a rich history and profound reality
I recently finished a read-through of the New Testament and have gone back to the beginning of The Book to do the same. Perhaps it's because I'm a little older, or maybe because God's specifically opening my eyes, but these are not the characers I remember from my days of seeing these stories played out on the flannelgraph. If you have no knowledge of the flannelgraph, it was a method by which Sunday School teachers could take a phenomenal story and portray it to children in two dimensional unrealism.
Specifically, reading Genesis 22 this morning...the story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac. If ever their was a story for Steven Spielberg or George Lucas, this is it. Here's a father who is asked by God to lay his own son on the altar of sacrifice. And unlike the flannelgraph crowd, Abraham didn't know exactly how this was going to turn out.
In Chapter 22, verse 3, Abraham tells 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." I distinctly remember my Flannelgraph Guides telling me that this was proof that Abraham knew God would somehow save his son from harm. I say bull puckey. I say Abraham was scared spitless. His face was ashen. His hand was shaking as he held the reins of his camel. In the highest point of stress in his life, he mumbled this to his servants even as he eyed Isaac playing there along the side of the road.
Later, when Abraham built the altar, we imagine Isaac hopping up on it like a boy would sit on a park bench built a few inches too tall for him. I don't buy that either. I think the probably figured out what was coming, at least to the best of a boy's understanding, and may have fought his father tooth and nail. Eventually, Abraham lay him on the altar, though...Isaac bound and gagged, both he and Abraham sobbing in the the most confusion a father and son had ever endured. Both are splattered with the blood of the other, their fingers torn open from a family battle that was leading to the death of one of them and the eternal agony of the other.
Of course, the story turns out that God provides a sacrifice in the thicket...Isaac is freed, and Abraham is spared having to pay the ultimate price, which is not necessarily one's own life, but rather the life of a son. Ask most parents who lose a child - would they have given their life for the life of a child? Most would agree that losing a child is the most painful emotion on the planet.
The point, of course, is that God knew that day how He would face that pain. He knew that while Abraham's son Isaac was powerless and only lay on the altar bound and gagged, that His own son would hang before the world on a crude instrument of Roman oppression - the electric chair of it's day...the cross that was so cruel that the Romans actually outlawed it's use later....and Jesus, with all the angels of Heaven at His disposal, would not allow another sacrifice to take His place. He would hang willingly - a sacrifice by his own volition. God knew He would pay the price that Abraham would not - a son.
So Abraham called that place "the Lord will provide." And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided." Genesis 22:14