As I child, I accepted the story of Abraham offering his son Isaac on the altar to God without question. But when I became a parent myself, I had lots of questions.
I never questioned that God intervened and spared Isaac’s life. Indeed, God never meant for Isaac to be slaughtered on the top of a barren mountain on a stone altar. The whole thing was a test to see who Abraham loved more – his son Isaac, whom he waited a hundred years for, or El Shaddai, the God who promised him this son and who’d made the impossible possible.
I never questioned that Abraham knew God’s voice. I never questioned his mountain-size faith, which made him eligible for the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11.
But I always come away from the story questioning my own faith and obedience, feeling small next to this giant of faith who obeyed without hesitation, without question.
I don’t know if I could do what he did. I mean, we read the story with hindsight, knowing the ending, knowing God stayed the hand with the knife ready to extinguish the life of his beloved son.
But what about before?
Abraham didn’t know God would intervene. Hebrews 11:17–19 tells us, “It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, even though God had told him, ‘Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.’ Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again.” (NLT)
This test was for Abraham’s benefit, not God’s. Omniscient God knew the result beforehand. He knew Abraham’s heart.
Perhaps Abraham loved Isaac more than God. Perhaps Abraham needed to be reminded Who was to come first in his life.
Centuries later, God would issue the first of the Ten Commandments: “I am the LORD your God … You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:1 NKJV).
And centuries after that, God’s own Son would reinforce that: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37 NKJV).
A hard teaching.
But not impossible.
God isn’t saying not to love our parents, our spouses, our children. He’s saying, in the words of Jesus, to “love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:38–39 NKJV).
I need frequent reminders, too, to put God first in everything – my time, my finances, my relationships. To this ideal I struggle daily.
Someday I hope to say the words of St. Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
Show me, dear God, how I can put You first today. Amen.
Special-Tea:Read Genesis 22:1–14