When you read this verse, does it make you think of the firefighters and emergency workers who responded to the September 11 attacks–those brave souls who ran into burning buildings while everyone else was panicking to get out? Does it remind you of the passengers of United Flight 93, willing to give their lives in hopes of thwarting further attack on our nation? Or what about the thousands who have volunteered for military service, especially those who landed on the beach at Normandy and those who joined after September 11? Each of these men and women presented themselves as living sacrifices.
Scholars think that he was likely in his late teens, if not twenties, by the time this event took place. He was old enough to have witnessed many sacrifices, old enough to understand the procedure. And probably old enough to resist his elderly father if he’d been inclined.
Did Abraham explain what was going to happen? Apparently not, since Isaac questions him about the absence of a lamb (Genesis 22:7). In fact, that’s the only time we read of any reaction from the young man. Two verses later, Abraham builds the altar, binds Isaac and lays him on top of the wood on the altar.
By now, Isaac surely knows what his father intends to do, especially when Abraham pulls out a knife and raises it above him. Is he trembling in fear? Is he crying, weeping? Does he close his eyes, unable to watch the knife descend before plunging into his body? Or does he study his father’s face, wondering at the contradiction between the determined set of the old man’s jaw and the tears streaming down his cheeks?
Would I have crawled up on that altar, knowing what awaited me? Would you? I don’t know who first said that the problem with living sacrifices is they keep crawling off the altar. The humor in the situation makes us smile. And yet, God calls each of us to climb up there, to volunteer as a living sacrifice. What does that mean?
I believe it means my greatest sacrifice is not my things, but rather my self. It means giving God complete control over my life—giving Him my time, my body to use for His work. It means waking each morning to the sole purpose of climbing up on that altar and allowing God to have His way with me, whether painful or joyful. And that requires trust. The same kind of bond, the close relationship Isaac had with his father, Abraham. The kind Jesus had with his Father God. The same God who bids me call him Abba. Father. Daddy.