Lockstep Lesson

Why did Abraham listen to God when He said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you” (Genesis 22:2 NIV)?

Abraham had waited twenty-five years for his heir after God had promised he would be the father of many nations. Isaac embodied that future. So, why would God want him sacrificed? Why would God promise him a son, fulfill that promise, and then tell him to kill the promise? It made no sense.

This was hard. Harder than when God changed his life’s direction decades ago, telling him to “go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you” (Genesis 12:1 NIV). Abraham had walked away from familiar surroundings and, stepping into faith, followed God into the unknown. That was a sacrifice, wasn’t it?

He made it. But could he make this one? Should he? Why would anyone sacrifice his only son?

Abraham’s mind wrestled with this for three days as he and Isaac trekked the 50 miles to Moriah. When they were in view of God’s chosen mountain, Abraham knew the ending. He could say to his servants as he left the donkey with them, “We will worship and then we will come back to you” (Genesis 22:5 NIV).

We will come back?

Somehow Abraham knew that both he and Isaac would come down from that mountain alive. Did he believe that God would resurrect his son? Whatever he thought, Abraham was confident God would keep his promise that Isaac would be the channel to future nations. That assurance, however, did not quell carrying out God’s demand to sacrifice his son.

How did Abraham get to this place in his life’s journey? One step at a time, he had learned to trust God on his faith’s route.

So, Abraham stacked stones for the altar, put wood on top, bound his son’s ankles and wrists with leather thongs, laid Isaac on the wood, clasped the knife in his palm, stretched out his hand for the death cut, and—froze.

God was speaking. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son” (Genesis 22:12 NIV).

Abraham climbed to faith’s pinnacle because he had reached lockstep with God.

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Who Heard God’s First Double Knock?

The Bible records only eight times when God reiterates someone’s name (Before moving on, you may find it helpful to open God’s Double Knocks.)

Abraham heard the first of God’s double knocks. He was about to slit his son’s throat when God called out “Abraham! Abraham!” (Genesis 22:11 NIV) and stopped the slaying.

How did Abraham get to this place? Through faith’s route. Obedient step-by-step faith in God had led him there.

Periodically, Abraham heard God declare he would become the father of innumerable descendants. After twenty-five years of hearing God repeat it, Abraham struggled to hold on to the promise. His mind couldn’t figure out how it would happen, because he and his wife remained childless. Logically, it was too late for a blood heir. Was there another way God would fulfill His promise?

God listened to Abraham’s troubled mind and assured him that “a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir” (Genesis 15:4 NIV). And that’s what happened.

Abraham, aged one hundred, fathered Isaac by his wife Sarah, aged ninety. The patriarch cradled in his arms tangible proof that God is true to His word. So God’s directive to him years later must have sounded inconceivable:

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you” (Genesis 22:2 NIV).

Surely, this was the most gut-wrenching, agonizing moment in Abraham’s life. Why would God ask this of him? It made no sense to promise him a son, fulfill that promise, and then tell him to kill the promise. Isaac embodied the future.

During the 50-mile trip to Moriah, Abraham had three days to mull it over. And enough time to turn back. But he trekked on with his son beside him. By the time they reached the destination, Abraham had the matter settled in his mind:

He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you” (Genesis 22:5 NIV).

Did you notice “We will come back”? Abraham believed that somehow both he and his son would return alive. Did he think that God would resurrect Isaac? Whatever he thought, Abraham was confident God would keep his word that Isaac was the next conduit for the promised future nations. That belief, however, did not erase carrying out God’s order to sacrifice Isaac.

Abraham stacked stones for an altar . . . arranged wood on the stones . . . wound leather thongs around Isaac’s ankles and wrists . . . laid his submissive son on the wood . . . clasped the knife in his sweaty palm . . . stretched out his hand for the death cut and instantly froze at the sound of God’s urgent double knock.

“Abraham! Abraham! . . . Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son” (Genesis 22:11-12 NIV).

Father Abraham passed God’s proof test for total commitment. At test time may we also trust God Almighty all the way.
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