The Binding

The Lord will provide.  The traditional transliteration is ‘Jehovah Jireh’—the Lord will provide.  Have you ever named a place this name?  I hope not, because if you have then you have gone through hell to find that place.

Abraham named Mount Moriah, Jehova Jireh—and this is why:

God tested Abraham.  I hate that.  Hate is a strong word.  But I hate that Abraham was tested.  Because God didn’t play fair.  Abraham had it all—wealth, servants, power, wife, concubines, covenant relationship—God didn’t want any of it.  God said, give me Isaac.

“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 (as a holocaust).”

In the Jewish tradition they call it the Akedah—the binding—because at some point on the mountain Abraham had to make his move, the one where he wrestled his son down, and against his son’s resistance tied him with ropes in order to lay him on the altar.

I doubt their relationship was ever the same.

It was a three day walk to get there.  Three days.  How many conversations did Abraham have with God in three days?  When pain comes it lingers.  He could have sacrificed Isaac in his own backyard—but no, it had to take a while.

When the mountain came into view the party traveling with Abraham and Isaac stayed behind.  No one can pass your test for you, I guess.  You’re on your own.  The only one who shared the burden was the innocent Isaac—he carried the wood for the fire.

Do you know how much words sting when everything is wrong?  Seemingly innocuous things take on a gravity of meaning that they were never intended to have.  “Father, the fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

Do you know what it means to choke back your fear and give an answer that you don’t even believe?  “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.”

And then you arrive.  This is the day.  You gather stones for the altar.  You put the wood in order.  And you make your move.  Just don’t look in his eyes.  “Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son.”

The Angel of the Lord is special—I don’t know how or why, I just know that the Angel of the Lord only shows up for the big moments.  We have seen the angel before.  Abraham’s other child, Ishmael, was saved by the same angel when dying in the desert.  Abraham’s was a strange blended family—one son of the covenant, the other a son of an oppressed woman.

The Angel of the lord spoke, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him.”

Did you hear what God said?

“Do not lay your hand on that boy, or do anything to him.”  The Angel of the Lord killed 185,000 battled tested, hardened, Assyrian soldiers in one night without breaking a sweat.  Do not lay your hand on that boy.  So help me.  You just go right over there to the bushes, and you find yourself a ram caught in the thicket, and you have your sacrifice.  You leave the boy alone.  For he is a boy of the promise, and the promise will never leave him.

And so Isaac was unbound.  And Abraham sacrificed the ram.  And the two of them had awkward descent.

We call that place, Jehovah Jireh, the Lord will provide, and it is said, to this day, even to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

Behold, the Akedah.

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