Some time later God tested Abraham; he called to him, “Abraham!” And Abraham answered, “Yes, here I am!” “Take your son,” God said, “your only son, Isaac, whom you love so much, and go to the land of Moriah. There on a mountain that I will show you, offer him as a sacrifice to me.” Early the next morning Abraham cut some wood for the sacrifice, loaded his donkey, and took Isaac and two servants with him. They started out for the place that God had told him about. On the third day Abraham saw the place in the distance. Then he said to the servants, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go over there and worship, and then we will come back to you.” Abraham made Isaac carry the wood for the sacrifice, and he himself carried a knife and live coals for starting the fire. As they walked along together,Isaac spoke up, “Father!” He answered, “Yes, my son?” Isaac asked, “I see that you have the coals and the wood, but where is the lamb for the sacrifice?”Abraham answered, “God himself will provide one.” And the two of them walked on together.When they came to the place which God had told him about, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. He tied up his son and placed him on the altar, on top of the wood.Then he picked up the knife to kill him. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham, Abraham!” He answered, “Yes, here I am.”“Don’t hurt the boy or do anything to him,” he said. “Now I know that you honour and obey God, because you have not kept back your only son from him.” Abraham looked around and saw a ram caught in a bush by its horns. He went and got it and offered it as a burnt offering instead of his son. Abraham named that place “The Lord Provides.” And even today people say, “On the Lord’s mountain he provides.”
We have spent some time over the last few Sunday mornings looking at words and how we use or understand them. The experience of Abraham serves as a good example of how we need to be sure of what it is we are hearing. It would seem that in today’s world word understanding or interpretation has taken on an even more important role for our lives. As we sift through that which is guidance and that which is instruction then mix in some media interpretation many are left wondering, What is it I am actually hearing? and how all of a sudden Is the message not as clear as it once was? But yet the message has not changed. Do you remember that game Chinese whispers? Someone whispers a story into the ear of another. Then the story is passed round a group of people each one taking it in turns to whisper into the ear of the next person. When the last person repeats out loud the story they have been told it is often so very different from the original. We must be careful what we say about others and we must be careful what we hear. Especially when we are listening for God’s voice, his instruction for our lives. Is what we are hearing in tune with the nature of God as revealed through Jesus when he says, ‘Let anyone who has ears to hear listen.’ How important it is that we are sure of what we hear. Confusion often leads to a quest for meaning that takes us to lots of places we need not ever visit. Ultimately we must choose and we must decide where our stand will be for each of us and all of us need to stand somewhere. It is important that we do not get our signals mixed up and our wires crossed. There are times when survival relies on sacrifice. The experience of Abraham serves as a good example of how we need to be sure of what it is we are hearing. What an inner struggle must have been going on in Abraham’s mind and heart. In today’s world we would be appalled and outraged that a man was ready to sacrifice his son. From a contemporary viewpoint the text presents us with a few problems and questions to ask. Why did Abraham think this is what God wanted him to do? Old Canaanite religion demanded that men should give their first born for their transgression, the fruit of their body for the sin of their soul. Men cowered before gods that they did not know. No cost was too great to appease the awful demands which ignorance, superstition and a onsciousness of sin, made upon them. Perhaps Abraham had witnessed such rites. And there is another question. If God did indeed speak to Abraham, at what point in this unfolding drama did it happen?
It could be argued it was at the point of no return as he raised his knife over Isaac’s trembling body.
How tragic the outcome if Abraham had not been listening for the word of God. There are times when survival relies on sacrifice. Wisdom is determining what sacrifice is being asked of you. Not being in Church, not being with friends and neighbours, not being able to cuddle a parent, a child, a grandchild, these are sacrifices we are making for the greater good of all God’s children. In this passage Abraham is portrayed as the supreme model of one who has faith and is obedient to God, It is the assurance of an unwavering faith. Even when asked to do the one thing that might seem to make deliverance impossible, if you dare to do it, God will always be as good as his word. As the hymn writer writes, ‘His truth at all times firmly stood, and shall from age to age endure’. Taken from Psalm 100