placing it back on the altar.
It all begins with the simplest and first lie for me, “Does God really love me? Does He really have what’s best for me and His glory in mind?” For it is only when i listen, that i pull back what must remain on the altar! God grant us all the strength to do exactly what we don’t see in Genesis 22.