The Old Testament lesson in today’s Daily Office comes from Genesis 22 – the story of Abraham and his “almost sacrifice” of his son Isaac. This is a complex narrative; one that makes it hard to know whether Abraham is the hero, the fool, or a little bit of both. But regardless of the interpretive questions that one brings to this text – or the answers that one takes from it – I don’t think there are many passages in the entire Bible that are as full of pathos (and promise) as the exchange that takes place about mid-way through.
As Isaac carries the wood upon which his body will soon be offered, he asks his father: “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” And Abraham replies, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”
What parent can help but shudder at the thought of any harm coming to a beloved child, let alone becoming the source of their child’s suffering? But as we know, Isaac is spared; and God does, indeed, provide a lamb. In the mystery of God’s eternal purpose, the Father, the Son and the Spirit pour themselves out in a mutual act of self-giving love; and we are saved.
I’m not sure that I can begin to understand the “Glorious Exchange” that is made possible by the events of this Good Friday. But perhaps I was never meant to understand. I was meant only to contemplate the wondrous love, which on a cruel cross gave me life.
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.