Most of us know we need to be ready to give up our own lives in the service of the King of the Universe, but how many of us are ready to bind our Isaacs? Abraham teaches us to be ready to give up something more than our lives: our hope, our joy, our laughter, our calling, our blessing, even our miracles. All that is ours is His. What we secure with our own hand is easier to release, I think, than what we know we received from Him. But we should prepare ourselves to let go of both.
Abraham sent away Ishmael and was deeply troubled and saddened. He pitied him and wanted to know God would be compassionate toward him. Notice the contrast with the binding of Isaac: it doesn’t excite Abraham’s pity because it is worse. Aristotle is right: we feel pity for other people when misfortune hits them (e.g. Abraham for Ishmael), but when tragedy strikes us, we don’t feel pity but pain (e.g. Abraham for Isaac). Pity is excluded. We feel no compassion. The call to bind Isaac is a direct missile strike to Abraham’s heart.
What is your Isaac, the hope that is dearer to you than your own life? I pray the Lord reveals it to us all now so that we may prepare ourselves to bind it and deliver it to His hand, come what may, no questions asked.
Some would say it is oxymoronic that Abraham moves with joy to carry out the request to bind Isaac, but I don’t think so. I learned something from the death of my mother: it takes great joy to move through great pain. Nehemiah knew this when he told the grieving people in chapter 8 of his book “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” When the pain is overwhelming, there is no other source of power but joy. Joy is power. Joy isn’t the opposite of pain; it is the power to live and move despite the pain.
May we be prepared to joyfully surrender ourselves and our Isaacs to the Lord of Hosts, may he return speedily in our days, amen.