During Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish community traditionally reads the Akedah, the story of the binding of Isaac in Genesis 22. The sounding of the shofar (ram’s horn) reminds us of the ram sacrificed in Isaac’s place. The Akedah shows how faith requires risk.
When God calls to Abraham, he immediately responds, “Here I am.” Abraham was attentive to God’s voice, and he obediently followed His instruction. God told Abraham to take Isaac and go to the land of Moriah. Four times God emphasizes which son He requires Abraham to take on his journey by repeating: “your son,” “your only one,” “whom you love,” “Isaac.” The fourfold repetition of these references to Abraham’s son emphasizes Isaac’s position as the son of promise. God is asking Abraham to surrender everything.
Abraham does not ask any questions. He does not challenge God’s motives or dispute God’s sanity. He immediately begins taking the necessary steps to follow God’s instructions obediently. He wakes up early in the morning, gathers his entourage and makes the preparations for the journey. Abraham does not delay or waste any time in fulfilling God’s command. Abraham had waited years for Sarah to give birth to the son through whom God had promised to make a great nation. Even though God’s command seems to contradict His earlier promise, Abraham did not hesitate in carrying out His instruction.
When Abraham and his entourage arrive at the mountain he confidently explains to his servants that he and his son will go up the mountain to offer a sacrifice, and that both will return to the base camp. On their way up the mountain, Isaac inquired about the lamb for the burnt offering. Abraham replied with certainty, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.”
Although Abraham did not know exactly how God would supply his need, he understood that God would not abandon him, nor would He fail to keep His promise of making a great nation through Isaac. At the last moment, after Abraham had bound Isaac and placed him upon the altar, the Angel of the Lord stopped Abraham from slaying his son. Abraham then noticed a ram caught in the thicket by its horns, which he offered as a sacrifice in place of Isaac.
Abraham’s faithful obedience reminds us that we will never experience a robust relationship with God until we step out in faith. Too often we would rather have a life of safety and control than a vibrant life courageously following God. Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost write in their book, The Faith of Leap: Embracing a Theology of Risk, Adventure & Courage, “When our need for security becomes obsessive, we remove ourselves from the journey of discipleship!”
Faith does not promise a life that is safe or secure, nor does it guarantee an easy life. Faith requires risk. It forces us to follow God into a life of adventure. If we don’t risk our safety and security by stepping out in faith, we will never experience God’s provision. If Abraham had not risked everything and obediently followed God’s instruction, he would not have discovered God’s provision and blessing.