Genesis 22 has one of the most pivotal stories in all of the Bible it is a story that establishes the faith of Abraham and his son Isaac. It establishes that Abraham was as faithful to his God as the pagan’s around him were to theirs. It clarifies that this God was not interested in a human sacrifice only human loyalty. It’s the famous story of the “Binding of Isaac”. Having read it recently I was touched by one of Abraham’s tasks.
Verse three enumerates the preparations for the journey but one thing struck me this week; “he split the wood for the sacrifice”. I wonder why the servants did not split the wood? Where did he have to go to find the wood? How hard was this task to complete?
As many of you know my mind moves toward imagining how a Biblical character must feel under their circumstances. If I put myself in his context, I might be splitting the wood as a symbol of my personal commitment to God. This is my son and to have this task done by another person might feel odd. I imagined myself splitting the wood being very deliberate and being very concerned about the task ahead.
Abraham’s heart must have been breaking. This was his only son with his Sarah. This was the son of his old age. This was the only child he had left. And this was the child of the promise!
So many around him sacrificed their children, but God had been different. How could this request really be coming from God?
Still he prepared. Saddled the donkey, called the servants, awakened his son and split the wood. He had to have been very clear that this was a message directly from God and so he split the wood.
The story is a total outlier – but in it we see fully developed faith. Abraham believes in and trusts God completely. In reflection Moses lets us know that it is a test at the outset, but Abraham is preparing for the death of his child. And with each blow of the axe it gets closer to reality.
Sometimes we don’t know the outcome of God’s requests in our lives. In those moments, we just need to split the wood. We need to do the next task, until God makes Himself clear.
The story unfolds in the tasks of Abraham. Loading the animals, calling the servants splitting the wood, a 50 mile walk about which there is no commentary; leaving the servants, loading the wood on Isaac, walking up the mountain, building an altar, placing the wood, binding his son, laying Isaac on the altar, taking the knife in hand, raising the knife … And finally, the angel speaks!
I could see myself quitting at some point along that road. But hard tasks are completed one small step at a time. Abraham knew for sure that God had spoken, and he just kept doing the next thing.
Has God placed a hard task or calling upon you? It may seem insurmountable to you right now, but you don’t have to do the whole thing today, just deliver on today’s task. Is God calling you out of an addiction? Just deliver on today. Is God calling you to a ministry? Just deliver on today. Abraham did not need faith for the sacrifice, he just needed the faith to cut the wood.
There was no way for Abraham to know what God would do but he expected God to fulfill His promise no matter what. And in Abraham’s willing gift we see the gift of God in Jesus. No human sacrifice to appease God but God’s sacrifice to save mankind. In Isaac willingness to lay on that altar we hear the echo of Paul’s words, “Offer yourself as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, for this is your reasonable act of service.”
God’s call may be immense, but God’s provision is enough for today’s steps.
Blessings My Fellow Travelers