Sacrifice makes us uncomfortable. We accept Jesus’s sacrifice because it has a purpose we understand. But the idea of sacrifice in our own lives bothers us, because sacrifice involves pain.
Genesis 22 relates the story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son. God told Abraham to take Isaac to the mountain of Moriah and sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering to God. Abraham obeyed, saying “Here am I” (Genesis 22:1), and he went to the mountain, built an altar, and was moments away from sacrificing his son before God intervened.
Many people struggle with the paradox of God asking for the death of a person merely to prove a point. Why would God ask Abraham to kill his only son, the son God had promised? God had passed judgment on places like Sodom and Gomorrah, which were cities filled with evildoers, but the Bible doesn’t label Isaac as evil. Many people have a problem with God’s request because of this.
One theme in this story is the theme of trust. God had a plan and was asking Abraham to trust His word. Abraham had to set aside his own doubts and fears and give up his plans and submit to God’s will. He had to decide if he trusted God to still fulfill His promises, even without Isaac.
Another aspect to this story focuses on the idea of sacrifice. Isaac was Abraham’s beloved son and was the most important person in Abraham’s life, not just because Isaac was his son, but because he represented God’s promises and answers to Abraham’s prayers. God asked Abraham, “What are you willing to sacrifice for me? Will you give me everything?” Did Abraham put God above everything else in his life, even above his beloved son?
Sometimes we find it hard to uncover a message in certain Bible stories that relates to our modern lives, especially in stories from the Old Testament. A story about human sacrifice? What in the world does that have to do with us?
Genesis 22 translates to modern life because it asks one basic question: “If God asked me to sacrifice something or someone I love for Him, would I do it?” In Abraham’s case, the sacrifice was literal. But while that seems horrific to our modern point of view, it would not have been terribly odd to Abraham. His world was filled with violence done in the name of religion, such as babies being sacrificed to the Canaanite god Moloch. Abraham knew that his God was not afraid to ask him to make hard choices.
Because literal sacrifice is not part of modern culture, it is far less likely that God would ask us to burn something (or someone) on an altar for Him. He’ll ask us to sacrifice in other ways.
God may ask for the sacrifice of a relationship or a dream. He may ask for sacrifice on a career path or the sacrifice of a passion. We might need to sacrifice an obsession that is drawing us away from Him, like social media or a movie franchise. Or it could be a dream that God has given us, but if He asks us to give it up for Him, to know that He is the most important one in your life, would we do it? Ultimately, it comes down to a choice: God or our earthly blessings.
“For now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” (Genesis 22:12b)
God was already planning to sacrifice His son for us. He wanted to know if Abraham would do the same for Him. Will we answer, “Here am I?”