Now in her late 90’s or early 100’s, and having waited so long for this child, Sarah and Abraham must have had to constantly control themselves to not spoil their son, Isaac. Was there ever such a child as this, as handsome, as obedient, as pleasing to his parents as Isaac must have been? they may have thought.
Then one day, when Isaac was probably between 10 and 13, God spoke to Abraham again: “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about” (v. 2). Could Abraham have heard correctly? Had God said to sacrifice his beloved child? Why? Only the heathen did such things. Surely God wouldn’t want Abraham to do that!
But Abraham had heard correctly! There was no mistake. And there was no arguing from Abraham, at least no recorded spoken protest. Scripture goes on to say, “Early the next morning, Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac…” (v. 3).
This is amazing obedience. Since the biblical text doesn’t tell us what Sarah was thinking or feeling, let’s use our sanctified imaginations to help us understand what Sarah was probably going through as they both sought to obey God’s difficult instructions….
Sarah accompanied Abraham and Isaac to the edge of the camp, wondering why Abraham seemed so secretive. He usually confided in her when he was going through a difficult time. But not this time. Why did the creases in his face and the look in his eyes show first concern, then terror, as they got ready to leave early that morning? He wouldn’t even tell her where they were going. Why was she so worried? After all, Abraham was Isaac’s father. He certainly wouldn’t hurt their son. Why did she feel such anxiety in her heart as she waved good-bye?
The days passed but Sarah couldn’t get over that anxiety. There was something in Abraham’s eyes as he left that she couldn’t get out of her mind. What was it? Am I just getting older and worrying too much? she may have asked herself.
Three days journey away, on a mountain top called Mt. Moriah where one day Jesus Christ would give up his life on the cross, Abraham raised his knife to slay his beloved son. Abraham had bound his son and laid him down on the altar as God had instructed. Isaac had been so obedient. It was as if he was picturing Someone else who would one day obediently lay His life down.1
All of a sudden a commanding voice was heard…the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham, Abraham! Do not lay a hand on the boy, 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). Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.”
When Abraham and Isaac returned home, Sarah would have been filled with joy and relief. God had simply (or not so simply) been testing her and Abraham regarding their love for their son. Did they love him more than God? Perhaps they loved him too much and needed to let go of him just a little. God may have simply wanted them to loosen their grip on their son whom they loved so much.2
How could Abraham have ever considered sacrificing his son? Hebrews 11:19 helps us understand what he was thinking: “Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.” Abraham logically reasoned that if God wanted him to sacrifice his son, he would raise him back to life again (even when no one had ever been raised back to life before, as far as we know). Why? Because God had established His everlasting covenant with Abraham, which included the gift that He would give Abraham many descendants through Isaac (17:19). Abraham stepped out in faith believing God would raise him back to life.
It seems that God gave them all victory. God had provided His own sacrifice, a beautiful illustration of the future, once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who would one day die as the perfect substitute for our sin.
Sarah lived another 20-25 years, dying at the age of 127 (23:1), having lived a full life, rich with joy and pain. The joy of having and raising her son and the pain of being asked to let him go. God had reminded her that Isaac was His child; only hers for a few short years.
Isn’t that the way it is with our children too? We mothers tend to grip too tightly to our sons and daughters. We don’t want to let go and give them to God. We’re afraid to do so. Somehow, we think our plans are better for them, that we know best. We tend to forget what a privilege it is to be called of God for service, whether at home or far away. We also forget it is a privilege to be a parent of a child whom God has called. Why do we say, “I’m so blessed, my child lives just down the street.” Shouldn’t we also say, “I’m so blessed, my child has been called to the mission field”!?
Sarah was, indeed, a woman of faith … most of the time. A few setbacks maybe, but God was refining the faith of Abraham and Sarah. They are examples to us of loosening our grip on our children. We need to give them back to God recognizing He knows what is best for them.
- Isaac was a picture of Jesus Christ who would one day come to earth to die on the cross for our sins. He was slain but rose again to conquer death. He wants to be your Savior from sin and eternal death.
- The following description is a paraphrase from Eugena Price’s book, “God Speaks to Women Today.” Pyramid Books. 1964. Pages 31-32.