by Jennifer Michael
Read Genesis 22:15-18.
The above passage is the end of a story known well to most of us–the story of Isaac’s binding by his father, Abraham. God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his only son, and because of Abraham’s faithfulness, God spares Isaac and declares Abraham the father of all the nations of the earth.
In what I can only think of as a Holy Spirit moment, I was reminded of this story in a dream recently. Not the scripture text, but the melody of a song I had long forgotten by Andrew Peterson called “Holy Is the Lord.” (Listen to it here.) The lyrics reflect what Abraham might have thought on that fateful day when he woke up his son and headed up that mountain. Funny how music sticks with us.
If you’ve read the story of Isaac in Genesis, you know of Abraham’s deep love for his son. Unexpected and a miracle, Isaac represented all that Abraham and his wife Sarah had hoped for: a child, a legacy, an affirmation of faith. And yet, this is the son God asks Abraham to sacrifice.
Peterson’s lyrics humanize Abraham’s anguish. You can hear the plaintive cry of Abraham; he is committed to following God’s command, but he has no idea how to do it. “Lord help me; I don’t know the way.”
When I woke up from my dream, that phrase lingered with me throughout my day. I reflected on how these pandemic months have resulted in so many sacrifices. We don’t know our way any longer.
It made me ask what have we laid upon the altar that is precious and vital to who we are? Does God expect us to carry on? Does God expect us to give up, to suffer, to endure more heartbreak?
And then there is this pivot in the story. As Abraham’s faithfulness is revealed in the binding of Isaac and raising that knife, you can almost hear those lyrics in the scripture, “And even though you take him, still I ever will obey. But maker of this mountain, please make another way.” God is not demanding sacrifice in this story. God is inviting Abraham to reveal the depth of his faith.
With seconds to spare, a ram appears to be the sacrifice on that mountain. God provided Abraham what he needed as an affirmation of his faith.
Since this pandemic began, I believe we have been crying out like Abraham at that altar. We ask the maker of that mountain to please make another way, to deliver us, to restore us.
Perhaps that is what has been calling me today–changing my perspective, changing my mindset. We don’t know the way at present. There are so many uncertainties. But one thing we can rely on is that God is with us. God will provide, just as God did for Abraham.
God is providing us with a vaccine. God is providing us with a decrease in the rates of infections. God is providing a way out of the darkness, revealing our faith’s depth in this crisis to give us hope.
Today, may we hold onto that hope in the promise that God made to Abraham and that God fulfills in us during these difficult times. We must hold fast to our faith. We may not always know the way, but God is there reminding us, “You are my beloved, and I will never abandon you!”
Let us pray
Loving God, inspire by your Holy Spirit all of us who are afraid of losing hope. Give us a fresh vision of your love, that we may find again what we fear has been lost. Grant us your powerful deliverance; through the one who makes all things new, Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen.
The Rev. Jennifer Michael is pastor at Saint Peter Lutheran Church, Battle Creek, Mich. She was president of Women of the ELCA’s executive board from 2011-2014. This message is from the FaithChats she offers to her congregation. Listen to this one here.
Feature photo: Orrente, Pedro de. Sacrifice of Isaac, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.