Now we come to the biggest demonstration of God's grace you'll find in the Abraham narrative. (Remember, "narrative" is just a fancy word for "story," but we use it sometimes with Biblical texts because it makes clear that this is true.) Abraham's life now seems like it's coming together. He has the son he was promised by God. The extra child, Ishmael, has been sent off into the wilderness. Sodom and Gomorrah are gone, Lot has gone off into the wilderness.
Abraham has covenants and treaties with the people around him. Everything should be just fine, it's time to watch the sheep multiply, get Isaac set up with a good wife, and retire.
Then God speaks.
And suddenly, everything changes. Abraham is told to take Isaac and sacrifice him. And he obeys---leaving me with more questions than answers. For example, what do you tell Sarah? I can imagine taking my son and heading off to a mountain three days away, carrying firewood, a big knife, and a bunch of rope. I don't think she'd let us go... But we have nothing about that.
We have one, faith-filled statement in Genesis 22:8, that "God will provide Himself the lamb..." Keep in mind, that can be punctuated several ways. All of which point to the actual result: that God provides the lamb for Himself in Genesis 22, and then God provides Himself, the Lamb, at Calvary.
We go from there to the death of Sarah and her burial. I think there's another question here, and it comes from the statement in Genesis 23:2 that she died in Hebron and Abraham went to mourn for her. What's the question? Genesis 22:19 has Abraham settled in Beersheba. Were they not together?
Next we get "Real Estate Transactions in the Ancient Near East for 600 Shekels, Alex..." where Abraham buys a field and the cave in it for a burial space. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will all be buried here. Depending on which commentary you read, either Abraham had to overpay for the place or he willingly overpaid so that the Hethites (or Hittites) would have to acknowledge his ownership. Having not been there, I don't know for certain, but what we do know is that it became his property, and there he buried his dead.
So, what do we learn? First of all, that when God speaks, it may just damage our calm. We like our calm lives, our calm situations...but when there is no challenge to our faith, what do our claims of fidelity mean? Compare Abraham's testing to Job's testing, and remember that God commands obedience or else He is not God. True, we know that God abhors human sacrifice, but it's because we have the rest of His Word.
Which means we have plenty of clear commands to obey, and a better, deeper explanation of who God is and what He requires than Abraham might have had. We are, then, completely without excuse.
Then there is the cost of life--realize that by the time Abraham dies, all that he owns on this earth is his burial ground. What are you buying? Land, houses, small kitchen appliances?
None of it goes with you---and none of it would have worth if it did.
We'll look at the quest for Isaac's wife in one lump, even though the reading plan splits it up.