Dear Parish Family:
“Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”
This is the direction that God gives to Abraham. There are those who have asked how an all-good and all-loving God could ever ask such a thing as the killing of one’s own child as a sacrifice. There are even those who would suggest that this passage is proof that God is not all good or all loving.
Nothing could be farther from the truth!
Even if God had expected that this sacrifice would ultimately be made — even if God had allowed Abraham to carry out the sacrifice — God has it within His power to immediately take Isaac into heaven or, for that matter, to raise him from the dead as Christ raised His friend, Lazarus. But God never expected that.
God knows perfectly, and so He is perfectly aware that this sacrifice is too terrible for Abraham to make. He lifts this burden from Abraham and in His perfect love and mercy does not ask the impossible from His loyal servant. And yet, God also knows something else… He knows that ultimately, this is the sacrifice that must be made and it must be made perfectly.
Ultimately, God does not ask Abraham to sacrifice Isaac; instead, God offers His own Son — His only Son — our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ becomes the sacrifice too terrible for Abraham to make; God does not withhold His only Son.
So the question really isn’t how could an all-good and all-loving God ask for such a sacrifice? The question is, how could He not?
Justice demands that the debt of sin be paid, but the price is too high for mere humans to endure. And God in His perfect mercy desires nothing more than we be saved from ourselves… saved from our sins. And so our all-good and all-loving God pays the debt for us that is too high for us to pay ourselves; Christ, the only Son of God, becomes an offering for us, crucified on the cross and lifted up, just as God asked Abraham to do.
The burden that is too great for us is not too great for our God. This passage from Genesis should not cause anyone to question God’s mercy; quite the opposite, it should be understood for what it is: a prefigurement of God’s perfect mercy satisfying the demands of God’s perfect justice.