When Abraham was one hundred years old, God finally gave him and Sarah the son of promise—Isaac. And with Isaac came the fulfillment of the covenant between God and Abraham, and, with that fulfillment, the blessings of God.
We don't know much about Isaac's childhood, but scholars suggest that somewhere between ten and twenty years after his birth "God tested Abraham . . ." (22:1).
[God] said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." He said, "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." (verses 1–2)
I don't know about you, but I struggle with what God commanded and asked of Abraham. If you have children, you want to banish from your mind immediately the thought of losing one. I don't think I could imagine anything that could cause more hurt or despair. In a very real way, this is what Abraham was having to wrestle through. He didn't have the luxury of knowing how this story was going to end. Isaac was his son, his only son. God desired for Abraham to give to him that which Abraham treasured the most: his promised son.
Knowing God requires us to lay everything on the altar of sacrifice. It begins with a complete and total renunciation of our own dreams, desires, maybe even identity. Only those who are serious about their relationship with God will ascend this mountain. The question God had for Abraham in that moment is the same question he has for me and you today: "Do you trust me? Do you want to know me? Do you treasure me above all other things? Do I have your heart?"
I love how Abraham responded:
So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him (Genesis 22:3).
Abraham walked by faith. He was going where God had called him to go and doing what God told him to do. Surrender. Obedience. The journey to knowing God begins with a choice, just one step of faith. This is how Abraham made it up the mountain, and it's what will get us up the mountain.
If you want to experience and know God, it starts by surrendering your entire life to God's will and to his Word. This isn't an easy decision or journey. The temptation as we ascend this mountain is to focus on what we are giving up or what we are called to sacrifice. This will only stall our progress up the mountain. The way of wisdom is to put our focus on God and trust him one step at a time, one day at a time.
But we can't forget the dramatic conclusion to this story:
Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." He said, "Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me" (Genesis 22:10–12).
Abraham's absolute obedience stirred the heart of the God who promises and provides. And there, caught in a thicket by its horns, was a ram. There was a substitution on the mountain that day. Abraham sacrificed the ram instead of his son.
Was it worth it to follow God up the mountain? Absolutely. On that mountain, Abraham came to know God in a new way. God showed Abraham that . . . When you have me . . . When you lean on me . . . When you trust in me . . . When you walk with me . . . When you follow me to the mountain, you will find that I am your perfect provision. My promises are all you need. My grace is sufficient.
On the mountain, God changes our perspective of who he is. There we find that he's not heartlessly putting us through tests, seeing whether he can cause us to stumble. On the mountain, we see that God provides everything we need. He gives us an experiential knowledge of his promises and his presence.
When we answer God's call to the mountain and learn of his provision, God changes our perspective of ourselves too. He shows us that we can climb the mountain of sacrifice knowing that he is faithful and he will make himself known.
Adapted from The Mountains Are Calling: Making the Climb for a Clearer View of God and Ourselves. Copyright © 2018 Jarrett Stephens. Published by Multnomah, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.