Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. (NIV)
Those who have a sneaking suspicion that God is a sadist might get some support from this passage. Isaac is the long awaited, promised child of Abraham and Sarah. God’s gift to them in their old age, and the human bearer of his promises to future generations. Now God is asking Abraham to kill him. Shocking enough, but Abraham’s seemingly complacent obedience to this jolts us further. That last verse suggests to us that Abraham was simply trusting that God would find a way out of this horrifying situation.
Trust in God is not some gentle and comfortable cliché, but rather a radical abandonment to the goodness of God even if he appears to be sadistically bent on ruining us and breaking his promises to us. Trust banks on the fact that God can be relied upon even if he seems to make no sense at all. When we decide to let God take control, we need to fasten our seatbelts and get ready for the ride of our life. It is a journey into the unknown but in the presence of one who is known to us.
What makes trust the best option rather than a terrifying leap in the dark is the fact that we know God to be good. We know this because Jesus has shown us it is so. That story of Abraham had a happy ending: God did provide a lamb which was killed rather than Isaac. And our story will have a happy ending because Jesus died in our place to end our estrangement from God.
Let’s be clear that this and our own story does have a happy ending. But let’s also be clear that along the way to that happy ending, we will sometimes tread the cliff edge of doubt and fear. All in the name of trust, something that only seems to grow in the soil of risk and adversity.