Welcome to A Scarlet Cord of Hope, the 2021 advent series of University Fellowship Church Women written and read by Jaime Sherman, who penned our Christmastime narratives from biblical, Jewish, and historical sources to tell how God wove hope from creation to the creche and who continues to point us to the final fulfillment of hope in the one-day-soon second coming of Jesus Christ. Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
today’s suggested reading
In their old age, Abraham and Sarah experienced the fulfillment of God’s promise to bring them a son, and they cherished this baby turned boy who filled their home with laughter. Then when Isaac was a young man, Abraham faced an agonizing few days on his journey of faith, one that reminds us that our LORD forces our need for redemption from the penalty of sin and willingly provides the atoning Lamb, our Hope.
Genesis 22 begins with the words, “After these things God tested Abraham,” and we have to clarify a bit of theology in our minds. God tests His people to strengthen their faith in Him, but in His righteousness, He is unable to tempt His beloved children. We don’t know why God chose to test Abraham, but maybe God knew Abraham’s attachment to this promised heir was taking away from his devotion to God.
“Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you,” God said. And we feel as if the Giver of life has plunged a knife deep into Abraham’s joy and future hope.
Really, God, hasn’t Abraham faced enough already? You want him to take the son of promise and sacrifice him on an altar atop Mount Moriah. Bind him. Plunge a knife in his chest. Sacrifice him to the flames just like the nations around them routinely did to appease their gods. Are You really going to break Your promise, God, to bring forth a great nation from this young man?
While we know what happened next, Abraham didn’t. And yet, we have no record that he questioned God. We don’t read that he replied, “No. No. Not Isaac. Not the son You promised me, LORD. No, I will give you anything, but not Isaac!”
No, the cry of our hearts was not Abraham’s response. He obeyed immediately even though his God had never asked for a human sacrifice — ever. Without any sign of hesitation, he set off with Isaac on a three-day journey into the desert, traveling some 20 miles each day with the load of firewood for the altar bobbing up and down on the donkey. We guess that those were three of the longest, hardest days of Abraham’s life. We wonder. Had Abraham explained the expedition to Sarah before they left? What did father and son talk about along the way? Did Isaac know what his father had been instructed to do?
When Abraham and Isaac reached the mountain, they left their two servants behind and began the climb. Isaac with the firewood upon his back. Abraham with the fire and a knife in hand. Abraham called back, “We will worship, and then we will come back to you.”
On the way up the mountain, Isaac noticed that they didn’t have a lamb with them, but Abraham reassured the lad with the words, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.”
Once they had reached the God-designated spot for the sacrifice, Abraham proceeded to build an altar stone by stone, lay out the wood piece by piece, and bind his son knot by knot to the altar. We can only imagine the words or maybe the silence and tears between this loving father and obedient son, but we sense Isaac’s trust in his father, who trusted God to provide.
As Abraham prepared to thrust his knife into his son’s heart, an angel of the Lord called out.
“Here I am.”
“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.”
Abraham looked up to see a ram caught in a thicket by its horns, the sacrifice he knew God would provide. Abraham sacrificed the ram upon the altar and named the place Jehovah-Jireh, for “on the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” God spoke again and renewed His covenant with Abraham.
“By myself I have sworn because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice” (Genesis 22:16-18).
This man of faith was willing to sacrifice his only son because he viewed obedience to God’s instructions as more valuable than anything in his life. He had learned, often the hard way, during his lifetime that God’s plans are always greater than man’s, and in this account, Abraham’s faith in the sovereignty of God was tested and proven true.
This story is but a foreshadowing of another Lamb who was waiting to be revealed since the foundation of the world. Some 2,000 years after Isaac carried the wood on his back up the mountainside, Jesus Christ carried a wooden cross up that very same mountain to became the once-for-all, sacrificial Lamb sacrificed to make humankind right with God. He became the ultimate promise. Our hope.
As you read or listen to Genesis 22 today, consider how God has provided for you, and thank Him.
Jaime Sherman is a writer and editor for ufcwomen.blog but most importantly a child of the King of kings, the wife of one amazing man for nearly 20 years, and mama of five girls and one boy. Learn more about her adventure in writing and enjoy some free resources on our main page for this series.