When God Sees
So Abraham called the name of that place, "The LORD will provide"; as it is said to this day, "On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided." (Bereshit / Genesis 22:14; ESV)
The Akedah (The Binding of Isaac) is one of the most disturbing stories in all of Scripture. That God would direct Abraham to sacrifice his son and that Abraham would be willing to do such a thing should bother reasonable people. Knowing the whole story helps, since God stopped him at the last minute. But still, what kind of lesson can be learned from this? To answer that question, we should look at what Abraham learned.
We are told what he learned through the name he gave the place where this awful event occurred. He didn't call it "The Place of Sacrifice" or "The Place of Turmoil" or the "Salvation of My Son" or "I'm Glad That's Over With!" He called it "Adonai Yir-eh" (English: The LORD will provide). But what does that mean? Is it that God provided a substitute sacrifice for Isaac? The story might look like that, but not really. For when the angel stopped Abraham at the last minute, he didn't mention anything about the ram caught in the bushes nearby, but only delivered God's words of affirmation. So one would expect the memorial name of the place to be about that, but it isn't. Or maybe it is.
It is possible that the problem lies with how most English versions translate this verse. Most newer English translations prefer "provide" even though the verb here is actually a form of "to see," because in this kind of context, it usually implies seeing something in such a way to notice it and take action. So when God saw Abraham and Isaac in the predicament they were in, he wasn't just observing the situation from afar, he was deeply aware to the point of getting involved.
I understand that for most of us, the horrible thing about this story is that it claims God told a man to sacrifice his son. But it's actually worse than that since Isaac represented everything that Abraham lived for. To lose him meant to not only lose his beloved son, but to destroy the very future guaranteed to Abraham by God. Yet his willingness to do this was not some sort of fanatical abandonment to a religious ideal, but rather a most profound trust in the God of promise. God did not let him down. As Abraham allowed himself to be drawn into the most impossible of situations, God saw and God provided.
It is through Abraham that the Torah begins to reveal how human beings may be restored to the Creator God. It is through Abraham we begin to learn that even in the midst of death, God is present to bring life. The day would come when another son would be offered up, this time there would be no angel to stop the executioner's hand. But the result would be similar. God again would see; God again would provide. The Messiah would not stay dead, but through him death itself would be destroyed. And through him the gift of life and resurrection would be made available to all who would trust in him.
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