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Friend of God

What kind of God would ask a father to sacrifice his son? A God who did so Himself would be the short answer, but there’s more to be said on the matter (how could there not be?).

We shouldn’t view James’ use of the episode at Moriah as simply making a doctrinal point about the nature of saving faith. He certainly does that, but in keeping with his topic, he’s not as interested in winning an argument as he is in challenging his audience to take their trust in God to a deeper level. He’s interested in seeing them mature to the point that they can approach their testing (1:2), in a similar manner as Abraham did (Genesis 22:1). He’s after inspiration as well as insight.
 
And what a story it is. The stark reality of having to decide between your child and your God should be enough to make any of us to take off our sandals in recognition of the holy ground we’re on. And as others have pointed out, God wasn’t asking Abraham for an instantaneous burst of great faith (which he could reflect upon later) --- he had three excruciating days to mull it all over (v. 4). And like many of us --- having time to think over things sometimes led to him wavering (12:20ff,20:1ff). Furthermore, Isaac wasn’t a baby or child, he was big enough to carry the wood (v. 6). 
 
There's that precious moment when Isaac asks his father where their sacrifice is and Abraham can't bear to tell him what's happening --- only that God will provide (v. 7-8).  You can feel the ache in his heart as he protects his boy until the very end. (Yes, v. 5 has that nice little bit about "we will come back to you," which the Hebrews writer comments on in 11:13, but for all of his belief that God could bring his son back from the dead, there was still the putting to death of him that had to precede it. I mean, how much easier would believing your child would be resurrected make it for you to put them to death?). 
 
Abraham builds the altar and then we're told, "He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar," (v. 10).  Did Abraham finally explain everything to Isaac?  If so, what was his reaction?  Did he resist being bound?  Did he kick and scream when he was placed on the altar?  The text is silent on these matters.  The straightforward manner in which the narrative is related makes it all seem passive, but we don't know that to be the case.  The fact that he was bound and that the Scripture doesn't speak of Isaac's faith would seem to suggest otherwise.  
 
How painful it all must have been to Abraham.  How cruel God must have seemed to give he and Sarah a son after so long only now to require him to be sacrificed.  Abraham had so many reasons not to obey God and only one reason to do so --- he trusted Him with everything in his life.
And for this he is called the friend of God.
 
Everyone is loved by God, but not everyone is the friend of God. That is reserved for those who have surrendered to Him (John 15:14ff).  Their walk isn't flawless or perfect, but it is constant and consistent.  In the words of Nietzsche, they practice a long obedience in the same direction. 
 
Doesn't this story stir in us a holy hunger to live such a life?  I think that's exactly what James wanted to impart to his readers.
 
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