Abraham was called “the friend of God”. This is an amazing thing to be called. One of the places where we see this friendship at its most tender time is when God calls Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. What happened on that mountain trembles throughout all of history, and Abraham shared some of the most painful emotions from his friend, God.
The first thing to notice in the story found in Genesis 22 is Abraham’s response to God’s call. God calls his name, “Abraham”, and Abraham responds, “Here I am” which is an expression of unconditional availabiltiy.
The second thing to notice is what God says next. The original text shows us that the wording God uses is not a command, but a request. “Please take your son, your only son, the son that you love”…. This reminds us of His first command to Abraham, when He told him to leave his country, the land of his relatives, the home of his father. But this time He is not insisting, but He’s asking.
The third thing to notice is that this is the very first time the word “love” is used in the Bible. Many times the first mention of a word is key to unlocking its meaning in the broader picture of the Bible. The idea of love comes first in this concept; a father’s willingness to sacrificing a beloved son on Mount Moriah, and the love mentioned is the love of the father for the son.
The text tells us that old father Abraham is the one who split the wood, which was heavy work for an old man, and they go off to the mountain of God’s choosing together. The son carries the wood on his back, up Mount Moriah, the very place that Jesus would later be crucified. Isaac asks about the sacrifice, and his dad assures him, “God himself will provide the lamb”. According to Jewish tradition, Isaac’s hands and feet were bound behind his back, and I can’t even imagine the thoughts and emotions that raced through Abraham’s head as he held the knife up high.
The thoughts and emotions of both father and son would have been many and probably doubtful as to the outcome. The pain would bound to have been almost unbearable. But wait a minute. What is going on here? The text tells us that God was testing Abraham, but we already know that God knew the condition of Abraham’s heart. Was He allowing Abraham also to see how ready and willing his heart of faith truly was? Or is there maybe something else going on here too? Do we see here that God is bringing His friend, Abraham, to the place where His own Son would be slaughtered, so that He could share some of His heart and pain over this experience with Abraham? Did Abraham’s ability to identify with some of God’s agony in that moment enable him to bring some comfort, and love to his friend, God, as they shared in the bitterness together?
I don’t know for sure the answer to this question. But I think probably so.
Maybe this is what Paul writes about when he talks about the “fellowship of sufferings” in Philippians 3:10. We have the incredible privilege of drawing close to the heart of God. He calls us His friend, and sometimes, He invites us and draws us in to share some of His pain.
Are we willing to allow God to share some of His thoughts with us? For Him to show us how He feels about some of the things on His heart? Are we willing to listen, and to be available to Him? To be a friend to God, and partner with Him in what He wants to do? True friends share things. I believe this is one of the things that this text is teaching us.