“After these things God tested Abraham … 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 the third day … Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac said … ‘Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’ Abraham said, ‘God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.’ … When they came to the place … Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, … ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.'”(Genesis 22:1a, 2a, 4a, 6b-8a, 9-11a, 12b ESV)
There’s no denying that this story is a problem. Why in the world would God ask Abraham to do something so horrible? And what about me—if God asked me to do something like that …” (I’m stopping here. My mind has just blanked out.)
The thing is, I believe the story is supposed to be a problem for us. We should think about these questions. What kind of a person is God, really? We know He’s powerful—but is He good? Do we need to worry He might ask us to do something evil or crazy?
Absolutely not. The God who became a Man named Jesus would never, ever expect us to do such an evil thing. It’s not in Him. But Abraham didn’t know that. After all, he grew up in the city of Ur, where human sacrifice was practiced and the poets praised the gods for eating people. Abraham once worshipped those gods. Absolutely he needs to know that the real God hates this evil.
But that isn’t the only reason why this story is in the Bible—to tell us God doesn’t want human sacrifice. It’s there because of Abraham’s words: “God will provide for Himself the lamb,” and God’s words through the angel: “You have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”
Abraham kept his son safe—but God did not. God gave His own Son—God in the flesh—to rescue Abraham and all people. Through His willing death and resurrection, Jesus, the Lamb of God, rescued us from the powers of evil. And then He rose from the dead and will raise us also—because Jesus is our life, joy, and peace.
That is the kind of God we have—one who takes pain and death on Himself to set us free to live forever. Who has ever heard of such a God?
We Pray: Lord, thank You that You are good—and I can trust You. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
Originally published in The Lutheran Hour on February 13, 2024
Used by permission from International Lutheran Laymen’s League, all rights
1. Do you think Abraham told his wife Sarah what God had said?
2. Why or why not?
3. Because God has made Himself known as three Persons in One God, we see that Jesus is both God and the Son of God. How does this prevent us from having to think about God as a child abuser who killed His Son?