Faith on Faith Series: Do I Believe Enough to Die?
“And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.” (Genesis 22: 7-13, ESV)
Last week we took a look at the story of Abraham’s test of faith in offering up his son to God as a sacrifice. We really combed through how Abraham’s faith had to be tested and strengthened to get to a place of blind faith
and impossible obedience.
But this week, I want to talk about Isaac and his own insane faith, because nowhere in the text does it say that Isaac cried out, let alone fought off or questioned his father. Everyone can take a look at Abraham and say, “Wow, his faith is amazing that he would give his only, beloved son to God like that.” But I don’t think Isaac gets enough recognition for the faith it would take in God to offer up our own life and trust that God would take care of it.
You see, I got curious when reading this story this time around. In Sunday school, or Bible movies, it’s always assumed that Isaac was a boy when this all happened. But if we know anything from Abraham’s story in general, or any other account from the Bible, it’s that many, many years can pass between one story and the next. I mean, between Genesis 16 and 17 alone, there is the passage of 13 years, so we cannot just assume that Isaac was still the young toddler between the ages of 2 and 5 that we leave at the end of Genesis 21.
After a couple of Google searches, the conclusion is it’s hard to say. He could be anywhere from 5 to 37 years old, using Sarah’s timeline as a reference. But, since Genesis 21 closes with, “And Abraham lived [as a resident alien] in the land of the Philistines for many days,” we are free to assume that an extended period of time passes before we meet Abraham at the top of Genesis 22. No one can say for sure, but many Bible scholars believe Isaac to be a man between the ages of 18-30.
All that to say this: Isaac was most likely in good shape. At least, he was in good enough shape where he could have fought off his elderly father, broken his bonds, and escaped being a sacrifice if it didn’t agree with him.
So the fact that there is no mention in the text of any kind of conflict only suggests one thing: that there was none. Isaac willingly carried the wood for his sacrifice up Mount Moriah, allowed his hands and feet to be bound, and let his father lay him down on an altar fully prepared to die.
He had faith in a God that has never asked for a human sacrifice and believed that He wasn’t going to start asking for them now. Either that, or he believed that at the other side of the pain and suffering, he would be with a God that loved Him more than his father did.
Either way, it makes me wonder how I’d handle the situation in Isaac’s place. Would I have fought off my father? Would I have begged for my life? Would I have been remembered in the Bible as obedient and full of faith?
I would like to think that I would have enough trust in God to have swallowed my own fear and anxiety and grabbed a hold of the faith that had been built in me. I would like to think that my trust in God is to the point where I’d lean into Him so fully, that laying down my life for Him would be a possibility.
But to be honest, as Christians, this is something that we have to try and forge within us anyway. Although you might be reading this in a country that allows you to worship God to the full extent of our calling, there is no guarantee that those rights are for life. We may live in a time where they are rescinded, or be called as a missionary to a corner of the world where worshipping God is taking your life into your own hands.
The question remains: Do we love and believe in God to the point of laying down our lives? Do we want Him to be glorified more than we want safety and comfortability for ourselves?
I feel challenged when I imagine Isaac, a fully grown man and the loving son of Abraham, lying on his back on top of an unlit bonfire. I feel challenged when I think about what he must have felt watching his father reach out his hand to take the knife that would end his life of promise from God.
Would I have enough trust in the fact that I am my own promise from God; that I myself, am chosen, loved, and taken care of by God Most High, even at the tip of a blade poised over my heart? Or would the threat of imminent pain, suffering, and death change my tune entirely?
I think that’s something we can all ponder today. If we were sitting at the top of the same altar, seconds from death, would we abandon our faith in God, or cling to it more tightly?
It is my prayer that we would all remember what is eternal over what is temporal, even if the temporal requires great pain on our behalf. Today, take a few moments to think about Isaac and place yourself in his shoes. Search your heart today, and if you find yourself lacking, then ask God to keep strengthening your faith to be obedient, no matter the cost.
After all, Jesus did the very same for you… but we’ll get into that next time.