It’s been awhile since I’ve thought about Abraham, the great granddaddy of Christians, Jews, and Muslims. But as I prepare a talk on him, I’m renewing my acquaintance. Aspects of his life shed light on our own. If you recall, when Abraham was already 75 years old, the one and only true God told him to leave his land and relatives. Yet God didn’t reveal where he was to go. This command made no sense, but Abraham began walking. Talk about a leap of faith! Abraham ended up in Hebron in Canaan, land which God gave to him. Sometimes, urged by an inner sense or sent by someone, we venture into a “new land.” This could be a new job, a new city, a new organization. We don’t have a clue what will happen. We just trust that God has our welfare at heart. Hebron is where Abraham and his wife Sarah are buried in the Cave of Patriarchs which is beneath a mosque today.
As the story goes, God promised Abraham as many descendants as the stars. Abraham and Sarah were childless and not getting any younger. They couldn’t wait for God but took matters into their own hands. Sarah gave Abraham her Egyptian slave Hagar as a wife, and they had a son, Ishmael. The, when Abraham was 99, God said that Sarah would bear a son, and, after laughing at the outrageous prediction, she did. A miracle! God still works miracles today‚ maybe for you.
But then the unthinkable happened. God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on Mount Moriah. (Muslims believe that Ishmael, supposedly the forefather of Mohammad, was to be sacrificed.) How could Abraham kill his one beloved son? Despite his excruciating grief, Abraham obeyed. How could Abraham possibly have thousands of descendants without a son? Despite the perplexing command, Abraham didn’t argue. He obeyed, blindly. Scripture scholars point out that when Abraham left his two servants to take Isaac to the altar, he said, “We will worship, and then we will come back to you.” “We” implies that Abraham assumed that somehow Isaac would be spared. And he was. Inexplicable things happen to all of us. We cry out, “Why, God?” We wonder why our friend has cancer, why we lost our job, why our car was stolen, and why our boss doesn’t see things our way when it is so right. Would that our faith would be as unwavering as Abraham’s!
Today Mount Moriah is the site of the gold-domed mosque in Jerusalem. This site is also where the Holy of Holies of the Temple was and where Mohammed was taken up into heaven. Therefore, it is sacred to all three monotheistic religions: Christan, Jewish, and Muslim.
I had forgotten this: After Sarah died, Abraham married Keturah and had six more sons. But Isaac received the inheritance.) Abraham was indeed greatly blessed.
Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son. God actually did sacrifice his Son. And Jesus gave up a lot for our sake. What precious thing are you willing to give up if God would ask it?