After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.
When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”
The angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, “By myself I have sworn, says the Lord: Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.” So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beer-sheba; and Abraham lived at Beer-sheba.
Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory,
for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness.
Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Our God is in the heavens;
he does whatever he pleases.
Their idols are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak;
eyes, but do not see.
They have ears, but do not hear;
noses, but do not smell.
They have hands, but do not feel;
feet, but do not walk;
they make no sound in their throats.
Those who make them are like them;
so are all who trust in them.
O Israel, trust in the Lord!
He is their help and their shield.
And after getting into a boat he crossed the sea and came to his own town.
And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Then some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.” And he stood up and went to his home. When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.
The stories in the scriptures are actions of God and his people that were made in time but were made for all time. This is why we may be perplexed by the story of the sacrifice of Isaac. It may not sound like the request of our good and gracious God. It may puzzle us that Abraham does not question what he hears from God, and unlike us, never doubts that God would ask this of him. So while this story of the sacrifice of Isaac sounds so outrageous to our modern ears, it is important to note that this was one request made in time. God does not regularly ask the sacrifice of his people’s children. But Abraham was special. He was called into a covenant with God that no one up until that time had ever entered. He had a groundbreaking, earth shattering relationship with God. When God speaks of this covenant in the scriptures, he always states that the fruit of this covenant will be the future of Abraham’s descendants as light for all other nations, or the people through which all other nations will receive blessings. Yes, the covenant that God has with Abraham is the promise of Jesus, the Christ. Because God loved us, he did not withhold the sacrifice of his only begotten Son. He asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac to see if he could love God as much as God loved the human race. Abraham did not pass the test just for himself so that he might receive the promise of God, but he passed for all of us to enter into an eternal covenant for all humanity.
As the psalmist professes, we become like that which we worship. Those who worship idols, false gods of their own making, become as dead and passing as the things they worship. Those of us who worship God become like him. As Christians, as those who have received the promise of salvation and entered into covenant with God through the sacraments of self-death, receive the Holy Spirit into our hearts so that we might act like God. Jesus showed us that he was able to forgive sins and heal the paralytic, and the witnesses glorified God that God gave such ability to man. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, God has given us these abilities. We are called to reach out to the paralyzed, we are called to heal, we are called to forgive, we are called to be a light to the nations, drawing all into covenant with God through relationship with Jesus. We are called to glorify God for all this that he is doing, that through the sacrifice of Jesus, made in time for all time, we may enter into covenant with him and receive salvation.
Prayer: O Lord, thank you for the gift of your love. Thank you for loving us so much that you did not withhold from us your only Son. Thank you for the gift of salvation and of your Holy Spirit. Help us to always seek relationship with you. Guide our hearts and make the way for us so that we can be a light to all the nations. May we always serve you, calling your children into your covenant. Amen.