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Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
2 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.”
3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” – Genesis 22:1-4
Judge Robert Bork wrote a scathing assessment of the current state of the culture and morals of the United States several years ago. Titled, Slouching Toward Gomorra, he offers a prophetic and unprecedented view of a culture in decline, a nation in such serious moral trouble that its very foundation is crumbling: a nation that slouches not towards the Bethlehem envisioned by the poet Yeats in 1919, but towards Gomorrah (from the Amazon listing of his book).
Abraham’s trek from his home to the mountain that God would show him is anything but a slouch. Nor is it toward Gomorra. This is a long trek of faith toward an incredible test of faith and a resolute devotion of obedience to God. Three days. If it’s me, my stomach is in knots after the first day. I am thinking through every possible scenario. I’m planning contingencies. I’m working out explanations. I’m wondering deep in my soul, is this really the voice and command of God? Did I hear him right? Did he really say that?
Today the only way we can know if a thought or idea is of God is by testing it against God’s word. And then we can only know that the thought is not from God – if the thought is contrary to a clear command of Scripture. If it is not contrary to God’s word, it may be from God, or it may be sanctified reason bubbling up in our minds.
But Abraham has no scripture. Moses is yet to write the Pentateuch. God is dealing with him directly. So there is no norm against which he is to test this word. Somehow he knows it is from God. Somehow Moses learns of it and writes it down for us to read and ponder, centuries, millennia later.
And so he goes. Day one. Day two. Day three. Stomach knots give way to…who knows. Maybe he was resigned from the beginning. Perhaps he was hopeful for God’s provision from the outset. After all, when Isaac asks about the lamb, Abraham says, “The LORD will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”
And so he did. God provided a lamb for the sacrifice. But Abraham does not know this for three days or more. He simply must head for the mountain God would show him. He has to make provision for the sacrifice with wood and fire. And he will travel up the mountain with his son.
I can’t imagine holding such conflicting emotions and knowledge inside on such a trek. Knowing what God had required of him. Traveling with his son, and not telling him that God had told him to sacrifice his son. Keeping the information from his servants and his wife. Entrusting himself only to God. But that’s what Abraham did.
Sometimes we must live like that. We cannot tell everyone all that God has put in our hearts. We may hold some deep wounds or a shameful past that no one needs to know about. We may be heading toward our own Mount Moriah, where we will sacrifice something to God that is very precious to us. But we can tell only God about it.
As we trek with Abraham, or watch him in this journey, we can take great comfort that God is not only good, but trustworthy. We can let him have all our anxiety, pain, yearnings, fears, and wounds. He will handle them well. He will not chide. He will not turn us away. If only we come in humble faith, trusting him along the long trek of life until life’s end.
In the end we will discover that God has provided a lamb for the sacrifice. The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world has been sacrificed for our sins. He calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him. In him alone we have hope. And our long and faithful trek is fully justified.