While it’s still early in the year, I thought I would do some remembering. Looking forward to a new year has caused me to look back over my life and take some inventory. So Diary, in case the other pages are ever lost, here goes.I was married to a wonderful lady named Sarai, although some used to tease her and call her “Sorry.” When I was seventy-five-years-old, God told me to move to a land that would be shown to me. I was to leave my relatives and my father’s house and be totally dependent upon God’s leadership as to where we were going. God gave me a promise that I would be blessed and have a great name. My descendants would be a great nation, and all families of the earth would be blessed because of me.
So at age 75, I gathered up all our belongings and informed Sarai that we were leaving. That was no small task either. It was difficult to tell my relatives that I was moving, because they always asked, “Where are you moving?” I’d always respond by saying, “I don’t know.”
My relatives thought it was strange, but Sarai flipped. It’s difficult to pull up all your roots and go to a land that you have never seen. Her questions were limitless: What is the weather like there? Is there a beach? Will we be near the mountains? What is the culture like? I don’t have to learn a new language do I? Will we be in an urban or a rural area? What’s the closest big city?
To all these questions, I had the same response, “I don’t know.” My nephew, whose name was Lot, a very adventurous lad, wanted to go with us. He wanted to travel and see more of the world than just little ole Haran, the family town. So the three of us, along with all our earthly possessions and herdsmen, left home, being guided by God daily as to our final destination, which was Canaan. Eventually, Lot split off from us because of some disputes that his herdsmen were having with my herdsmen. He really went through the fire with his family, but that’s another story.
After a few years, God told me in a vision that I would have a son, which surprised me, because my wife was barren; she was unable to have children. God’s promise puzzled me. How would I be the father of many nations if my wife could not have any children?
One day, Sarai and I were discussing this very issue. She was just as puzzled as me. The more we talked, the more frustrated we became. Finally she said, “I’ve got it! I’ve just realized how you are going to be the father of many generations. Do it without me! God has prevented me from having children, so obviously, God is open to other options. Why don’t you try to conceive a child with . . . Hagar, my servant girl? That is a way that a child can be provided for us.”
So I listened to my wife; what she was saying made some sense, yet it never felt right. Hagar got pregnant. It was then that we realized that we certainly had done the wrong thing. Hagar became very jealous of Sarai, and after much animosity, Sarai wanted to send her packing! Even though Hagar was pregnant, Sarai treated her very harshly, and finally Hagar left.
An angel appeared to her and told her that her descendants would be too many to count, and to name the baby Ishmael. So she came back. And, at the proud age of 86, I finally became a father.
Thirteen years later, I was ninety-nine-years-old, and God appeared to me again. This time, God reminded me of the promise that I was to be blessed and that my descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. God also changed my name from Abram to Abraham, which means “father of many nations.” A new covenant was created between me and God that day: all male babies would be circumcised on the eighth day of their young lives.
That same day, God told me that Sarai’s name was going to be changed to Sarah, and that I would be given a son by her. She would be called the mother of nations.
I could not contain my laughter. I found it quite amusing to think that a child would be born to a man one-hundred-years-old and a woman ninety-years-old. After all, I already had a thirteen-year-old son, whom I loved dearly. Earlier, God had told Hagar that Ishmael’s descendants would be too many to count. It just seemed logical to go ahead with the plan as I saw it unfolding.
Instead God said, “No, Sarah, your wife, will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac, which means laughter, and I will establish my covenant with him. As for Ishmael, I will increase his descendants, and I will make of him a great nation. But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year.” Sure enough, one year later, Sarah gave birth to her first son, and we named him Isaac.
Sarah became increasingly jealous of Hagar and Ishmael. Certainly, Isaac was the apple of her eye, and she did not want him to have to share the inheritance with his half‑brother. Sarah wanted Hagar and Ishmael to leave again. This disturbed me greatly. I loved Ishmael; he was now fourteen-years-old, and he needed the companionship and nurture of his father. I had watched him learn to crawl, walk, and talk. I had seen him mature through childhood, and now he was entering puberty. This was a time when he really needed me. I wanted him to have the best of everything; after all, God had made a promise that Ishmael would have many descendants who would compose a great nation. But my other son had also received the same promise. I was so distraught; I remember sobbing to God about what I should do.
God told me to go ahead and listen to the wishes of Sarah. Indeed a nation would come from Ishmael’s descendants. Finally after much prayer and many tears, I consented to Sarah’s wishes: I arranged for Hagar and Ishmael to leave. The only refuge I had in making the decision to send Hagar and Ishmael away was that God was going to take care of them. God had made a promise about Ishmael’s future, and I had to trust God to remain true.
Isaac continued to grow and mature, and I guess all the energy that I would have given Ishmael was now funneled into Isaac. We had a great relationship. I was extremely proud of him; he was special. God had blessed Sarah and me, even in our old age, by giving us a child, and for us, the sun rose and set on that boy.
When Isaac was about nine or ten-years-old, God came to me and said, “Abraham, I’ve got something that I want you to do. I want you to take Isaac, your only son whom you love, to Moriah and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I will show you.”
What! I couldn’t believe my ears! What was I being asked to do? Obviously God knew how much I loved Isaac, yet God wanted me to offer him as a sacrifice? How could I do that to my own son? First, I had left all of my extended family and had gone to a strange land. Then, I had trusted God to allow my other son, my first‑born, to leave me, so why then would God cause me such great anguish and heartache? I had been faithful in everything that God had asked me to do. And what about the promises made concerning Isaac? The plan was for him to have descendants and how was I going to be the father of many nations if my son was killed? Especially by my own hands? How could I do that? I knew of other people involved in pagan religions who committed human sacrifices regularly, but that was always something for which I was thankful that I did not have to do. I had done a lot for God: left family and friends at age 75 and came to the desolate place called Canaan. I’d given up a teen‑age son because God thought it would be best. These were no small sacrifices. But then I was asked to make an even bigger sacrifice. I was asked to kill my own son, and then burn him as an offering.
I went to bed that night and slept very little. I tossed and turned and wondered about what God had going. God had promised me that many nations would come as a result of the son born to Sarah and me. I had trusted God through some tough times; the more I struggled, the more I realized that I was going to have to trust God again.
Early the next morning, I split some wood for the burnt offering, awakened two of our servants, then awakened Isaac. We saddled the donkey and took off on our journey. It took us three days to get to Moriah; the minutes seemed like hours, and the hours seemed like days. The longer we traveled, the more I tried to trust God. I knew that something was going to have to work out! It just didn’t make sense for God to want me to kill my son. When the mountain was in sight, I told the servants to wait while Isaac and I went to worship, and then we would return to them. At that point, I had resigned myself to the fact that there had to be more to this plan than I was understanding. Isaac carried the wood, and I carried the flint stones and the knife.
As we were walking, Isaac said, “Daddy,” and I responded, “Yes, Isaac.”
Then he asked, “We have the flint stones and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
And then, in one of those rare instances when you say just the right thing for the moment, I replied, “God will provide the lamb for the offering.”
We continued walking to the site that God had told me and then built an altar. I arranged the wood on top of the altar, and then had to do the unthinkable. I had to follow through with what God had asked me to do. I started having doubts as I realized that I was going to have to tie up my son, my hope for the future. I sat down with tears in my eyes and Isaac sat in front of me. “What’s wrong?” he asked.
I shared with him the story that God had asked me to offer him as a sacrifice. He was fully aware of what I meant, because of stories he had heard from other religions. He was also aware of the promise of God that a great nation would come as a result of the offspring of Sarah and me. I told him that I had to do what God had asked me to do. I tied him up and laid him on the altar, crying all the while. With all the tears in my eyes, I could hardly see the knife. I picked up the knife and raised it to the sky. I was shaking with fear, when I heard a loud voice, “Abraham! Abraham!”
I knew the voice had to be a messenger from God; I had been given that name because it meant father of many nations.
I quit shaking and responded, “Here I am.”
The voice said, “Do not raise the knife to harm your son; do not do anything to hurt him. For now I know that you revere God. I realize now that there is nothing that stands between you and God . . . not even your own blood.”
As I began to wipe the tears from my eyes, I noticed a ram in the woods whose horns were tangled in the thicket. I untied Isaac, and we hugged harder than we had ever embraced. I began to cry again knowing that my son was safe and knowing that I had pleased my Heavenly Father. The ram had been there all the time. God had provided. We offered the ram as a burnt offering and worshiped there on the mountain top.
Isaac became a great man and he had two sons, Esau and Jacob. My grandson Jacob had twelve sons, and that is where the twelve tribes of Israel originated. God blessed me for being faithful.
I have come to realize that there are lessons to be learned from every experience, good or bad. Out of the experience in offering Isaac as a sacrifice, I learned that experiments aren’t needed in order to increase God’s knowledge of us. God knows already. But only when one has surrendered his/her life completely, does one find the provision that God has made. By faith, we are to surrender to God what we hold most dear. That could be our spouse, our children, our parents, or our grandparents. It could even be our past.
Remembering is good. Recollecting experiences keeps them alive and vibrant. Individuals continue to live in my memories, despite even their physical deaths.
Unfortunately, some people never take time to remember and to be thankful. The rat race of their lifestyle prohibits them from pausing for reflection. Trips down memory lane should be taken periodically for pleasure but also for education. Experience is the best teacher. And tragically, many people fail to see God at work in the present; it is only after God’s work is complete that God is even noticed. It is a shame that some people only see God’s back.
That was part of my problem in offering Isaac. God had been true to me on so many occasions, and if I had just thought back and remembered, I would have been reassured that God would continue to be faithful. That is the lesson for the day. Remember all the times that God has been faithful; recall the promises that have come true; recollect the instances that God has provided. And be thankful. May those fulfillments ever be sources of strength to those who walk by faith. Today, especially today, I am grateful for my God.