The "Almost Sacrifice of Isaac" story is one of the most troubling in the Bible, at least in my opinion. The fact that God would use the slaughter of a man's son by his own hand as a test is deeply disturbing. This morning before I came into work I had a few minutes to play with my son, Shepherd. He can't do a whole lot yet. Play time mostly consists of grunts, smiles, and kicking (not necessarily all his). He is a joy in my life. I honestly didn't know if I would have children. I struggle with epically low self-esteem, which in ages past has showed itself most in my atrocious choices for girlfriends. It was a vicious cycle. I had low self-esteem so I dated girls with low-self esteem, but they treated me like dirt, which lowered my self-esteem even more, ad nauseam. I doubted whether I would ever get married, let along have children. Luckily, during my graduate work I met my wife, who miraculously has really good self-esteem, hardly any baggage, and makes me feel better about myself. Not to sound selfish, but she's good for me. Anyhow, when we first got married we wanted to wait a few years to have children. We did, but then when we started trying to have children we hit a few road bumps. The first time we found out Kalyn was pregnant, she had a miscarriage within a week. After that we learned Kalyn had a thyroid problem that was disrupting her ovulation cycle. It was easily treated with medication, but it still took a long time for things to even out. Month after month after month came, along with the feeling of disappointment that was becoming a regularly scheduled monthly event of its own when she wasn't pregnant. But on Valentine's Day 2009 we got a shock. That crazy, little pee stick said positive! I was going to be a father. Now, almost a year later, I stand amazed at how much gas a 13 pound body can produce. I know how much Shepherd means to me after waiting a few years for him to join our family. I'm 31. I can't image how much Isaac would mean to Abraham after waiting decades at the age of 100. I say all that to say, I take my commitment to following Jesus seriously, but if he asked me to kill my own son, that might very well be a deal breaker. I'm amazed Abraham didn't throw in the towel right then.
There is another detail in this part of Abraham and Isaac's story that I find twisted. As Abraham and Isaac are headed toward the place Abraham will sacrifice his son, Abraham makes Isaac carry the wood for the burnt offering. In the past I've read that detail and thought, "That's just warped," but this time I had a different thought. Abraham is over 100 years old. Now I don't know anyone over 100, but I know a few people in their nineties. They don't carry much of anything, let alone a heavy bundle of wood. Did Isaac have to carry the wood because Abraham couldn't? And if that's the case, how powerless must it have made Abraham feel to watch Isaac carry that wood? Here he was, caught in a terrible catch 22 with no way out, and he can't even carry his own stupid wood. When I look at Shepherd I can feel pretty powerless, but Abraham's situation seems to be the definition of personal impotence. Being told to sacrifice your own son...that's gotta make you want to hide under a rock. Not even being able to carry the wood for that sacrifice...stick a fork in me; I'm done.
I feel sorry for Abraham's predicament in this story, which makes his faith that God would find a solution for the problem all the more impressive to me. The worse things become the harder it is to trust. Abraham refuses to give up on God, maybe to believe that God really intended for him to sacrifice his son at all. After all, the whole child sacrifice thing is counter the nature of God. At the same time, my Bible has Abraham saying, "Here I am" when the angel calls to him to stop the sacrifice. That seems a little calm for the situation. I can easily hear Abraham saying something more along the lines of, "Thank God!" and breaking down in tears. That's what I would do, but then again, I'm not a very manly man, so who knows.
Impotence and trust, isn't that usually the situation most of us find ourselves in at some level?
Stopping point: Genesis 24