A recent study by the Pew Research Center painted pictures of two very different American fathers. The first is actively involved in his children’s lives, much more than previous generations. The second, however, does not live with his children and is, at best, less involved. This describes about one in every four fathers, affecting more than 20 million children.
As a father, Abraham must have wondered in today’s reading what God the Father was up to. The promised son had at last been born, but now God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering. That would mean that the miracle baby had been born for nothing and the family line would die after all. It made no sense, except that we’re told God was testing the patriarch (v. 1). If Abraham had doubts or wanted to argue, it’s not recorded. He prepared to do what he was told, verbalizing only a faith-filled obedience, “Here I am” (vv. 1, 11). He told Isaac that God would provide a lamb, and elsewhere in Scripture we’re told that he believed God could raise Isaac from the dead (Heb. 11:19).
The Lord, who has the sovereign right to test any of us in this way (James 1:12), was pleased that Abraham did not value his son above all (v. 12). The patriarch was willing to surrender Isaac, even though Isaac was the fulfillment of a promise, because nothing, not even God’s gifts, should be valued more highly than God. Isaac’s life was spared, an animal sacrifice was provided, and Abraham named the place “The Lord Will Provide” (v. 14). The covenant was also renewed (vv. 15–18). Many interpreters see in this narrative a foreshadowing or “type” of Christ, Abraham’s descendant. For love of the world, the Father would indeed sacrifice His Son.
Apply the Word
When singing hymns such as “I Surrender All,” we’re sometimes too individualistic. Trusting God with my life and my future isn’t easy, but it’s a solo venture. God calls us to surrender in community. Parents, this means we must trust God with the lives and futures of our children. Do we have the faith to surrender all, in this sense, and to stake everything on Him?