Abraham is 100 and Sarah is 90 when they have Isaac. It’s been 25 years since God initially told Abraham He would make him a great nation. Over those years, Abraham and Sarah have waited patiently and some times not so patiently (as in the case of Hagar).
But God has his own timetable and He brings a baby to them only when it is abundantly evident to everyone that they are physically unable to have a child. It is clear to me that God does this because He wants them to trust in His power rather than theirs. Texts like Genesis 12 and 15 suggest that Abraham had already allowed these seeds to be planted in his heart, but this episode helps them take root.
Fast forward a few years (we’re not sure how many), to God’s command to sacrifice Isaac. The brevity of the account leaves us wondering many things. Was it as straightforward as what we read or has the record been compressed? After all, Abraham is the person who talked God down in regard to His judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah—it’s hard to imagine him not trying to do the same thing here. Most of us would experience such dissonance and conflict with God’s command that it would require a substantial conversation just to make sure we correctly understood what was being asked. Add to this the fact that Isaac was a miraculous child and you have even more reason for puzzlement and prolonged discussion. But if this occurred, the text knows none of it. Instead, after what had to have been a sleepless night, we see Abraham dutifully complying with God’s request. And what of Isaac? We know he is old enough to carry the wood. How does a 100 year old manage to tie his son’s hands and stretch him out across some wood? It seems as if Isaac submitted to his father and yet the all of the texts about Moriah speak of Abraham’s faith, not Isaac’s.
Abraham has fully embraced God’s power over his own and the offering of his son represents the finest fruit from those seeds of trust. The Hebrew writer gives us some insight into his thinking by telling us that, “Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death,” (Hebrews 11:19). Abraham had in his mind that God was so great that even the death of Isaac couldn’t keep Him from fulfilling His promises. I don’t know how much easier that would make it to take the life of your own son, but it was something to hold on to at such a difficult time.
And in the end, that’s what hope is, isn’t it? It’s something to hold on to when everything else has disintegrated. It’s knowing you’re not abandoned even when it looks to all of the world that you have been. It’s trusting that good will have the final word over chaos, pain, and confusion. I think in the end that’s the big difference between people like Abraham and so many people. Abraham still had his hope going for him and that enabled him to do incredible, unimaginable things. Whatever else we do, we can’t let go of our hope. Even if it seems crazy to everyone else.