After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 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.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.” (Genesis 22:1-3 ESV)
The passage begins with a test. It is not an obscure passage, almost every believer would know this story for the number of times it has been shared in Sunday Schools all over the world and even on the pulpit. Yet we see here a man willing to do the unthinkable, simply because it was commanded by God.
Of the many times I have heard this story preached, three things I’ve noticed in Abraham’s obedience that we can highlight.
First, Abraham has clearly identified God’s voice. Twice God had called to him, and both times he responded immediately, “Here I am.” (v. 1b & 11) It seems so crisp and so full of attention, like a soldier responding to a commanding officer when called, “Sir, yes, sir!” Fully prepared to accept instruction, and clearly intending to complete whatever it is to the dot.
Second, we see that Abraham did not delay, and nor did he come unprepared. He had such a steadfast focus on the job at hand, that it’s almost eerie. After God had instructed him, “Abraham rose early in the morning,” (v. 1a) There was no hesitation, he did not even stop to consult with his wife. Moreover, Abraham brought enough tools to actually build an altar, his obedience was complete.
And lastly, we see that Abraham’s faith somehow rubbed off to his son Isaac. Of course, young as he was, Isaac was confused, he even questioned his father what they were doing (v. 7) but like his father, he accepted the answer obediently, without further questioning. In fact, after realizing what was to happen, Isaac did not struggle or challenge his father, when he was being bound and laid to be sacrificed (v. 9b). If we read ahead as well, we see that Isaac was a Godly man, like his father, such as his first meeting with Rebekah, his wife to be, it is written that Isaac was out meditating in the field until evening came (Genesis 24:63).
Yet, I have to ask myself, how could this be? How could a father, in his right mind, be willing to do such a thing to his own son, and with such determination? I would have to admit, personally, I could never see myself doing the same. Even now, there are a few things that are hard to let go of, what more a precious child?
The answer can be found from the previous chapters that lead up to this moment. “After all these things“, as Genesis 22 opens, it is in reference to all that has happened to Abraham since Genesis 12. Take the time to read through his life, and you will see a perfectly normal human being. In fact, many times Abraham was not as steadfast as we would like to believe, he has responded to God’s instructions with doubt, worry, and at one point, he even laughed out of bewilderment (Genesis 17:15-17).
It was simply training. Training had led to the amazing display of faithful obedience we see from Abraham when he practically sacrificed his son. After all he had been through, after all the things that God has promised and has come to pass, after all of it. Abraham, though responding perfectly human, had still somehow obeyed, and that continuous act of obedience, one after another, trained his mind, body, and spirit, to act by instinct.
Like a soldier or an athlete, that trains day-after-day-after-day-after-day. Doing things over and over and over again, until it is burned into muscle and memory. A lot of soldiers can testify that in the heat of the battle, what kept them alive and going is everything that they learned from basic training kicked into high gear, no longer were they thinking, rationalizing, doubting, they acted upon instinct that had been conditioned and instilled into their every fiber by training, training, training.
In the same way, we as believers must somehow come to realize that there is truth in the popular principle of “practice makes perfect”, and apply it into our daily lives by actively deciding to obey God in everything we do. And it does not need to be an extravagant act of obedience such as that of Abraham, but with the small things, like honoring parents, taking responsibility and being consistent with it, excellence in studies or work, loving your siblings, spouse, children, family and friends.
Pure unadulterated obedience does not occur in an instant, but in continuous consistency of obeying over and over and over again, in every moment of every day. So that when the time comes,that God calls you, in the heat of the battle, your response will not be with fear, doubt, hesitation, or worry, but it will simply be:
“Here I am.“