After all this, God tested Abraham. God said, “Abraham!”
“Yes?” answered Abraham. “I’m listening.”
He said, “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.”
Abraham got up early in the morning and saddled his donkey. He took two of his young servants and his son Isaac. He had split wood for the burnt offering. He set out for the place God had directed him. On the third day he looked up and saw the place in the distance. Abraham told his two young servants, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I are going over there to worship; then we’ll come back to you.”
Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and gave it to Isaac his son to carry. He carried the flint and the knife. The two of them went off together.
Isaac said to Abraham his father, “Father?”
“Yes, my son.”
“We have flint and wood, but where’s the sheep for the burnt offering?”
Abraham said, “Son, God will see to it that there’s a sheep for the burnt offering.” And they kept on walking together.
They arrived at the place to which God had directed him. Abraham built an altar. He laid out the wood. Then he tied up Isaac and laid him on the wood. Abraham reached out and took the knife to kill his son.
Just then an angel of God called to him out of Heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Yes, I’m listening.”
“Don’t lay a hand on that boy! Don’t touch him! Now I know how fearlessly you fear God; you didn’t hesitate to place your son, your dear son, on the altar for me.”
Abraham looked up. He saw a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. Abraham took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.
Abraham named that place God-Yireh (God-Sees-to-It). That’s where we get the saying, “On the mountain of God, he sees to it.”
Start Isaac:It took us three days to get to Mount Moriah. But it definitely didn’t seem that long. The trip back home, though? I kept looking over at my father, waiting for him to say something. Yet he was quiet. Much more quiet than usual. He hardly looked at me either. It’s like he was in his own world not even paying attention. Sort of like he forgot I was there. Going back was the longest, loneliest hike I’d ever been on.
Abraham: Oh, God, Oh, God, WHY have you forsaken me? (ps 22) How can I explain this to anyone? How is it that your call for me has taken tests of faith? My heart clenches, my soul weeps, my faith is strong, .... but my life, my family, what is important to me... feels ruined.
Isaac: I keep flashing back to those moments on top of the mountain. When my dad led me to the top of the platform. When he tied me up with rope from head to toe. I can see the shiny knife in his hand over my head. The tears running down his face. The fear in his eyes. Everything happening in slow motion...
Abraham: It’s been a week, now, and the tension is still high. The hurt echoes, and he smiled at me for the first time again. It felt odd. Like we had forgotten for a moment.
I feel God with me, and my family thinks I’m insane. Sarah has been ice-cold-silent.
Isaac: And now he can’t even talk to me? We used to be able to talk about anything. When I had bad dreams in the middle of the night, my father was the one who came into my room and helped me go back to sleep. When I was worried about something, my father was the one who gave me pep talks. When my mother wouldn’t let me have something, I would wait for the right moment and then go ask my dad instead.
Abraham: I remember when we used to play, when I would hold him and comfort him in times of grief and sorrow, when the family would laugh and dance and sing and eat together… how do we move past this? how do we move on?
My tears have been my food day and night, while my family says to me continually, “Where is your God?” These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I went with the multitudes, and led them in procession to the house of God, with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival. (Ps 42)
Isaac: Now there’s distance between us. I look at my dad’s face and he looks older than he did before. He doesn’t talk much to my mom either. For him and I guess for her, I try to pretend nothing really happened that day because I can’t think of anything else to do. I miss the way it used to be...
Abraham: I cry out to my God, my eyes grow dim with waiting for answers. Months go by. Those that love me best, I have hurt. What I did not steal, must I now restore?
O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you. God, you know that I have done only what you have asked, and now you leave… It is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that shame has covered my face. I have become a stranger to my kindred, an alien to my mother’s children. (Ps 69). Yet I still turn to You, oh Lord.
Isaac: The longer the silence lasts in our house, the worse it is. I don’t get it. I mean I was the one up on the platform. I was the one who almost got killed with the knife. Don’t I deserve an explanation? Who’s going give me a hug and tell me it will be okay? Is my family ever going back to normal?
Abraham: I don’t understand what it is to lead when God says one thing and the people another. God tells me to move, and my family and I can’t see beyond our own hurt. There is no forgiveness. I understand-- I can barely forgive myself, and yet, I think of God’s intervention, God’s call.
I know I am called to help bring people through: to land of muchness and pastures of promise, a vision that God has shown me… to this I must cling… to lead only when I move with God... and yet still everything feels like it’s falling apart. How long, O God, will you hide your face from me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God! Give light to my eyes, for I feel as though I have died in this.
Yet still, I have trusted your steadfast love; I rejoice in your liberation, and I will sing to the Lord because He has delivered me… (Ps 13) (TURNING POINT?)
Isaac: Do you remember that moment growing up when you realized for the very first time that your father wasn’t perfect? All those years, I had him up on a pedestal and he couldn’t do anything wrong. He was always there to protect me and keep me safe and I was so proud to call him “dad.”
Abraham: I keep trying to tell my family and my people: God is with us. God sees to it, God will provide. God will follow us all the days of our lives. It’s as though the more I say it, the more I live it, the more I believe it, the more they might allow space for grace. God has done wonders and miracles in the past; bringing the worlds into being, staying near in the wilderness, promising not to destroy us by water, gifting to us the most beautiful son, in our agedness…. covenanting to be with my family and I, always….. God is with us. God sees to it, God will provide.
Isaac: Sometimes it takes years for a son to figure it out. Your father makes a mistake here and he doesn’t quite get it right there. And after a while, it sinks in that your dad is a lot like other people. So you go on from there but you never stop loving him.
On the other hand, sometimes there’s one thing that happens, one huge, terrible, awful thing, and just like that the father you thought you knew…
Abraham: I am but human. I am flawed, and imperfect, and vulnerable. I don’t know why it happened like that, but I know that God is with me, and that God is with us. I know that where we go from here, we will not be alone, and that God’s promise to be with my family and me for many, many generations wasn’t one that God made lightly. I know that even as conflict will persevere, and that people will argue, and that seemingly impossible choices will be made, God will prevail.
Isaac: It was never really the same between us after that day. Eventually, my father settled in Beersheba. And my mother lived in Hebron. As I grew older, I thought about him from time to time. But neither of us made the effort to get together. At least until the day my mother died.
Abraham: Leadership at what cost? Without forgiveness, we couldn’t reconcile… and decades passed. And then when Sarah died, perspective on what was lost became clear.
Isaac: As the two of us sat together mourning my mother, his wife, my dad told me the story of the day I was born. My parents decided to name me “Isaac” which means “son of laughter.” As he was talking I looked at my father and for the first time in years I saw a faint twinkle in his eyes. And I thought about blessings.
I might never understand why God blessed my father up on the mountain...or how...seemingly at my expense. But maybe God’s blessing for me came years later when I was sitting next to my father at my mother’s funeral. It wasn’t exactly like it used to be. It was a start, though.
Abraham: It seems silly, now, all those years wasted…. Here, now, is my son. Here is my blessing, my joy. Here is where my line will carry on, and laughter will continue. The Lord is our light and deliverance. When we walk with God, whom shall we fear? (ps 27). Here now is an opportunity to look together towards the future….
Isaac & Abraham: How does this story end?
Abe: Is there any room in this story for grace?
Is: Is there any room in this story for mercy?
Abe: How do we want it to end?
Is: After something like this, how can we be family again?
Abe: Can we move forward, and grow, and laugh again?
Is: Can we trust each other, and God?
Isaac & Abraham: Yes, ……. by the grace of God alone.