Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,Genesis 22:9-10; Isaiah 53:7
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
The sacrifice that was not and the one that was. The one stopped and the one allowed to happen. The Sacrifice of Isaac and the Sacrifice of the Suffering Servant. Today I encountered you in both of these passages, brought together for me in a manner that was undeniably fraught with tension and stress. Juxtaposed passages of sacrifice and reprieve, you grasped and frightened me in a way that I find hard to explain. Indeed, I don’t know what to fully make my meeting of you in passages I can only describe as uneasy reading on the eve of your Good Friday, the eve of the sacrifices of sacrifices, one of ultimate and lasting significance.
Are you Isaac or are you the Servant? Perhaps both? What am I to make of this pardon and conviction? Why were you silent, why did you not speak when your father raised his hand against you? And where was your voice when your oppressors afflicted you? I find the silence deafening, saddening. For it would have only taken one word from you and the madness would have ceased. I do not understand how a parent could harm a child, harm an innocent. Barbarous and monstrous is such a responsibility that provokes one to cause suffering and death. For in both I desire to save you. Oh, how I want to save you! To rescue you from the hands of Abraham, your very father! To save you from those that sentenced you to death. You were saved once, but not twice. “The Lord will provide” only rang true once.
Tears! Oh, the tears! How they pour down my face when I think of your innocence. How does a parent not weep at the sound of their child’s voice? The voice of innocence that asks, “Where is the lamb?” The voice that cries in pain and anguish as he “poured out his soul to death.” And yet, there in the silence a voice was heard. Was it the voice you thought you would hear? Was it the voice that you expected? A voice of salvation and a voice of death. “Do not lay your hand on the boy…” followed by the voice of a strange will wishing “to crush him…”
No child should have to endure such pain. No child should have to endure such grief. The omission of the father, the omission of the parent, which saves one but not the other. What kind of cruel satisfaction comes from the lamb “led to the slaughter”? You! I pour my soul to you, to the one upon the altar of sacrifice. Will you not come down? Will you not raise your hand? Your voice? Surely these times require action, not passivity? I hear you in Isaac, “My father!” I hear you in the Servant who “opened not his mouth.” Oh God no, it is too much. Please take these passages from me. They scar my soul as I think of your torment and pain and imagine it as my child’s, my very love. What kind of parent can endure the call of their child who asks, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Did you say this as you watched your own father raise the knife to strike you? Did you say this as you were “smitten by God, and afflicted”?
Only once were you saved. Two sacrifices, one death.
Note: All quoted scripture from the ESV
Photo: ”’The Sacrifice of Isaac”’ by Caravaggio (1590-1610; Oil on canvas; Uffizi). Wikimedia. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Sacrifice_of_Isaac_by_Caravaggio.jpg