One Morning in the Mountains of Moriah

I wonder sometimes if his heart was pounding in his chest as he “stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son” (Genesis 22:10). The Bible later says that he did it by faith, believing “that God was able to raise [his son] up, even from the dead” (Hebrews 11:19). It also says that he rose up early to complete the task, and when his son asked him where the sacrifice was, he said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:3, 8). It even says that he called it “worship” (v. 5). Yet my mind struggles with the concept: how could you have that much faith – faith enough to trust and obey God to the point that you would kill your only son in a sacrifice to Him?

The man was Abraham, whom we are told is “our father,” and “the father of us all,” and the man whose offspring we are if we are in Christ (James 2:21, Romans 4:16, Galatians 3:29). This means that Abraham has innumerable children just as God promised: “I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth” (Genesis 13:16; cf. 15:5; 16:10; 22:17). Yet Abraham knew little of these future children by faith; he knew less of the future children he would have by Keturah. At the moment he raised that knife he had two sons, but of those two only one legitimate son born to him by the wife of his youth – his Sarah, his Princess (as her name means). That son – Isaac – was the son of the covenant and the son of promise (Genesis 17:21; Romans 9:9). And it was that son who was under the knife that morning in the mountains of Moriah.

We know what happens next. Our father Abraham raised that knife above the hope of the world – his “only son,” and the son through whom the seed promise would be delivered (Genesis 22:2; 12:3; 17:19). He raised that knife and prepared to bring it down, but at the last minute is stopped by an angelic voice: “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him” (22:12). Instead of being forced to kill his son, Abraham was provided with a ram: “Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns” (22:13). We are not told of the relief that flooded the heart of our father Abraham; we are not told of his thanksgivings going up to God. We are simply told, “Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son” (v. 13).

I am humbled by the profound faith of my spiritual forerunner. I reflect upon the fact that God has asked no such task of me, neither to give the life of any of my children nor to give my own life (unless persecution takes it from me). He has not placed a knife in my hand, but the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). I fight no carnal battles, and for the most part I fear no carnal recourse. Yet I realize that even with the light yoke placed upon my shoulders – for His “yoke is easy and [His] burden is light” (Matthew 11:30) – I sometimes falter. I have a long way to go before I can even stand in the shadow of my father Abraham.

Yet as I watch through my eyes of faith that man of faith pulling the ram out of the thicket, this thought permeates the scene – there was no ram in the thicket for another Father that day. For you see, what my father Abraham’s Father did not ultimately ask either from him or from anyone else, He was willing to give. Abraham’s Father is my Father and my God, and while my God did not receive Isaac into His arms on that day, He had already opened up His Own arms to let His only begotten Son go to become the ram caught in the thicket. John the baptizer called Jesus “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” and another John reminds us that He was “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (John 1:29; Revelation 13:8).

What a marvelous display of both faith and sacrifice on that morning in the mountains of Moriah, where my father Abraham received his son alive again but my Father in heaven gave His son to die on the cruel and bitter tree so that I might live.
-Patrick Swayne 
patrick@tftw.org

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