Remember the story of Abraham in the book of Genesis? Abraham was a faithful man who believed God and responded to His voice. He and his wife Sarah were, however, childless until Abraham was about 100 years old. Then God gave him the son He had promised him years before. It was through this son, Isaac, that God would fulfill His promise to Abraham to bless the whole world. Yet we come to a part of the Abraham story that is really difficult to digest. Here is that story:
After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” He said, “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.”… And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here am I, 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 am I.” 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.” (Genesis 22:1-3, 7-12)
We instantly recoil at God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice his son! How could He ask such a monstrous thing? In the first place, God never before asked for a human sacrifice. Secondly, how would God fulfill His promise to Abraham if Isaac was dead? Finally, how could any father sacrifice his own son – his only son – by his own hand? It is terrible to contemplate and worse coming from the God Himself.
We are usually told that this story should serve as a model for us of true faith, that God will test our faith by asking of us impossible, terrible things and we should be more like Abraham. We are told that Abraham represents the kind of godly character that we should strive to emulate. In other words, this story is all about Abraham. There may be some truth in that except that this is the only time in Scripture that God asks for a sacrifice of this kind. So it may not be the best model for us. And while it may be true that God may ask of us difficult things to purify our faith, I think we miss the bigger point of this story if we just stop there.
It is interesting to consider that while we wrestle with the thought of God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son, we seem to glibly accept the notion of God the Father sacrificing His Own Son – Jesus. Did not the Father lament having to see His Son die? Was not the Father distressed at the pain inflicted on His Son? What father would sacrifice his own son willingly and yet not mourn? And yet that is what God our Father did. He willingly gave up the very life of His own Son and, I believe, it was just as difficult for Him as it was for Abraham.
We learn in the book of Hebrews that Abraham was willing to obey God in sacrificing his son because he believed that God could bring Isaac back to life if necessary. Once again life trumps death. The hope of resurrection made faith possible for Abraham. Likewise, the Father knew that Resurrection would follow death, that life – eternal life for all – would result from the sacrifice.
I share this with you because sometimes we don’t consider the death of Christ from the Father’s perspective. It was an enormous sacrifice, not just for Christ but for the Father as well. It was a horrible situation. Both suffered loss. Both would have preferred a different path, but it was not to be. In the end, the sacrifice made – by both – was not easy but was necessary. You see because in the end, God loved you, me and everyone else so much, that He gave up His promised Son who He loved very, very much. He did this so we would have life with Him forever.