In first-year Hebrew, we spent one semester learning the alphabet, vocabulary, and grammar. The second semester, we started translating and this is the first passage we translated, this terrible passage about a man being asked by God to prepare for the sacrifice of his son.
The passage makes sense as a “starter passage” because there are many repeated words and phrases: “took, take”, “went, went up”, “look, looked”, “here, here, here I am.”
But our ineptitude made our translation very slow so that the arduous journey of Abraham and Isaac seem endless. Word by word, it felt like we were going with them step by step up that mountain on a dreadful journey. It gave us plenty of time to wonder what God was asking of Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac. Plenty of time to wonder why Abraham kept moving forward. Plenty of time to whisper into Isaac’s ears, “Turn around. Run home.”
Plenty of time to wonder where they were going.
The sacrifice that God appears to ask of the small family is awful. But the truth is we are often asked to make sacrifices that are awful. To let go of a relationship that mattered to us. To give up food or drink that we believe we cannot live without. To walk out of safe situations and into dangerous ones. To commit our money to something other than our comfort.
Often the journey to that sacrifice is slow and tortuous and filled with questions. We cannot believe that a loving God would call us to do what seems like death to us.
But in this story, as in our stories, God’s call to faithfulness does not end in death. God does not call us to destroy what truly is alive and filled with life, to harm ourselves or harm another.
God calls us to be faithful and then God provides.
God provides a new way, a new opportunity, a new option. That is another word that is repeated over and over in this passage: provide, provides, provided. And it is always God who is providing.
We are called to sacrifice the familiarity of worship – the band, the choir, fellowship time. We make the sacrifice because God has asked us.
And God provides.
God provides another way, not a ram, but a ramp built so a 100-year-old woman can live in her house. Not a mountain to worship on, but a mountain of children’s clothing to be sorted. Not a place but a lot of goodness to painted on walls or packed up for storm-ravaged people.
Where are we going?
We are going to find that God provides.
It will be so in your life also. When God asks you to give up what is of value, God will always provide a way that leads to life, so the blessing of God’s goodness will be as many as the stars of heaven.