Genesis 22:1-14 CEB
After these events, God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!”
Abraham answered, “I’m here.”
God said, “Take your son, your only son whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah. Offer him up as an entirely burned offering there on one of the mountains that I will show you.” Abraham got up early in the morning, harnessed his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, together with his son Isaac. He split the wood for the entirely burned offering, set out, and went to the place God had described to him.
On the third day, Abraham looked up and saw the place at a distance. Abraham said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will walk up there, worship, and then come back to you.”
Abraham took the wood for the entirely burned offering and laid it on his son Isaac. He took the fire and the knife in his hand, and the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father?”
Abraham said, “I’m here, my son.”
Isaac said, “Here is the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the entirely burned offering?”
Abraham said, “The lamb for the entirely burned offering? God will see to it, my son.” The two of them walked on together.
They arrived at the place God had described to him. Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He tied up his son Isaac and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. Then Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. But the Lord’s messenger called out to Abraham from heaven, “Abraham? Abraham?”
Abraham said, “I’m here.”
The messenger said, “Don’t stretch out your hand against the young man, and don’t do anything to him. I now know that you revere God and didn’t hold back your son, your only son, from me.” Abraham looked up and saw a single ram caught by its horns in the dense underbrush. Abraham went over, took the ram, and offered it as an entirely burned offering instead of his son. Abraham named that place “the Lord sees.” That is the reason people today say, “On this mountain the Lord is seen.
Abraham fully and completely trusts God's promise:
This scripture, at face value is horrific. It is even more so when one realizes child sacrifice was not practiced by the Israelites. (Not that sanctioned child sacrifice should make us feel better about the scripture.) It is difficult to find the redemption in this text. Then there is a single line in scripture that opens my heart: "Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you."
God made a promise to Abraham, rich as the sands of the wilderness; bright as the starts in the night sky. Abraham would be the father of a great nation. Now, with Ishmael gone, his entire blood line rests in the boy, Isaac. Abraham knows what God has asked from him, but he trusts in God's promise so completely, he doesn't question it. He knows Isaac is coming back with him, even if he doesn't yet know how.
There is a strong possibility Abraham saw Isaac as a tool rather than a son:
Would it surprise you, if you discovered, the first time the bible has Abraham talking directly to his son is on their way to sacrifice him? Oh, there is plenty of talking about the son, but no talking to him. Then, on their way to Isaac's final destination, the son asks, "My father?" The bible finally has Abraham speaking to Isaac, "I'm here, my son."
I don't want to take this line lightly. 'Here I am,' or 'I'm here,' as CEB puts it, is a phrase Abraham uses with God. It's an open statement filled with possibility. When I read Abraham's response, I see a father who has finally found connection with God and with family.
There is also a strong possibility God wants to help Abraham see his son as precious:
The best way to ruin a cake is mess with the basic ingredients. Too much flour can dry a cake out. Too much liquid or sugar can make it too dense. Yes, most of the process happens in the oven, but the first steps of mixing the ingredients makes all the difference for a good cake.
We need to remember, this is the beginning of a people. How Abraham chooses to treat his son will impact how the chosen family unit will work for the generations to come. God's covenant to make Abraham the seed for a great nation, was made with the stipulation, you will be the father. Up until Abraham's response to Isaac, he had a perfect relationship with God. His communication and trust were perfect. I question whether he had enough of a relationship with his son. When God raises the stakes, Abraham is finally able to see his own son as beloved and precious.
I see this as the tension between the physical and the spiritual. There is more purpose to physical reality, than sitting it out until heaven. Being part of God's call should be a bit messy. While it should feel good at times, there should also be times it hurts. If we are really working for God, our hands are going to get a little dirty. (No one plants a garden without needing to clean up afterwards.) We must be prepared to say the words, "Here I am." We must be prepared to say those words to God, as well as those around us. We must be prepared to the stark openness those words bring.
"Here I am."