“Here am I.”
“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 which I shall tell you.”
This is why I can’t sleep.
I am not a man that is prone to moments of panic. I understand authority, I understand God’s authority, and I know enough to know that what God wants is what God wants.
But this one? This particular ask?
Let me point out something you may not know. Human sacrifice wasn’t uncommon in my day. The blood of humans has always been a premium commodity in a lot of spiritual actions, so it’s not unusual to hear of firstborns getting placed on altars.
The thing that wasn’t common about the request was that this God was the one making it.
This God has always been more of an animal sacrifice kind of God. You know, sheep, doves, other specific ones depending on His taste. He’s usually highly particular about the animal for the sacrifice, and very detailed on all the specifics. Believe it or not, he cares about the age, the size, even the hair color of the animal. Yes, God does see color. He made it all, after all.
But a human sacrifice? And this particular human being sacrificed?
Listen, spanking a child is hard enough, not to talk of KILLING one! But this hurt for an even bigger reason. This hurt because this was my legacy, this was my promise, this was my impossible! How am I losing my promise to the one who gave it in the first place? How much more do I need to prove!
How do I even tell his mother?
“Abe, what ails you?”
I was in my tent, laying on the mat that was my only separator from the cold dirt floor, when Sarah came in. Sarah was one of those women who never screamed, but always got the point across.
“Nothing, Sarah. I just cannot sleep.”
“Did something happen? Are the servants of Abimelech giving you problems again?”
“No, woman, this is not about them.” I did not know it, but I had just pinned myself with that statement.
“What is not about them, my husband?” Yeah, that was a rookie mistake.
“Sarah, I just can’t sleep. Go back to your tent with your son.” At this point, the cold air of the desert was blowing in, and the thick goat hair that was my blanket was starting to fail at keeping me warm. “Do not worry about me, Sarah. I am well.”
A definitely unconvinced Sarah proceeded to come lie by me under the blanket that barely covered me, and she said, “Abraham, something is bothering you. While you may choose to keep it from me, you cannot deny me the chance to care for you.” And with that, she lay right by me and made it clear that she was going nowhere tonight.
As I lay there a few hours later, listening to her soft breath even as I felt it on my chest, I looked at her. Sarah. Mother of my child. You have no idea how crazy that sounded, how impossible that should have been. You have to understand, it’s not a natural occurrence, giving birth at 90 years old. Why do you think she made me sleep with the maid? Even she didn’t believe it when the angels told her she would bear a child, but here we are. And now I’m supposed to throw all that away?
I gently called her name, “Sarah.”
No response. “Sarah.”
Maybe it’s for the best that she’s asleep now, because God knows she would flip if she knew. If you think she will accept it just because God said it, please try telling any 90-year-old woman who just got pregnant after decades of trying that God wants her to abort the baby. See how well that works for you. And that’s in your generation, where guns and knives and hands abound. Even sandals are lethal in your day. I am in a real predicament, and the crazy thing is that I’m not as worried about the guy I have to sacrifice as I am about his mother.
“Did you call me, my lord?”
I genuinely thought she was asleep. “No, Sarah. Go back to sleep.”
“What is it, Abraham?”
I don’t know what, but something about how she said that made me want to open up. She’s my wife, after all, and after the crazy things we’ve been through…
“Sarah, I think… I talked to… The Lord called me late last night, before I came home.”
I fully expected her to sit up, but she just gave me an “Uh huh…” She wasn’t as interested as I thought she would be. “The Lord wants me to uh, He wants me to sacrifice…” Oh, help me Lord. You’re the one who said this, please let her accept it. “The Lord asked me to sacrifice our son in the morning.”
Oh dear, that is not a good sign. She can’t do anything about it and she knows, so she’s keeping her anger to herself. Or she’s processing what I said. Or maybe-
You cannot be serious. I mustered up all that courage, went through all that turmoil, and all that sounded like a lullaby? I would not be wrong to wake her up and just finish her. Your husband is talking to you, and you proceed to sleep? I was about to turn away and will myself to sleep on this floor when I felt movement. Oh Lord, maybe she heard me?
Sarah didn’t sit up, but she did inch closer to me. She’d rolled a bit off my body while she slept. “My lord. Sorry, I was overcome with sleep. What was it you wanted to say?”
I wanted to shake my head, but I’m a bigger man than that. “Sarah, is there anything God would ask of you that you would decline?”
Silence. Then, “Do I have the option to decline?”
“Does one need an option to decline the Lord’s instructions?”
“Yeah, unless one has every intention of being smitten.”
“Well, I guess…”
“Abraham. What did the Lord ask you to do?”
“Sarah, believe me, tis for the best that you do not know.”
“Sarah, believe me.”
Silence. Well, this is going great so far. If the question didn’t startle her, my last response definitely did. Sarah may be a great companion, but she certainly knows how to get me to respond how she wants. Now would be a good time for sleep to hit me as hard as it can.
“Well, I remember that we came to this land without knowing what it was or where it was. You were led directly by God, who said ‘Go to the land I will show you.’ I also know that the Lord promised me Isaac, and I have him now. Would I defy him because He spoke something I could not comprehend? Not one of the Lord’s instructions to us thus far have been comprehensible. So, I suppose I would believe that He knows the end from the beginning, and it will all make sense in time. Faith in God has to be its own evidence, as does His history with us thus far.”
Nothing was said after that. Sarah slept at my side, and I just lay there thinking. There was no way I was going to say no to God. I just couldn’t come to terms with His ask, even if it was less “I’m asking you to” and more “I’m telling you to.” Sacrifice my legacy? Sacrifice my only son? Sacrifice my promise?
My promise. The promise that was made to me. The promise God Himself fulfilled. Now I see it. None of this has anything to do with me. God was the one who made the covenant, God is the one who has to see it through. I am just the guy who He chose to partner with on earth. So if He sees fit to take Isaac away, surely He has to have another way to fulfill his promise. I really hope that at some point, He tells me not to go through with this, but if He doesn’t, then this blood’s not on my hands. I pray for you, Isaac. I pray you survive this. For the sake of my love for you, I pray you do.
It’s dawn. It’s very close to morning. Sarah’s warmth can no longer be my respite, and her breath no longer soothes me. Even as I get up off the mat quietly, I know that whatever she and I have will forever be changed after this day. But, the Lord has asked. Who am I to say no?
Who am I to deny the Lord my God anything, even the life of my promised son?