Story Ten

 •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 6
HOW AN ANGEL'S VOICE SAVED A BOY'S LIFE
YOU remember that in those times of which we are telling, when men worshipped God, they built an altar of earth or of stone, and laid an offering upon it, as a gift to God. The offering was generally a sheep, or a goat, or a young ox, some animal that was used for food. Such an offering was called "a sacrifice.”
But the people who worshipped idols often did what seems to us very strange, and very terrible. They thought that it would please their gods, if they would offer as a sacrifice the most precious living things that were their own; and they would take their own' little children and kill them upon their altars as offerings to the gods of wood and stone, that were no real gods, but only images, God wished to show to Ā́ bră-hăm, and all his descendants, those who should come after him, that he was not pleased with such offerings as those of living people, killed on the altars. And God took a way to teach Ā́ bră-hăm, so that he and his children after him would never forget it. Then at the same time he wished to see how faithful and obedient Ā́ bră-hăm would be to his commands; how fully Ā́ bră-hăm would trust in God, or as we should say, how great was Ā́ bră-hăm's faith in God.
So God gave to Ā́ bră-hăm a command which he did not mean to have obeyed, though this he did not tell to Ā́ bră-hăm. He said:
"Take now your son, your only son Ī́ s̞aac, whom you love so greatly, and go to the land of Mō˗rí̄ ah; and there, on a mountain that I will show you, offer him for a burnt offering to me.”
Though this command filled Ā́ bră-hăm's heart with pain, yet he would not be as surprised to receive it as a father would in our day; for such offerings were very common among all those people in the land where Ā́ bră-hăm lived. Ā́ bră-hăm never for one moment doubted or disobeyed God's word. He knew that Isaac was the child whom God had promised, and that God had promised, too, that Isaac should have children, and that those coming from Isaac should be a great nation. He did not see how God could keep his promise with regard to Ī́ s̞aac, if Ī́ s̞aac should be killed as an offering: unless, indeed, God should raise him up from the dead afterward. But Ā́ bră-hăm undertook at once to obey God's command. He took two young men with him, and an ass laden with wood for the fire; and he went toward the mountain in the north, Ī́ s̞aac his son walking by his side. For two days they walked, sleeping under the trees at night in the open country. And on the third day, Ā́ bră-hăm saw the mountain far away. And as they drew near to the mountain, Ā́ bră-hăm said to the young men:
"Stay here with the ass, while I go up yonder mountain with Ī́ s̞aac to worship; and when we have worshipped, we will come back to you.”
For Ā́ ră-hăm believed that in some way God would bring back Isaac to life. He took the wood from the ass, and placed it on Ī́ s̞aac, and the two walked up the mountain together. As they were walking Ī́ s̞aac said, "Father, here is the wood, but where is the lamb for the offering?" And Ā́ bră-hăm said, "My son, God will provide himself the lamb.”
And they came to the place on the top of the mountain There Ā́ bră˗hăm built an altar of stones and earth heaped up, and on it he placed the wood. Then he tied the hands and the feet of Ī́ s̞aac, and laid him on the wood on the altar. And Ā́ bră-hăm lifted up his hand, holding a knife to kill his son. A moment longer, and Isaac would be slain by his own father's hand. But just at that moment the angel of the Lord out of heaven called to Ā́ bră˗hăm, and said, "Ā́ bră-hăm! Ā́ brăhăm!" And Ā́ bră-hăm answered, "Here I am, Lord." Then the angel of the Lord said:
"Do not lay your hand upon your son. Do no harm to him. Now I know that you love God more than you love your only son, and that you are obedient to God, since you are ready to give up your son, your only son, to God." What a relief and a joy these words from heaven brought to the heart of Ā́ bră-hăm! How glad he was to know that it was not God's will for him to kill his son! Then Ā́ bră-hăm looked around, and there in the thicket was a ram caught by his horns. And Ā́ bră-hăm took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in place of his son. So Ā́ bră-hăm's words came true, when he said that God would provide for himself a lamb. The place where this altar was built Ā́ bră-hăm named Jē-hṓ vah-jī́ reh, words meaning, in the language that Ā́ bră-hăm spoke, "The Lord will provide.”
This offering, which seems so strange, did much good. It showed to Ā́ bră-hăm, and to Í̄ s̞aac also, that Ī́ s̞aac belonged to God, for to God he had been offered; and in Ī́ s̞aac, all those who should come from him, his descendants, had been given to God. Then it showed to Ā́ bră-hăm, and to all the people after him, that God did not wish children or men killed as offerings for worship; and while all the people around offered such sacrifices, the Ī́ s̝ra-el-ītes, who came from Ā́ bră-hăm and from Ī́ s̞aac, never offered them, but offered oxen and sheep and goats instead. And it looked onward to a time when, just as Ā́ bră-hăm gave his son as an offering, God should give his Son Jesus Christ to die for the sins of the world. All this was taught in this act of worship on Mount Mō-rī́ ah.
Some think that on the very place where this offering was given, the altar in the temple many years afterward stood on Mount Mō-rī́ ah. If that be true, the rock is still there, and over it is a building called "The Dome of the Rock." Many people now visit this rock under the dome, and think of what took place there so long ago. At this time Ā́ bră-hăm was living at a place called Bḗ ershḗba, on the border of the desert, south of the land of Cā́ năan. From Bḗ er-shḗbȧ he took this journey to Mount Mō-rī́ ah, and to Bé̄er-shē-bȧ he came again after the offering on the mountain. Bḗer-shē-bȧ was the home of Ā́bră-hăm during most of his late years. After a time, Sā́ rah, the wife of Ā́ bră-hăm and the mother of Ī́ s̞aac, died, being one hundred and twenty years old. And Ā́ bră-hăm bought of the people of Hḗ bron a cave, called the cave of Măch-pḗ lah; and there he buried Sā́ rah his wife. This place is still known as the city of Hḗ bron, but the people who live there will not allow any strangers to visit it.