There is a story told about a bridge operator whose son got trapped in the machinery, and the operator had to choose between saving his son, or lowering the bridge so the train carrying thousands of people could pass over the river safely. He chose to sacrifice his son and save the train. It’s a horrific situation to contemplate, and I’m sure that we all hope and pray we never have to make such a choice.
In a way, the story of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22) is even worse than that. At least the bridge operator could see a redeeming feature – that so many lives were saved through his son’s death. But for Isaac, what purpose was there? And what would he ever say to Sarah? Did she have any notion about the purpose of their sudden trip? The thought of it is beyond my comprehension.
Of one thing I am sure, in this story – Abraham trusted God. He knew the nature of God, and he knew the promise that God had made him. He had not trusted God for his own safety in Egypt (Genesis 12 v 10 – 20), or with Abimelech (Genesis 20); he had not trusted God for his progeny when he agreed to use Hagar for a surrogate mother; and I don’t believe he trusted God for Lot’s safety in Sodom. But here, finally, he trusts. God has told him, “it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Therefore, no harm can befall the boy. He must survive. If Abraham killed him, he would be resurrected. His future is secure. The promise is all Abraham needs to move forward in absolute surrender.
I think the comment he makes to his two servants in verse 5 is so revealing. “We will worship and then we will come back to you.” We will come back. Plural. Both of us. Rock solid faith in God. We think of this story as God testing Abraham, but in actual fact, it was also about Abraham testing God – and finding him to be true to his promise.
And I can only repeat my conclusions to the last post – it’s time spent in the presence of God that enables us to know him well enough that we can trust him, not only with our own lives, but with our children’s lives.
I have a story that comes nowhere close to this of Abraham’s, but it really happened to us a number of years ago. We really needed a holiday, but our income then was very meagre. We saved up hard, and managed to collect together enough for a week with the family at a modest Christian guest house. We paid the deposit, then God told us to give away the money we had saved. A few days before we were due to set off, we had word that the money would be paid into our account while we were away, so that we would be able to settle the bill before we left. It was, and we did! God can be trusted when he has promised.
The bridge operator story is told in more detail at http://juliejacobe.blogspot.co.uk/2008/03/fathers-sacrifice-true-story.html