‘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’ (Gen 22:14).
In Abraham’s time, this story would have been shocking for the opposite reason it is shocking to us today. The gods of the cultures around Abraham were selfish, callous, and uncaring. They wanted sacrifice, and human sacrifices were the ultimate. That command Abraham received – ‘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’ (v2) – would be considered completely normal.
What would have been shocking to them, however, is the grace from God! The sudden appearance of the angel calling out for Abraham to stop before completing the sacrifice would be completely unfamiliar. Grace and kindness were not characteristics prized in those societies. Instead, they were brutal and sexualised, and the gods were worshipped through brutality and sex.
In our culture, what is shocking is not the call for Abraham to stop, but the fact he was given the command to sacrifice his son at all! The gods of our culture aren’t gods who command us to sacrifice; they’re gods who invite us to enjoy our sinful pleasures and be enslaved by them. Our culture is not opposed to kindness, but to sacrifice of any kind.
But we have a God who not only demands sacrifice but is the one who in kindness and grace gave himself as that sacrifice. God provided a ram in Gen 22, but he provided his own Son as the Lamb in the Gospel. What else could we do but give everything we are and have to him?