“Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14)
That’s the question at the heart of Abraham’s story—and at the heart of every Christian’s story. Over and over again, God asks Abraham and Sarah to step out in faith and trust him while doing the impossible and the unthinkable.
They leave their country and their family so they can live like strangers in a land that their descendants won’t inherit until four centuries later. When God promises them a son, they laugh at first, but through faith, 90-year-old Sarah conceives, and 100-year-old Abraham becomes the father of a miracle—a baby boy named Isaac.
Laughter. That’s what Isaac means. He was the baby boy who made them laugh—first incredulously, then with joy.
And then, one night, God comes to Abraham with a command:
“Take now 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” (Genesis 22:2).
What happens next? “So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him” (Genesis 22:3).
* * *
If you’re wondering why Abraham looks like such a cold, emotionless robot in these verses, remember that Genesis is a book condensing more than 2,000 years of human history into 50 chapters. There’s not a lot of room for exposition. But—and this is an important principle when reading the Bible in general—just because the Biblical account doesn’t mention anything between verses two and three, we can’t conclude that nothing happened between verses two and three. That’s a logical fallacy called an argument from silence, and it’s an easy trap to fall into.
John wrote the last of the four canonized gospel accounts, and even he had to conclude his account with, “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25).
The fourth attempt to summarize a three-and-a-half-year ministry, and John still feels compelled to say, “There aren’t enough books in the world to hold the entire story.”
I can pretty much guarantee you that, sandwiched between verses two and three of Genesis 22 was the worst night of Abraham’s life. (And this was a man whose wife had been abducted into the haram of a king—twice!)
Do you think he spent the night staring at the ceiling of the tent? Do you think he cried? Do you think he begged God for another way, another option?
The Bible doesn’t say. We don’t know. And there is the opposite ditch of arguments from silence—it’s so easy to project our own thoughts and reactions into the story, inserting ourselves into the narrative. But we know from God’s own words that Abraham loved his son dearly, and so we can be certain that he wasn’t the unflappable stoic that verse three makes him appear to be.
He was a man wrestling with faith and doubt.
God had given him a promise—an ironclad, unshakable promise that Isaac would be the one through whom God’s promises would be fulfilled. Through Isaac, Abraham would become “a father of many nations” (Genesis 17:4).
But now, in no uncertain terms, God was telling Abraham to kill that child.
How could it be? How could God fulfill His promises if the son He had promised was about to die? It didn’t make sense. It wasn’t humanly possible.
And I wonder if, while wrestling with these thoughts, that old familiar question from decades earlier came drifting through Abraham’s mind once again:
Is anything too hard for the LORD?
* * *
Abraham and Isaac spent three days traveling toward the mountains of Moriah.
I wonder what they talked about.
With their destination in sight, Abraham tells the two young men who came with them, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you” (Genesis 22:5).
I remember reading that verse when I was younger. I assumed it was a lie meant to put the servants and Isaac at ease. Abraham knew he was climbing that mountain to sacrifice his son—how could he possibly have expected to walk back down with Isaac by his side?
And later, when Isaac asks where the lamb for the offering is, Abraham answers, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:8). That felt like a lie, too. The only lamb in this equation was Isaac—the boy who had brought laughter into his life.
But Abraham wasn’t lying.
That’s such an important part of this story.
He trusted God. He understood that “with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). Isaac would be the father of great multitudes, through whom God would bless the earth—but first, he would have to be a sacrifice.
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.
Abraham believed what he told his servants, and he believed what he told Isaac. He and his son would be coming back down the mountain together. God would provide a lamb for the sacrifice. God had made a promise, and Abraham knew that not even death could stand in its way.
* * *
It’s easy to assume that Isaac was the unwilling participant in all of this, but don’t forget—he was strong enough to carry the wood for offering, and Abraham was well over 100 years old at this point. It wouldn’t have been very difficult for Isaac to cut and run once he put two and two together.
Instead, he stays. Why? We don’t know. But he does, and it speaks volumes.
The rest of the story is pretty familiar to most of us. As Abraham picks up the knife and prepares to end his son’s life, the angel of the LORD calls out to Abraham, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, 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” (Genesis 22:12).
Abraham looks up and finds a ram waiting for him. He sacrifices it on the altar, and calls the name of that place YHWH Yireh—”The-LORD-Will-Provide” (Genesis 22:14). God adds even more blessings to Abraham for his obedience—including a Messianic promise (Genesis 22:18)—and father and son return down the mountain.
Just like Abraham said they would.
* * *
Here’s my thesis:
Abraham’s name for the site of the sacrifice was a mindset, not a reaction. It’s easy to look at it as a reaction—a father, overwhelmed with relief at God’s intervention, expresses his gratitude for the God Who Provides.
But there’s more to it than that. Remember, Abraham was already expecting God to provide an offering. He was already expecting to walk back down the mountain with Isaac.
And that, to me, is one of the most important lessons of this story: Abraham had decided that God was the God Who Provides long before he reached out to take that knife—long before Isaac had asked where the lamb for the offering was—long before he told the young men to wait for him to return with his son.
He didn’t have all the puzzle pieces figured out, but he didn’t need to. He knew who he served—YHWH Yireh, the God Who Provides. The God who has the power to provide—and the wisdom and the love to know how and when.
Life is filled with moments where we’re forced to decide whether or not we truly believe in the God Who Provides—moments when we can’t see the bigger picture; moments when solutions aren’t obvious to us.
Nothing about those moments are easy—but they’re definitely easier when we put our trust in YHWH Yireh before we go up the mountain.
Is anything too hard for the LORD?
Until next time,