Have you ever wondered that? I have, and the chances are that you have to. Abraham almost certainly must have been wondering that in today's reading from M'Cheyne's reading plan. After years of waiting he had finally received the son God had promised him, and now he's being asked to sacrifice him! What is God up to? How could he ask such a thing. Can you imagine what must have being go through Abraham's mind as he made that three day journey up to Moriah? And yet he went, he trusted.
What was God up to? Certainly God does not approve of child sacrifice, he stopped Abraham before he went through with the action (and what a relief it must have been to hear the words "Stop!"). Counter to the culture of the time that approved human sacrifice, God said "don't lay a hand on the boy.
Tim Keller, in his book "Counterfeit Gods" suggests that God was teaching Abraham the need to put God first, to love God more than he loved even his own precious son. If Abraham didn't learn this, he would have had a disordered love - loving the gift (Isaac) more than the giver (God) and such a love would have crushed Isaac with his expectations. God graciously taught Abraham and provided for him. On the mountain "the Lord will provide" the Lord provided, a ram instead of the boy. Abraham saw the goodness and graciousness of God, that he provides what he demands.
Many years later another precious only son would be tied to wood in the same mountains, but this time there would be no cry to stop as the precious Son of God was slain for us, providing for us. The ram could never take away our sins, but only the eternal Son of God sacrificed in our place. Such love, for us. It's helpful to view of all of life's experiences through that lens, start with the cross, know that God is loving and then interpret our experiences in the light of that love. It took me along time to see that, especially after losing my mum to cancer in her early 40's, but once I understood God's love shown at the cross, it changed everything.
"We have to know, to be assured, that God so loves, cherishes, and delights in us that we can rest our hearts in him for our significance and security and handle anything that happens in life." (Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods).