The next time that God appeared to Abraham, his age was given as ninety-nine years. Almost twenty-five years had passed since God first promised Abraham a son. During this encounter, YAWEH gave Abraham the requirements of the covenant that he had made between them. The main thing that God required of Abraham and his descendants was the sign of circumcision.
During this visitation from YAWEH, God made it clear that Sarah would, in fact, have a son. Abraham was amazed! How was a ninety-year-old woman going to have a baby? Abraham proposed a compromise with God. “May Ishmael live under your special blessing!” (Genesis 17:18) God’s answer was a firm, “No.” Sarah would have a son, who would be the heir of the promises that YAWEH had made to Abraham.
Around this same time, God appeared to Abraham and Sarah again, this time in the form of a man. Abraham had laughed earlier at the idea of his old wife having a baby. When Sarah heard the man telling her that she would give birth within a year, she also laughed at the absurd thought.
Just as God had promised, Sarah became pregnant soon after this last encounter with God. She gave birth to a son, whom they named “Isaac,” or “Laughter.” Abraham and Sarah had laughed at the thought of their having a baby so late in life. After Isaac was born, they laughed with delight at the promise and faithfulness of God. They laughed with joy as they played with their son.
The story of Abraham does not end here, however. YAWEH still has one other major test for Abraham. Some time after Isaac was born, God told him to take Isaac “and sacrifice him as a burnt offering….” (Genesis 22:2) The reader is not privy to the internal turmoil that Abraham must have felt that night. In the morning, though, Abraham set out to obey God’s command.
The altar was built, the wood was arranged for the fire, and then Isaac was bound and placed on the altar. As Abraham raised the knife overhead, YAWEH stopped him. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.” (Genesis 22:12) Abraham looked up and saw a ram that was caught by its horns in the thicket. The ram became the sacrifice instead of Isaac.
Why would YAWEH require such a cruel thing of Abraham? How was Abraham able to be right at the point of killing his son? The story of Abraham is the story of faith more than anything else. Abraham has known God for many years. Abraham is known as “the friend of God.” True friendships take time to build and then are able to stand the test of time. Abraham’s relationship with God had been forged over many years. He may not have understood why God was asking him to offer his son as a sacrifice, but Abraham did know that God was good and could be trusted.
Even though God did test Abraham in a very demanding way, he did not require Abraham to harm Isaac. It was just another test of Abraham’s faith. YAWEH, however, was faced with a similar dilemma later on. The New Testament paints a picture of Jesus, the Son of God, being offered as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. So, even though God did not allow Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, God himself willingly sacrificed his Son on behalf of humanity.
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