Mining the Word: The Ram

Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife.  So the two of them walked 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.”  So the two of them walked on together. (Genesis 22:6- 9)

Ten years ago hijackers, after months of preparation, boarded their planes blindly devoted to a cause they believed was God’s own.    I awakened this morning to the Abraham/Isaac
passage, the Biblical picture of blind devotion.

Abraham is known as the one who goes when God says “go” (Genesis 12: 1 – 4).  After the tower of Babel, when people built a tower that they might be like god, this is a welcome
change.  Finally there is someone who listens to God’s command.   Sarah, Abraham’s wife, is an old woman when God’s promise to Abraham for a son is fulfilled. Then, one day, for no apparent reason, God demands Abraham take Isaac to the mountain and sacrifice him.

The story is long and drawn out.  As on that fateful day ten years ago, careful preparations were made, wood was cut, provisions collected.  This was a carefully planned sacrifice that
God might be pleased.

We watch the father and son walking together up the mountain carrying the wood and knife, the tools of the sacrifice.  The son speaks… Father.

Abraham responds, “Here I am,” words that prophets would later speak when God calls (Isaiah 6:8).

“Here I am, my son” …Isaac, his only son.

The young boy, Isaac, says, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

There is no inner struggle suggested in Abraham.  We don’t see him asking God to take away this cup of poison.  There’s no vision of Abraham in prayer.  There’s no anger or
sadness or emotion of any kind suggested.  As he did from the very beginning, he simply obeys.  He speaks what has become a cliché in our time…”God will provide” and continues on his course.

Abraham builds an altar, he lays the wood in order, he binds his son Isaac, and lays him down upon the altar.  He raises the knife to kill his son.

Blind obedience leads to unimaginable cruelty.

God won’t have it. God shouts from the page, “Abraham, Abraham…do not lay your hand on the boy…for now I know that you fear God because you’ve not withheld your only son
from me.”

And as if he had been awakened from a dream, “Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns.”

A ram caught in the thicket by its horns.

Just as the rainbow was the picture of promise that the world never would be cleansed again, the ram is the picture that God will never require us to be blindly devoted.   We
are not to leave behind emotion, or love, or reason, in order to be faithful.  “Stay awake” Jesus commands.

A group of passengers awakened to the desire of the blindly devoted and they brought down the plane before it could hit its mark.

Stay awake.  It may not be the end time, but it is only a short while that we get to walk on this earth.  Stay awake, allowing all your being to enter into your relationships, your work, and your prayers.  Question, struggle, cry, shout, laugh and love with God.   The ram is in the brambles.  You, who are so very human, go and live.

In Christ,

Heather

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