The Promiser and the Promise

Written by: Jody Mugford

Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called.

“Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.”

“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.” Genesis 22:1-3

Many of us are familiar with this story in the Old Testament.  God had promised Abraham years ago that his descendants would be as many as the stars in the sky.  But Abraham didn’t have any children.  How could he have descendants with no children?  Abraham was later blessed with a miraculous son, promised from God, at the age of 100 years old.  He and Sarah waited a long time for Isaac to be born and were overjoyed when he finally arrived.

Some time later, God stretches Abraham in a way he would never have imagined…by asking him to sacrifice his beloved son.  I don’t know about you, but I struggled with this story for a long time.  It seemed so cruel to me.  Why would a loving and merciful God put Abraham through so much torment and turmoil by asking him to do such a thing?  I even felt angry that God would test Abraham, His faithful servant, this way.  I couldn’t reconcile this test of God with what I understood about His character.  I wondered how Abraham didn’t rise up in anger against God’s unthinkable request, as I might do.  I realized, some time later, that there was a piece of the story I was missing and it changed everything for me.

In Genesis, we read that Abraham obeys God and brings Isaac to the mountain God has appointed and prepares to sacrifice him.  Abraham loved Isaac so much.  We can only imagine the heartache he was feeling, knowing he was about to slay his son.  I am sure he wondered why the God he served faithfully would ask this of him.  I am sure he wrestled with the torture of this task.  Abraham fully intended to sacrifice Isaac, as God had asked, but I’m sure he was heartbroken at the prospect.  I am heartbroken just reading it.  The amazing portion of the story I had missed is found in the New Testament in the Book of Hebrews:

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”  Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.  Hebrews 11:17-19

Abraham expected God would resurrect Isaac!  Abraham had a promise!  He knew that God had promised his descendants to come through Isaac and that couldn’t happen if Isaac was dead.  I was floored by this revelation!  What struck me even more so was that Abraham had no frame of reference to know God as Resurrector.  Today we have the knowledge of Jesus’ resurrection, of Lazarus and even modern day testimonies of people coming back from the dead but Abraham had none of this.  Abraham took what he knew of God: a just, loving, miracle-working, promise-keeping God, and reasoned in his heart that God would bring his son back from the dead.  Abraham had a promise from his Creator and he knew that, somehow, God would keep that promise.

And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!”

Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.” 

Genesis 22:10-12

Has God given you a promise that, in your perspective, just doesn’t seem possible?  Has He asked something of you that seems confusing and you are uncertain what to do?  Hang in there, friends, I have been there too.  Thankfully, God is not limited by our understanding of Him.  He does not ask that have Him or His ways all figured out.  What kind of God would He be, if we could do that?  But He does ask that we trust Him.  He asks that we dig into His Word, His love letter to us, and discover who He is.  He asks that we spend time in prayer and in His presence so He can reveal more of His character to us.  He is a promise-keeping God and, sometimes, believing these promises can stretch us further than we had anticipated.  But the stretching builds character and gives Him the opportunity to show up and do mighty things.  So the next time we are looking at an “impossible” situation, we will know that, even if we’ve never seen God do this before, He specializes in making the impossible possible.

Steve Guzik said something in one his commentaries that really struck home to me.  He wrote, “Abraham had to learn the difference between trusting the promise and trusting the Promiser.  We can put God’s promise before God Himself and feel it is our responsibility to bring the promise to pass, even if we have to disobey God to do it.  Trust the Promiser no matter what, and the promise will be taken care of.”

Love and blessings,

Jody