Serving God Will Be Costly

It is written:

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18  of whom it was said, “IN ISAAC YOUR SEED SHALL BE CALLED,”. 19  concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense. (Hebrews 11:17-19)

The Bible teaches us that God called upon Abraham to offer up his son, Isaac, as a burnt offering.

However, we are assured at the onset of the passage that this was actually a test of Abraham.

Genesis 22:1-Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”

Regarding the subject of the offering of Isaac, Copan has well pointed out:

“Four things about God’s character emerge as we work through Genesis 22. First, we’re immediately tipped off to the fact that God is testing Abraham (v. 1). God doesn’t intend for Isaac to be sacrificed. No, Abraham isn’t yet aware of what the reader knows—namely, that this is only a test. Second, even the hard command to Abraham is cushioned by God’s tenderness. God’s directive is unusual: “Please take your son”—or as another scholar translates it, “Take, I beg of you, your only son.” 10 God is remarkably gentle as he gives a difficult order. This type of divine command (as a plea) is rare. Old Testament commentator Gordon Wenham sees here a “hint that the Lord appreciates the costliness of what he is asking.” 11 God understands the magnitude of this difficult task. In fact, one commentator states that God is not demanding here; thus, if Abraham couldn’t see God’s broader purposes and so couldn’t bring himself to do this, he wouldn’t “incur any guilt” in declining God’s pleas. 12 A third indication of God’s good character highlights his faithfulness. God reminded Abraham of “your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac” (v. 2). God’s covenant acknowledgment is apparent: the divine promise to Abraham can’t be fulfilled without Isaac. Abraham is struggling to keep two things in mind: his deep love for Isaac is good and right, and the circumstances surrounding Isaac’s birth clearly showed that God was fulfilling his covenant promise to Abraham. While this is the most fearful and dreadful thing Abraham would ever have to do, he is trying to come to terms with just how God would fulfill his promise through Isaac. A fourth reminder of God’s faithful character is that God is sending Abraham to a mountain in the region of Moriah—derived from the Hebrew word ra’ah, “provide, see, show.” As we noted earlier, the place “which I will tell you” is linked back to God’s initial call to Abram to “go” to “the land which I will show you” (12: 1, emphasis added). Abraham was also aware of God’s provision for Hagar and Ishmael when they first fled. Hagar said (using the same Hebrew word ra’ah), “You are a God who sees” (16: 13). So in the very word Moriah (“ provision”) we have a hint of salvation and deliverance. Wenham helpfully observes, “Salvation is thus promised in the very decree that sounds like annihilation.” 13 In all of these ways, we see God’s faithful tenderness cushioning the startling harshness of God’s command. It’s as though God is saying to Abraham, “I’m testing your obedience and allegiance. You don’t understand, but in light of all I’ve done and said to you, trust me. Not even death can nullify the promise I’ve made.”” (Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God, 47-48 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books)

Abraham trusted God, and knew that the LORD would keep His Word to bring forth a nation through Isaac. Therefore, he reasoned that God would raise up Isaac from the dead after he had carried out the command to kill him. So Abraham faithfully told the servant that both he and Isaac would return to them:

Genesis 22:5-And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.”

While on the mountain, God provided a ram to take the place of Isaac as the sacrifice:

Genesis 22:13-Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son.

Abraham was willing to risk everything for God, and he was blessed for it.

However, Abraham’s obedience to God also cost him dearly.

Consider what happens after this incident:

Genesis 22:19-So Abraham returned to his young men, and they rose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba.

Notice that word “dwelt.”

“The word “stayed” in this context means “settled,” which makes it clear that Abraham did not merely visit Beersheba; he made it his new home. This is highly significant in that it would mean that Abraham did not return to live with Sarah in Kiryat Arba (Hebron). In fact, the next time the Torah mentions Sarah (23: 1), it is to chronicle her death in Kiryat Arba and to note that Abraham came from elsewhere (presumably Beersheba) to mourn her (Genesis 23: 2). Rabbi Avraham Chen, an Israeli Orthodox scholar, raised the possibility that Abraham and Sarah lived apart in the aftermath of the akedah, perhaps because Sarah heard what had taken place and could not forgive her husband for what he had planned to do. A mentor of mine, Rabbi Pinchas Peli, also believed the Torah makes clear Abraham and Sarah separated after the akedah. I can see no other explanation for the Torah not recording their ever speaking again, or their living in separate cities, many days’ walking distance from one another. Abraham, Isaac, and Sarah are one more of the many troubled families in Genesis. By describing every family in Genesis in such a way, the Torah does most of its readers a great service. It is calming to know even the matriarchs and patriarchs of the Bible had serious family problems. Those who have troubled families are therefore not alone; such families may well be the norm.” (Dennis Prager, The Rational Bible: Genesis-God, Creation, Destruction, 288-290 (Kindle Edition); Washington, DC; Regnery Faith)

Later, we read:

Genesis 23:2-So Sarah died in Kirjath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.

Prager notes:

“The word translated here as “proceeded” is the Hebrew word “came” or “went.” This is important because it means Abraham travelled to where Sarah died in order to mourn her. That he had to travel from Beersheba, where he had settled after the akedah (see 22: 19), to Kiryat Arba, where Sarah was living, clearly implies they were not living together at the time of her death. As noted in the previous chapter, it appears that Abraham and Sarah separated after Sarah learned of the near-sacrifice of Isaac (see commentary to Genesis 22: 19): subsequent to that event, the Torah never mentions their being together.” (Dennis Prager, The Rational Bible: Genesis-God, Creation, Destruction, 288-290 (Kindle Edition); Washington, DC; Regnery Faith)

It would appear that Sarah would not live with Abraham after the sacrifice of Isaac. Even though she is held up as a powerful example of faith in the Word of God (cf. Hebrews 11:11-16), she was not perfect.

This serves as a reminder to us that following Christ may often cost us the respect and even the love of family and friends. Jesus tells us:

Luke 14:26-27-If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27  And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

May the Lord help us to count the cost of following Him, and may we be willing to be His disciples.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

Leave a Reply

Powered by

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: