There’s an iconic scene from the movie Princess Bride when the Farm Boy, Wesley, in an attempt to woo the Maiden, Buttercup, goes about every task she puts before him. After every request he simply responds, “As you wish.” Over time she realizes that when he says, “As you wish,” it is actually a declaration of his love for her, as though he is saying, “I love you.” Classic. I suspect we are prepared to think such a clever dialogue only exists in cinema and not in Scripture. But we would be wrong.
Three times in our OT reading Abraham is called upon, and he simply replies, “Here am I.” God places a difficult task before him, a test, and Abraham goes about it. Before he even knows the test, Abraham is a willing servant of the LORD. His “Here am I” is an obedient “As You wish,” before God. But here’s where things get more than a little dicey. “God tested Abraham and said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here am I.’ He said, ‘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 of which I shall tell you (vv. 1-2).’”
We don’t need to think too deeply before we turn Abraham’s willing, “As You Wish” into an objectionable, “YOU WISH!” What kind of father is Abraham if he follows through with this execution? He’s only waited for Isaac a very long time, and had been promised by God that “through Isaac shall your offspring be named (Gen. 21:12).” What is going on here? Should we always follow God’s Word or just as long as it is suitable to us?
If we can relate, for a moment, to the season of Lent perhaps the absurdity of God’s sacrifice of Isaac can be understood. Unknown to Abraham; the sacrifice of his son, his only son, his beloved son, is that it points ahead to the Messiah. God uses this test of Abraham and Isaac to make certain our understanding of our heavenly Father and Jesus. That if God’s plan is to kill the son, and cut off the heritage, God’s plan must be for our good. As awful as it may seem, God knows best and better than we do.
The journey to the cross begins before the foundations of the world. Lent is a season we meditate upon this truth, that the world is created good, but in the Godly foreknowledge that it will need redemption. That you will need a Redeemer. St. Paul writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ…In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace…(Eph. 1:3, 4, 5, 7).”
To worldly eyes, the crucifixion of Jesus is no more horrific than the near-slaying of Isaac. Both are madness, a disturbing faith. Are you disturbed? A crazy Christian? The test of faith is ongoing for you. When God calls you by his Word to believe and follow him, do you say, “Here am I.” or “As You wish.” OR do you follow your heart, a more cheerful version of God?
Let’s make sense of all of this. Often the narrative of Abraham and Isaac goes like this: Abraham is told by God to sacrifice his son. Abraham and Isaac travel a great distance to the Mountain of Moriah. Isaac calls to his father, Abraham a second time says, “Here am I, my son (v. 7).” Isaac wonders to his father why they don’t have a sacrificial lamb. Abraham at worst tells a white lie or at best tells Isaac to not worry about it. To make things go smoothly Isaac is made to carry the wood for sacrifice so that he can become tired and cannot struggle against his aged father as he’s being tied up—which would have been a complete surprise to Isaac. But how are you supposed to understand this Biblical account? What does it mean for you?
It may be true that Isaac is given to carry the wood to tire him OR it may be that this too points ahead to Christ. A foreshadowing to all generations up to and after the Crucifixion of Jesus, of God’s good plan of salvation. That as Jesus humbled himself even to carry his own cross to Mt. Calvary so here Isaac humbles himself to this fate and carries his own beams of destruction to Mt. Moriah. After all, there is a historical precedent that as Abraham replied to Isaac, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son (v. 8a).” Isaac became aware that he was the sacrifice. Surprisingly, this scene concludes with the surreal resolve of father and son to continue onward, “so they went both of them together (v. 8b).”
You must know something, as awful or as great as life is, God gives us our lives as a foreshadowing of what is to come. That what awaits for you in eternity is far greater than you can imagine. That as cruel as life can be, in Christ there is comfort and everlasting peace that awaits you. That as fulfilling as life can be, in Christ your cup overflows and salvation’s joy surpasses whatever pleasures, good or sinful, you may be inclined towards. So whatever your life may be to you; God’s Word calls you to a life of repentance, trusting in Christ when tested, and following wherever God’s Word may lead you.
Abraham and Isaac trusted in God. They did not live lives without sin, but trusted by faith, that when tested God would see them through—to redeem, forgive, and restore them. They were willing to sacrifice; the father his beloved son’s life, and the son his father’s love. “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac…He considered that God was able even to raise [Isaac] from the dead (to accomplish his promise to Abraham) (Heb. 11:17, 19).” But before Abraham’s hand and knife could sacrifice his son, God intervened from heaven, “‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here am I.’ He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me (vv. 11-12).’”
The execution of the beloved and only son is stayed until the time of Jesus. Where the our heavenly Father does not prevent the sacrifice nor does Jesus turn away from Mt. Calvary. But for you becomes your substitution, having received all your sins, he goes there to bring you blessing. Jesus is the Ram in the thicket; caught up by the thorns of his brow, pierced in his love for you. His “Here am I.” sounds like “It is Finished.” but you may hear it as Christ’s unconditional and eternal declaration of, “I love you.”