When I finally looked at him, I saw the relief pour across his face. I smiled inside for a brief second, and then I steeled myself for the utter chaos that was to come, the heartbreaking disappointment he would face right before he left this earth.
As I dragged him up, I saw the look of confusion on his face.
As I bound his hands, I felt him resist internally. I felt him collapse emotionally. But I never felt him try to resist physically. I taught him well. Maybe too well. Resist, son! Make this harder for me! I need you to make me have to do it! Are you not a man? Do you not realize that you are the lamb? Resist! Fight to live! Fight for your right to breathe! Why won’t you resist!
It was when I carried him and laid him on the altar that the shock of it all finally crushed him. I could see it in his face that he knew he was about to die. He was bound like a ram and laid down like a future carcass. He knew his fate was sealed. I cannot tell you how much that broke me. I cannot explain just how defeating that sight was for me. I cannot begin to describe how much of my insides had turned right into pudding, how much I wished to God this wasn’t happening. The only thing worse than watching your son go through agony because of you is knowing that he may never understand that you went through even more agony to put him through his agony.
When you step on a worm, it first wriggles like crazy. When you step on it again, it keeps wriggling, but not as vigorously as before. By the time you step on it a third time, it has barely any wriggle left. I guess it accepts that there’s no living left for it to do and even if it survived, its life would have no meaning. When I got the knife, Isaac’s eyes expanded into massive orbs. That was the first wriggle. When he saw it go up, his eyes looked like they were sinking into their sockets. That was the second wriggle. His eyes immediately shut when the knife stopped ascending. That was the third wriggle, the lifeless one. He couldn’t stop what was about to happen, but he didn’t want to see himself die.
I saw this sword of a knife go up, and it loomed larger and larger with each rise. Father’s hands went up very slowly, like he was conserving all his energy for the swift descent that would end it all. I saw that knife, and all I could think about was how mother called me Miracle whenever she didn’t want to call me Isaac. How she kept talking about the angels she refused to believe when they said she would have me. How she and father waited so long for me, and how that should teach me to be patient with God. The memories crossed my eyes like racecars, the jokes and the scoldings flooded my mind, and I was certain that she would never forgive father for this, even if it was because God told him to. Her son was bound and laid on an altar like a lamb, then murdered by her husband, and then burned as a sacrifice to God. I’m not sure even God would be forgiven for this.
My head was pounding, my entire body was pulsing, my armpits were sweaty, my wrists were numb because the rope was so tight, my legs felt like two big, lifeless logs, and my voice was no longer operational. When the knife reached its peak and hung over me like a guillotine, I closed my eyes. Moments passed, then minutes passed, and then I wondered whether I had died without knowing it. My eyes were still working. I’ve seen dead people before. Their eyes never work. Somehow, mine still work. Was I dead or not dead?
I opened one eye, very slowly, and the sunlight that met it immediately made it unstable.
But wait, if my eye saw sunlight, I must not be dead. I opened the other eye, and after a few moments, I wasn’t blinking anymore. It took me a few more seconds to realize that all my limbs were intact, and I was alone. I was so scared that I didn’t even hear father’s footsteps when he left. What does any of that matter? I am alive! I didn’t die!
But if I didn’t die, then what’s the sacrifice?
I was ready to strike.
I had finally come to the place where I was okay with killing my son. I prayed that the Lord would find this sacrifice worthy, and that He would send me another.
I was ready to strike.
My hands started descending. And then…
My hands kept descending.
My hands froze. Midway through the stab of death, a familiar voice had stopped me. Was this torture not enough? Was I going to have to repeat this whole process? A man can only be pushed so far!
“Here I am.”
“Do not lay a hand on the boy. Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!
This was a test? This whole time, God was testing me? I know God does some extremely unbelievable things, but this?
WHAT THE ACTUAL-
I looked up, and right there in the thicket was a ram. Here’s the problem with that: rams NEVER come up here. There’s no grass, the bushes are thorny, it is the worst place for a ram to graze. Also, rams just don’t climb this high for food. And I am highly certain that I didn’t bring a ram. So how did it get up here?
“The Lord will provide.”
That’s what I told Isaac when he asked about the animal for the sacrifice, wasn’t it?
God was never going to depart from his nature. God never accepts human sacrifice. God never takes back the gifts He gives to anyone.
God was never going to let me kill Isaac.
Still in utter confusion, I went to the thicket, untied the ram and brought it back with me. And this ram was the opposite of Isaac. It fought and clawed and resisted every way it could.
This was one altar I was never going to take down.
I took a very shaken Isaac off the altar and untied him. I then tied the ram, laid it on the altar, and wasted no time ending its life. Then I set it on fire, and then I worshipped God for rescuing my son from death. I thanked Him for the ram.
Oh, how I thanked Him for that ram.
And then the Voice spoke up one more time.
“I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”
He was keeping his promise, and He was giving me even more! This was not for nothing! He wanted to give me more, but He wanted to trust me with more!
Right now, in this moment, that promise more than compensates me for all the tribulation I just put my son through. I’m naming this place The Lord Will Provide. I’m going to mark it so that no one ever forgets that on this mountain, the Lord provided for me. This name will remain until the end of time.
I could still smell the burning ram while Isaac and I went back down. We didn’t have anything to carry, so it was just us. I didn’t know what to say to him. Who would? What do you tell your son after something like that? “God wanted you dead but not really. Oops?” I was still getting over the fact that God really went as far as making me think I was going to kill my son just so He could know whether I valued Him more than I valued the son He gave me. Yes, I was in pain, yes, I was in turmoil, but I know for sure that Isaac would be dead if God hadn’t stopped me. But did He really need to put us through this just to prove that?
I know for sure that Isaac will one day tell his mother what happened today, and I don’t know if I have it in me to face her once she knows. Sarah is a very calm, very loving woman, but she’s also very fierce and she’s not one anyone wants to go up against. How do I explain to her that I went to sacrifice Isaac because God said so, but in the end, He didn’t want Isaac’s blood? She understands sacrifice, she understands God asking for a sacrifice, but God rejecting the sacrifice He asked for even before it’s been offered?
We’re at the foot of the mountain now. The servants think we’re going home.
One of the stops we have to make on our way back is in a town called Beersheba. I could stay there. I could just stay there until I figure something out and time passes.
I can’t go home. Not yet. Not for a while.
I may never see my Sarah ever again.
Well, that was a trip back in time, wasn’t it? Seeing things through the eyes and minds of Abraham and Isaac. Quite an intense experience. If you were ever like me, thinking Abraham wasn’t moved by that command, this will prove you wrong. Obeying God was not the least bit easy, but it was worth it for the father of faith. Thanks to Makafui for this journey he took us on!!