|Abraham and Isaac|
You remember that in those times of which we are telling, when men worshiped God,
they built an altar of earth or of stone, and laid an offering upon it as a gift to God. The
offering was generally a sheep, or a goat, or a young ox—some animal that was used for
food. Such an offering was called “a sacrifice.”
But the people who worshiped idols often did what seems to us strange and very terrible.
They thought that it would please their gods if they would offer as a sacrifice the most
precious living things that were their own; and they would take their own little children
and kill them upon their altars as offerings to the gods of wood and stone, that were no
real gods, but only images.
God wished to show Abraham and all his descendants, those who should come after him,
that he was not pleased with such offerings as those of living people, killed on the altars.
And God took a way to teach Abraham, so that he and his children after him would never
forget it. Then at the same time he wished to see how faithful and obedient Abraham
would be to his commands; how fully Abraham would trust in God, or, as we would say,
how great was Abraham’s faith in God.
So God gave to Abraham a command which he did not mean to have obeyed,
though this he did not tell to Abraham. He said:
“Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love so greatly, and go to the land of
Moriah, and there on a mountain that I will show you, offer him for a burnt-offering to
Though this command filled Abraham’s heart with pain, yet he would not be as surprised
to receive it as a father would in our day; for such offerings were very common among all
those people in the land where Abraham lived. Abraham never for one moment doubted
or disobeyed God’s word. He knew that Isaac was the child whom God had promised, and
that God had promised, too, that Isaac should have children, and that those coming from
Isaac should be a great nation. He did not see how God could keep his promise with
regard to Isaac, if Isaac should be killed as an offering; unless indeed God should raise
him up from the dead afterward.
But Abraham undertook at once to obey. God’s command. He took two young
men with him and an ass laden with wood for the fire; and he went toward the mountain
in the north, Isaac, his son, walking by his side. For two days they walked, sleeping under
the trees at night in the open country. And on the third day Abraham saw the mountain
far away. And as they drew near to the mountain Abraham said to the young men:
“Stay here with the ass, while I go up yonder mountain with Isaac to worship; and when
we have worshiped, we will come back to you.” For Abraham believed that in some way
God would bring back Isaac to life. He took the wood from the ass and placed it on Isaac,
and they two walked up the mountain together. As they were walking, Isaac said:
“Father, here is the wood, but where is the lamb for the offering?”
And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide himself a Lamb for a burnt offering.”
And they came to the place on the top of the mountain. There Abraham built an altar of
stones and earth heaped up; and on it he placed the wood. Then he tied the hands and the
feet of Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on the wood. And Abraham lifted up his hand,
holding a knife to kill his son. Another moment longer and Isaac would be slain by his
own father’s hand.
But just at that moment the angel of the Lord out of heaven called to Abraham, and said:
And Abraham answered, “Here I am, Lord.” Then the angel of the Lord said:
“Do not lay your hand upon your son. Do no harm to him. Now I know that you love God
more than you love your only son, and that you are obedient to God, since you are ready
to give up your son, your only son, to God.”
What a relief and a joy these words from heaven brought to the heart of Abraham! How
glad he was to know that it was not God’s will for him to kill his son! Then Abraham
looked around, and there in the thicket was a ram caught by his horns. And Abraham took
the ram and offered him up for a burnt-offering in place of his son. So Abraham’s words
came true when he said that God would provide for himself a lamb.
The place where this altar was built Abraham named Jehovah-jireh, words in the language
that Abraham spoke meaning, “The Lord will provide.”
This offering, which seems so strange, did much good. It showed to Abraham, and to
Isaac also, that Isaac belonged to God, for to God he had been offered; and in Isaac all
those who should come from him, his descendants, had been given to God. Then it
showed to Abraham and to all the people after him, that God did not wish children or men
killed as offerings for worship; and while all the people around offered such sacrifices, the Israelite's, who came from Abraham and from Isaac, never offered them, but offered oxen and sheep and goats instead.
These gifts, which cost so much toil, they felt must be pleasing to God, because they
expressed their thankfulness to him. But they were glad to be taught that God does not
desire men’s lives to be taken, but loves our living gifts of love and kindness.