God promised Abraham a son through Sarah. That son was Isaac.
Next thing we know, God asks Abraham to sacrifice that very son, the Promise Fulfilled, on the altar. Not only did Abraham have to wait many years for the Promise to be fulfilled, but then God decided to take that very same promise away. What's up with that?
I went back and reread the story of Isaac and the almost-sacrifice on Mt. Moriah, and I discovered a little story I'd always overlooked before. Just after we read about Isaac's birth, there are a few verses describing the only information we have about Isaac's childhood.
"The child (Isaac) grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw the son who Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, 'Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.'" Gen 21:8-10
So Abraham sends Hagar and Ishmael away, and they wander in the desert of Beersheba.
Two things struck me about this short story.
1. Abraham held a great feast when Isaac was weaned. I don't know how long a child was nursed in those days, but presumably Isaac was still a toddler when he was weaned, yet a huge party was held in his honor. I wonder if Abraham went over the top a little? Could it be that his love for his son was threatening to put Isaac on a bit of a pedestal? Making an idol of him? Glorifying Isaac rather than God? Is it possible that Abraham was beginning to love the Promise more than the Promise Giver?
2. Ishmael mocked; Sarah seethed. Had Sarah's view of her son become overinflated? Is that why she was so offended when Ishmael mocked, because he didn't show the proper respect and honor she felt due her little toddler of a boy? Was that offense so great as to merit banishment into the desert...certain death? Had Isaac become an idol in Sarah's heart, and woe to those who didn't join her in worship of him?
What happens when a promise of God takes the place of God in our hearts?
Anything that takes center stage in our hearts
other than God
And idols must be dethroned
if we are to remain in right relationship with God.
I wonder if that's why God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. The Bible says, "...God tested Abraham." It seems God wanted to see where Abraham's loyalty really lay. Who was Number 1 in Abraham's heart? Isaac or God?
I never thought before that this test may have been brought about by a possible drifting of Abraham away from God. It seems credible that Abraham had lost some of his awe of God in light of the awe of watching his only son grow.
But God doesn't share His glory.
Does that seem harsh?
God knew this, and in His great mercy He gave an order to Abraham that would force Abraham to snap out of it. The shock of God's command would have opened Abraham's eyes to the real state of his heart. He was going to have to choose whether to obey the God he loved, or protect the son he loved.
Talk about a crossroads moment.
It got me thinking. Have I so focused on the Promise, that the failure to see the promise fulfilled has affected my relationship with God? Am I willing to sacrifice the Promise, even before fulfillment, in exchange for greater intimacy with God? What is ultimately more important...the Promise, or the Promise-Giver?
Graham Cooke said: "Every promise is tested so that our faith can increase. Pursuing God's purposes in our situation is where we learn the business end of faith and walking with the Father. Do not chase the outcome, but pursue the heart of God."
Abraham passed his test and proved he loved God above the only son he also loved tremendously. He also demonstrated his belief that God is good and loved him back. He believed that even if God allowed him to go through with the sacrifice and kill Isaac, God could raise him from the dead.
Abraham's unshakable faith in God was credited to him as righteousness, and inspires me today. But this story also cautions me to keep my eyes on God and worship Him alone.