“Akedah (The Binding of Isaac)”

Today’s sermon, takes a different look at what we believe is a familiar story—important in all three “Abrahamic” faiths (Islam, Judaism and Christianity)—asking: “What If?” What if, instead, this story is a description of the fall; a story of sin, and a world out of touch with the love of God? What if Abraham’s test was just that, a real test? And what if, for centuries, we’ve been wrong in assuming that Abraham passed his test? What if the real test was whether Abraham was willing to stand up, as a real father should, for himself and for his family and say NO? No to death. No to killing. What if Abraham’s leap of faith was a leap in the wrong direction? So, what if Abraham failed his test, as we so often fail ours? And what if God did, what God always does? What if God redeemed Abraham, and sent him on his way, promise intact? What if this story is about the forgiveness and faithfulness, not of one man—but of the forgiveness and faithfulness God?
(Illustration at right: The Akedah, by Alan Falk)

Scripture Reading: Genesis 22:1-19—The Binding of Isaac

1 After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 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 that I shall show you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. 

On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. And the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them walked on together.

When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide,” as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, says the Lord: Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies, 18 and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.” 19 So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beer-Sheba, and Abraham lived at Beer-Sheba.