It was the killing stroke.

The knife was in the air and plunging down to snuff out the life of his son, whom he loved, when Avraham heard his name called out.

Even then, he could not have stopped if the Angel of the Lord had not helped him.  It had been left to the last minute, the last seconds before it would have been too late.  God wanted to know Avraham’s heart. He wanted to test his faith, that most powerful of weapons in the deadly battle for the redemption of mankind.

Avraham blinked hard a couple of times in an attempt to get his bearings.  He heard the voice again.

“Avraham, Avraham.”

He replied, “I am here.”

“Do not raise your hand against the boy,” the angel said.  “Do not harm him, for now I know you fear God.  You have not refused me your son, your only son.”

No, Avraham thought,  I could not refuse but, at times, I wanted to.  I am an old man and this is my son, whom I love.  He was born in laughter and laughter is his name.  But he was a gift in my old age and I cannot refuse the giver.

El Shaddai is a mighty God, full of compassion and love, and I could not refuse or doubt Him.  He would simply have raised Yitz´chak up again from the dead, if need be, to keep His promise that He swore to me on pain of death.  No, I could not refuse but it had not been easy. 

Looking up, Avraham saw a ram caught by its horns in a bush.  Avraham took the ram and offered it as a burnt offering in place of his son.  Avraham called this place, “Yahweh provides.”

It was the waiting that was most difficult, he remembered, for he had known that God required his son from him for a number of days already.  They had chopped the wood for the burnt offering and started on the journey to the mountain.  God would indicate the place.  On the third day they had arrived.

Then Abraham said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey.  The boy and I will go over there,” he indicated the mountain in the distance, about a days walk.  “We will worship El Shaddai, the Great God and then, we will come back to you.”  That was a statement of faith that had spontaneously sprung from his lips.    

Avraham took the wood for the burnt offering, loaded it on Yitz´chak, and carried in his own hands the fire and the knife.  Then the two of them set out together.

Yitz´chak spoke to his father Avraham.

“Father,” he said.

“Yes, my son,” he replied.

“Look,” he said, “here are the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

Avraham answered, “My son, God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering.”  Then the two of them went on together.

When they arrived at the place God had pointed out to him, Avraham built an altar there, and arranged the wood.  Suddenly he wondered how he would force his son to lie on the altar.  The thought of struggling with Yitz´chak filled him with dread; the task was difficult enough as it was.

But then he knew what he would do.

He approached Yitz´chak and, with strips of camel hide, he began to bind his hands.  Yitz´chak seemed to be as much amused as he was confused.  Although he inquired repeatedly, Avraham remained silent and did not answer his questions.

With a stubbornness born of the desert, Avraham completed the task, half dragging, half carrying Yitz´chak to the altar and pushing him upon it.  Yitz´chak cried out in pain as the sticks of wood struck him in the back.  But Avraham ignored his pleas and went about his task with single-minded determination, his bony face and hollow eyes a mirror of the death he was bringing upon his son, whom he loved.

He would put fire to the wood later, first he had to kill the sacrifice.  Already he was thinking of Yitz´chak as the sacrifice!  What strange thing is this, to what purpose this offering of his firstborn son?

But Avraham stretched out his hand and seized the knife to kill his son.  He had decided to do it swiftly and cleanly, so that Yitz´chak would not suffer.  His arm was coming down strongly in the killing stroke when he heard the Voice call out his name.

*****

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The Temptations of the Cross by Bert A. Amsing
Copyright © 2012 by vanKregten Publishers. All rights reserved.
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Footnotes and references included in original manuscript.