Son of Promise
“The Son of Promise.” That’s what Dad calls me: “The Son of Promise.” According to him, if all of God’s promises are going to come true, they will have to come true through me. No pressure, growing up, right? But I guess when you become a father at age 100, you’re allowed to be a little…how would you say it…eccentric.
“Laughter!” That’s what Mom calls me: “Laughter!” Well, I guess everyone calls me that: my name, Isaac, means laughter. But for Mom, it was more than just a name.
The way she tells the story, Mom named me laughter because of her joy at “finally having a baby at such an advanced age.”
I mean, I get it; around here, not having kids is grounds for divorce. But Dad was always a little different from our neighbors. He loved Mom all those years, even though they couldn’t have children. So when I finally came along, it’s no wonder Mom laughed!
But you see, I’ve also heard Dad tell the story of my naming. And because I’m always the Son of Promise to him, he tells it a bit differently.
both hands in fists on hips, imitating Abraham
“O, your mom laughed when you were born all right,” he says, “but I remember how she laughed the year before, laughed at an angel of God, can you believe it?”
(Dad would usually pat his belly and shake his great beard at that point for emphasis.)
“Your mother,” he would say, “laughed and laughed at the promise that she would give me a son from her own body. Never laugh at the promises of God, boy, your God can do the impossible.”
You have to stick out your chin when you say it:
one hand on hips, sticking out chin, and waving a finger.
“You God can do the impossible!”
That’s dad for you.
Isaac smiles to himself, as if thinking fondly of his parents. Then starts the telling of his story.
So, you can call me Isaac, or Laughter, or even Son of Promise - they’re all related…though I remember a time when they didn’t seem related at all. Dad clung to that Son of Promise bit, but Mom sure didn’t laugh when she found, later, after it was all over.
Oh and I heard that you talked about Mountains on Sunday, tonight, i’ll give you my mountain top story.
You might not know, but my dad is kind of a big deal in these parts. Although we don’t come from around here, Dad’s pretty well off, and he gets a lot of respect. So it wasn’t all that crazy for the old eccentric to decide we were going off on a field trip, especially if it meant to go and worship God, a God our neighbors didn’t quite understand.
I’m not sure Dad quite understood God all the time either, but when he didn’t understand completely…this is what I truly respect about Dad…he trusted God above all things. So the Almighty God told him, “go on a field trip.” — or something like that. And Dad packed up the donkey, Mom made sure we had food, and we each had a servant with us.
Mom took care of us in that regard.
I remember I thought it was pretty cool and excited to go on an adventure with Dad. I knew the trip was going to be special, because he had cut the wood for the sacrifice before we left. Dad didn’t think we would find enough kindling at the higher elevations…on the Mountain.
So we packed firewood and our tinderbox and headed up into the mountains. On the third day, Dad called for us to stop. I distinctly remember my Dad saying to the servants: “Wait her with the donkey while I and the boy go a bit further, to that peak in the distance. There we will worship, and then WE will come back to you.”
Dad took the tinderbox and I offered to carry the wood, so he put it on my shoulders. It was heavier than I expected, and I got a few splinters on my way up the mountain.
It wasn’t until we were almost there that I did the math and noticed we were missing something: “Hey dad? I see fire, and I see wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering? Did we forget it?”
Dad did what dad did, he stuck out his chin, as if he were trying to convince himself more than me,
one hand on hips, sticking out chin, and waving a finger
“God himself will provide the lamb for the sacrifice, my son.”
At that point, it almost sounded like a promise, but a promise he was working hard to believe…I think I saw a tear.
I’m not sure how Dad knew exactly where to stop, but it was a beautiful spot. You could hear a spring nearby, and the mountain we were on looked down on a young grove of olive trees one one side and a limestone peak on the other. Chucks of limestone littered our mountain too, and it only took a dozen or so to put together a suitable altar.
I helped dad lay out the wood carefully, in kind of a bowl shape, so it would cradle the offering while it burned. Dad placed the firebox right next to the limestone, then turned to face me.
He didn’t threaten. He didn’t beg. He didn’t try to explain. But I am pretty sure he was praying under his breath as he tenderly but firmly tied me hand and foot. If I hadn’t mentioned, I look up to dad for his trust in God’s Will.
If he had panicked, I am sure I would have too. But Dad just methodically prepared my body for sacrifice. It was all he could manage to get me up on the wood, and I caught a whiff of his old man sweat…he was over 100 years old after all, as he laid me down on the altar. He anointed me with the oil of sacrifice, it felt warm and sticky as it ran down my forehead.
The sharp smell of myrrh in the olive oil was quite strong. I found it suddenly hard to breathe, like I was drowning, and that was when it dawned on me and terror was growing inside of me. I didn’t want to die.
I couldn’t imagine my father ending me like this. His hopes and dreams for the future were tied up with me and my future. I knew what the Promise meant…He told me about it.Everything I was told, suddenly didn’t make sense.
Silently, the ceremonial knife appeared in his hand. I was paralyzed, all I could do was watching. My mind was wondering whether at this point if the promise was true…or all a sham.
Finally dad spoke: “Isaac, my son.” he cried. Then he stuck out his chin and said, “Your God can do the impossible!” And he raised his knife.
Then I looked at his eyes, and what I saw removed any doubts I had. I didn’t just see on his face a look of fear. Rather, it was more a look of love…and of trust.
I’ve told you the thing I admired about Dad is his trust in God. The trust in the promises of God was always the center of our family life. He taught us the importance of the promise and to trust in God, to trust in God’s will…for it’s his not ours. You know why he moved from back home to this strange place, right? It’s because God told him to. My father didn’t have a plan or destination in mind. God promised. God told him, “Go.” So Dad went.
That dependence on God and His promise is what I saw in his eyes, even as the blade of knife caught the sunlight and flashed. He told me later that the way he figured it, God could raise the dead if he wanted. I mean, there I was, the Son of Promise, living proof that the Almighty could bring life out of dead bodies. If I died - and stayed dead - then all of God’s promises couldn’t come true.
But Dad wasn’t willing to accept that. I was born a miracle, and a promise, he said, and a God who could bring life from death, was a God to be trusted, even when it doesn’t make sense.
Maybe his trust is contagous. Or maybe it’s just the way I was raised. But once I saw the truth in his eyes, I didn’t try to escape. I didn’t roll of that altar and run to the Israeli police. I mean, the cords on my hands were pretty tight - Dad had to cut them off afterwards.
But I didn’t ever try to get away. Dad trusted God’s promise; I trusted dad, and I too trusted God.
Then it was about to happen, Dad put his hands over my eyes, he didn’t want me to see what was going to happen next out of love. Only at that moment—at the last possible moment - God spoke up, he was there all along, I firmly believe that, but this time he speaks through the Angel of the Lord.
“Abraham, Abraham!” I hear that voice constantly. “Here I am,” Dad said, just like he always did when God spoke to him. My dad listened to the voice of God.
But this time I could hear it too, “Don’t lay a hand on the boy! I have seen, and now I know that you trust me above all else, since you were willing to give your son, your Son of Promise.”
With a great sob, Dad throws down the knife and grabs me of the firewood, much like a Father picks up his baby from the crib. And he holds me tight, and tells me he loves me as tears run down into that great beard of his.
The embrace, he later said, was like he had actually received me back from the grace. He fully intended to sacrifice me that day, thinking—hoping—trusting that God could raise the dead in order to keep his promises. But for the entire trip, three long days, I seemed dead to him, and now he had me, back to life!
So Dad was shaken up, and I was too. But we stood there in a long embrace…Dad looked up and saw a ram caught up by its horns in the thorn bush.
“I told you, my son! The Lord will provide!”
And that’s been the name of the mountain ever since: the Lord will provide. We have a family saying that I have told my kids and grand-kids, and it’s been passed down: “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
We got the ram, but it on the altar, my altar - and as I watched the smoke rise into heaven, I couldn’t help but think that i truly do have a God of promise. That my God provided a substitute in my place That my God can do the impossible.
Sorry, you have to stick out your chin when you say that:
hand on hips, sticking out his chin and waving a finger
“Your God can do the impossible!”
no longer imitating Abraham, with a faint smile, shaking his head and remembering
Your God can bring life back from the dead. Your God is God for you to trust. Your God is a God who always knows whats best and that is His will for you. Your God can do the impossible.