3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. Genesis 22:3-4

The context of these two verses is the story of Abraham offering his son, his only son, Isaac, to be offered as a burnt offering, commanded by God. But what is so unique about this story is not that Abraham obeyed God immediately, but that Abraham takes full responsibility for his faith challenge. He had servants who could have not only cut the wood, but could have also taken Isaac to a mountain to slay him on an altar.

As a father of a 14-year-old boy, it seems easier emotionally and mentally to have someone else do the task for me, to distance myself from trauma—if I would have even obeyed at all. Perhaps I would have bartered with God, offering him something a little less valuable, but tempting enough that He might still find it acceptable? Or maybe try my hand at manipulating the process while still trying to receive the promised blessing from being obedient?

For Abraham, the blessing of his obedience would be that his name would become a great nation (Genesis 12:2) and through his seed—Isaac—all nations would be blessed (Genesis 22:18). Abraham believed God’s covenanted promises that, if he sacrificed Isaac as a burnt offering, God would also raise him from the dead. While this story is heart wrenching on one side of the coin, on the other it is a profound character-building test for Abraham.

Ultimately, he learns to trust the promiser instead of the promise. He learns to walk in faith, not fear. He learns that he must engage with full participation the faith challenge in the midst of excruciating circumstances. He cuts his own wood. He walks for two days with the knowledge of his son’s up-and- coming slaughter. He arrives to Mount Moriah. He builds the altar himself. He binds his son. He raises his arm with dagger in hand. And all of a sudden an angel tells him to stop (Genesis 22:12). Abraham looks to his right and sees a ram caught in a thicket. Abraham offers it in place of his son and then names that spot Jehovah Jireh—The Lord will provide!

Sound familiar?

Abraham’s story serves as a foreshadowing of the eternal sacrifice God made with his only begotten Son Jesus.

• Both were loved by their father.
• Both offered themselves willingly.
• Both carried wood up the hill of their sacrifice.
• Both were sacrificed on the same hill.
• Both were delivered from death on the third day.

What faith challenges are you currently going through? Are you trying to figure out a way to skip past it or lessen the impact on your personal life? Are you trying to find someone else to cut the wood and make the sacrifice for you? Do you trust God to provide? Or are you obedient to God’s calling and are fully engaging the faith challenge? Are you cutting your own wood, building your own altar, and offering your life as a burnt offering—a sweet and savory smell in the nostrils of God?

Further reflections:

Proper fear of God releases your life to God’s provisions. Withholding your most prized possessions from God keeps you bound in fear of never having enough.

God wants us to praise Him even though He knows how we feel.

Are you willing to worship and fear God? Will you let go of people, things, or dreams that you’ve been holding on to? Will you commit to holding these things loosely?

In the words of my wife Mary, “Will you cut your own wood knowing that with every stroke of the axe you are operating in obedience despite the heart-wrenching pain?”

Chopping my own wood,

Pastor Mark