Page last updated



God Will Come Through For You
a sermon based on Genesis 22:1-14
by Rev. Donald Mishler

The story we read today of Abraham preparing his son Isaac to be a burnt offering to God is probably one of the most troubling stories in the Bible. How could God ask Abraham to do such a thing, something that no moral person, no loving father, would consider doing? Or did Abraham misunderstand God?  Either way, how could Abraham, whom we call the Father of our faith, have possibly agreed to this human sacrifice? Abraham had just argued with God (Gen. 18) over destroying the city of Sodom. Why didn't he argue this time? Why didn't he beg for Isaac's life? Why didn't he say, “ask me anything else, God, but I can't kill my precious child!?” Why didn't he say, “take my life instead?”

We have to understand that this is an ancient story. Ancient stories are hard to understand if we only listen to them through our own values and way of thinking. But if we look back into the ancient world, the story may make more sense. In those days people in the surrounding cultures did practice child sacrifice. And later, even in Israel, people would do it although it was always condemned by scripture and faith. The God of Abraham rose out of a violent culture, and understood and worked within the parameters of the ancient times. It's interesting though how we can be repulsed by the binding of Isaac, yet children are being sacrificed in our world today as well.

In Southeast Asian some parents actually sell their children into prostitution, and its not just girls. In Northern Uganda children are routinely kidnapped to serve in the Resistance Army.  And we in America send our young men and women to war too; I went to a CNN website not too long ago to put some faces to the names of the service men and women that have lost their lives in Iraq and I was shocked that the majority of them are under or around the age of 20.  Wouldn't common sense demand that we protect our young folks.  After all they are the ones that have their whole life ahead of them.

Abraham had no Scriptures to read, no laws to follow, no role models of faith. His ancestors lived in another land, and none of his neighbors were following the same God. When God spoke to Him about sacrificing Isaac, his precious son, he did not know a lot about this God was he was following--at least not yet.  In preparing my sermon I came across an article entitled: "Who's Testing Whom? Was Abraham Really Ready to Kill His Son?" ( Bodoff, Lippman, Who's Testing Whom: Was Abraham Really Ready to Kill His Son? Bible Review, October 1993).

The author argues that just as God may have been testing Abraham's faith, so also Abraham may have been testing God. He was testing what kind of covenant and religion he was being asked to be part of. And maybe Abraham went through with this to see if his God was like the other gods, or if his God would stop him. One of the things the article points out is that Abraham did not seem eager to go along with what God commanded. In fact, he never actually agreed to make the sacrifice.

Instead, the story describes him simply going through a series of separate steps. First, he got up. Then he saddled his donkey. Then he gathered his helpers. Then he cut the wood. Then he set out. Then he looked up and saw the place from a distance. It's almost as if he's moving in slow motion, playing for time, giving God a chance at every point to stop him. We probably would be more comfortable with this story if God hadn't waited until the last minute, hadn't waited until Abraham had already bound Isaac, laid him on top of the wood, and taken the knife in his hand.

But at this point God calls out to Abraham, telling him to stop.  Now, we know that God never meant for Abraham to actually slaughter his son. In fact, later in the Bible, there are laws that speak clearly against child sacrifice. That kind of violence against children, no matter how well-intentioned, does not evoke God's favor, neither is it the kind of proof of loyalty that God desires. And this story is the beginning of that message. But why didn't God just have a little talk with Abraham?

Why make Isaac and Abraham go through this ordeal? Most of us are uncomfortable with a God who would demand something like that. We want to worship a gentle God, not a tyrant.

Well, God may not be a tyrant, but . . . God does make demands on our lives.   Being a disciple costs your life.  God is a demanding God who asks us to give up everything that is dear to us, even life itself.

We are asked to share in the faith of Shaddrach, Michach and Abednego who, on their way to the be thrown into the furnace, said: we believe that God has the power to deliver us from death, but even if he should not deliver us, we will continue to confess our faith in Him.

We are asked to share in the convictions of Martin Luther, who at the risk of being burnt at the stake said to the emperor: "I can and will not recant for to go against my conscience is dangerous. Here I stand. I can do no other, so help me God.

Whether Abraham misunderstood in the first place or whether God was testing Abraham with his demand, either way, God came through to rescue Isaac in the end.  God saved Isaac’s life and by doing so, God also made good on the promise made to Abraham to become a father to many nations.

God came through for Abraham and Isaac and if you put your life in God's hands, God will come through for you too—God will keep God’s promise to you as well. So let us trust and obey in God—no matter how hard the thing seems that God is asking of us.  Amen.