Christian tradition tends to emphasize the role of Isaac in the story. It is notable that Isaac willingly goes with his father. Even when he notices that there is wood, fire, and knife but no sacrifice, he does not resist or struggle. He seemingly remains willing; the story does not mention a struggle as his father binds him and places him upon the wood of the altar with knife raised.
Christians often interpret Isaac as a prefiguring of Jesus and his willing sacrifice on the cross; we compare Isaac’s carrying the wood to Jesus’ bearing his own cross to the hill of Calvary. Christian artistic treatments of this story often portray Abraham and Isaac alongside eucharistic symbols representing the sacrifice of body and blood in the elements of bread and wine.
If Abraham models obedience in the life of faith, then Isaac suggests the role of freedom in our faithfulness. Isaac chooses to go willingly to sacrifice himself as Jesus does in the Gospel stories. And Christians are often challenged to freely choose difficult paths as willing disciples for the sake of God’s mission to heal a broken world.
Thus, in Abraham and Isaac we see modeled both obedience and freedom in the service of God’s will. Both postures are characterized by trust that God’s grace accompanies and surrounds our obedience to God’s will and our willing choices to serve the divine purpose of God’s work in the world. Father and son both live in trust in this story. Whether answering God’s call or making ourselves freely available to God’s purposes, we trust in God’s grace.
Make us willing instruments of your work, O Lord. Open us to possibilities even at the risk of sacrifice in our lives. Give us the courage to trust in your grace. Amen.
The passages this week highlight several different themes. Abraham is put to the ultimate test. There is no denying how terrifying God’s request must have been, yet Abraham ultimately is commended for his faith. We will not face this same challenge, but are there things dear to our hearts that God is asking us to give up? The psalmist is in deep despair and weary from awaiting God’s deliverance, yet even now there is confidence. Paul continues to instruct the Romans about the necessity of living a new life, no longer being slaves to the desires of the flesh. Jesus teaches that when we receive those doing his work, we receive him. When we interact with pastors, missionaries, and even nursery workers, do we treat these servants as Jesus himself?
Read Genesis 22:1-14. What has this familiar story meant to you in your faith? How do you embody or struggle against this type of obedience and trust?
Read Psalm 13. When has your lament allowed you to move from anger with God to praise? How long did that process take?
Read Romans 6:12-23. How does the definition of death as a life cut off from God rather than a biological reality change your understanding of this passage? How might incorporating this definition of death change your life?
Read Matthew 10:40-42. Who is in your wider community of witnesses? How does their example prompt you to turn to others in service?
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