“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 on one of the mountains that I shall show you.” On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. ~ Genesis 22:2,4
It is a dark road, this road to Moriah. It’s dark because it means Abraham losing his son, whom he loves. But it’s not just that. It’s dark because it means losing his dream, for Isaac was the promise of God. Isaac was the promise that Abraham’s life would lead to a new community, and he was losing his dream. But it wasn’t just that.
It was dark because he wasn’t just going to lose Isaac. Abraham was to destroy his son at the command of God. So what do you do when you have to walk in the darkness, and God seems distant or remote or silent?
Abraham in this moment is stepping out into what could be called “the road of godforsakenness,” when it seems like God is contradicting himself, when it seems like God wants to stop the salvation that he’s begun.
This is a story about darkness, most of us at some point or another in our lives; understand what it is to walk in darkness. Faith is about hanging on in dark places.
Faith is not about doubt-free certainty. Faith is about tenacious obedience at all costs.
He’s heard this voice before. This voice told him to leave his home and everything familiar. This voice told him that he and God were in covenant together. And this voice told him that he and his wife would have a son although they had the combined ages of 190 years old, and he laughed and his wife laughed. But apparently he responded in obedience once again because, in fact, she did have a son.
Now the voice comes to him once more; and as far as we know, it’s for the last time. Once this episode is over, we hear little about Abraham in Genesis. This time he’s asked one final thing.
To this point he’s been asked to give up everything in his life — his home, his family, everything — for the sake of the promise. Now the voice is going to ask him to give up one more thing: Give up the promise.
Can you let go of what you love the most? Is God alone enough for you?
We all have dark times. When it looks like the God whom we serve is not cooperating with the script we have written for our lives.
The late Elisabeth Elliot, one of the godliest women of our generation, told about a time years ago while visiting friends who owned a sheep ranch in Northern Wales. One day she saw a shepherd pick up a sheep and take it to a sheep dip which is a large vat of liquid insecticide and fungicide, and put the sheep into the vat, and the sheep frantically fought for air. Then the shepherd pushed the head down, but the sheep kept coming up, and the shepherd kept pushing it down, because all of the surface of the sheep had to be coated with the solution to keep it from getting ill.
She said, “I wondered what it’s like to feel like your shepherd is trying to kill you? Then she remembered the death of her missionary husband at the hands of the very people he served and said, “Oh, I remember.”
If this story of Abraham tells us anything it tells us that sometimes your shepherd, who is trying to save you, will feel to you like he is trying to kill you. And that is a dark time, indeed. I don’t know what it looks like for you, but I know this: Every human being that ever lived has walked in darkness sometime. But one day, one day the “third day” will come. It came for Abraham.
It came in the life of another one who also stepped out on the “road to godforsakenness” who, like Isaac, had to carry on his back the wood on which he would be killed. Who cried out in his darkest hour, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Only when it was time for his sacrifice, no voice cried out to stop the Father, and Jesus was killed. But the third day came for him, too. And the third day will come for you and for me, someday, friends.
Faith is about tenacious obedience and we live with this promise: The third day will come.