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.”
Oh, the heartache. Abraham had been promised not only the abundance of a multitude of descendants but the delight of a particular son. And here he stood, about to sacrifice that very son. God put him to the test, asking for what was most precious to Abraham: his son Isaac.
The promise hinged on Isaac. If Isaac didn’t live to have children of his own, then the countless descendants would never come to be. God would have broken his promise. So, in heading up the mountain with Isaac, Abraham was counting on God to make a way where it seemed there was no way.
And God came through, providing a ram for Abraham to sacrifice instead. God kept his promise.
He kept it again, centuries later, when he provided a different Lamb as a sacrifice. Like Abraham, God was willing to sacrifice his son, but in this case, there wasn’t a ram to take his place. This time, the Lamb was the Son, too.
And it’s that Lamb, the one who offered himself on our behalf and who rose again to new life, that we await this Advent. After all, Advent isn’t just about getting excited for the babe who comes at Christmas. It’s also about longing for his coming again. When all the world seems out of whack and it seems like there’s no way for good to triumph, we wait. We wait for Jesus Christ to come in glory. We wait, counting on God to keep his promise to set things right.
Prayer: God, trusting that you’ll keep your promise is so hard sometimes. Strengthen my trust and give me the courage to wait to see how you will provide. Amen.