And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt-offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place ‘The Lord will provide’; as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’ -- Genesis 22:13-14
The Akedah, the Binding of Isaac, is a story that never fails to send chills down the spine. Abraham and Sarah had waited so many years for this child. They'd tried a surrogacy and the result had been Ishmael, but Ishmael wasn't Sarah's son, not one to whom she actually gave birth, anyway. Isaac was, however, her miracle child, and here he was, trussed like a turkey, probably looking up to see his father holding a knife ready to plunge it into his heart and kill him. What of Abraham? His obedience to God had brought him to this moment, but could he really do it? His arm might be upraised but was it steady or did it shake as if denying that the hand that had caressed the boy all his life could now snuff out that life so cruelly.
But what of Isaac? What must it have been like for him, the child who had been loved so expansively? He probably wasn't a young boy, the way we often picture him, but undoubtedly old enough to know what an upraised knife meant. Did his father explain the need of this action to him and enlist Isaac's cooperation to make the deed as painless as possible for both of them? Did Isaac struggle or did he simply be the obedient son? And what of Sarah, remaining back at the camp from which the small party had departed just a few days before. Did she know what was coming? Did she think it strange that Abraham had to go so far away to sacrifice? Did she think of it as a father's duty to teach his son to do sacrifices perfectly so that God would accept them? Did she suspect?
What if I were in the shoes of any of them? What if God wanted me to sacrifice my own son? What if I had to watch my son go off, knowing I would probably never see him again? What if I had to lie on the altar and wait for the fatal blow? Would I hope and pray for a way out? Would I be able to see a substitute? Would God provide one? Or has God already provided one?
What can I learn from Isaac? Sometimes life can be terrifying; it may not always turn out well but then, it might turn out quite the opposite.
Face things bravely.