Abraham believed God (Gen 15:6), yet he didn’t understand how God’s promises would come to pass. Having been called out of his homeland and promised land, people, and blessing (12:1-4), he struggled with the obstacles standing in the way of those promises. Where, for instance, was his heir (15:2)?
Even after God tells Abraham that his “very own son” will be his heir (15:4), Abraham is faced with the reality of his wife Sarah who was barren (11:30). Seeking to solve this problem, Abraham looks to Hagar, Sarah’s Egyptian servant, for a child. Ishmael is born and, for the next thirteen years, Abraham believes Ishmael will be his heir. At that point, God tells Abraham, “Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac” (17:19).
After sending Hagar and Ishmael away (21:8-21), God tests Abraham by commanding him to sacrifice Isaac (22:1-2). Abraham does not question God as he has done in the past (18:22-33) but readies himself, Isaac and two servants for a journey to the land of Moriah (22:3-4). As they get closer, Abraham leaves his servants with the donkey and he and Isaac continue up the mountain (22:5). When Isaac asks his father why he has not brought a lamb for the offering, Abraham simply replies, “God will provide for himself the lamb for the burnt offering my son” (22:7-8).
With Isaac to the altar, Abraham raises the knife to sacrifice his son, but the angel of the Lord stops him saying, “Now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me” (22:10-12). Abraham looks up and sees a ram stuck in a thicket. He sacrifices the ram instead of Isaac and names the place “the Lord will provide” (22:14).
His willingness to sacrifice his son is an act of surrender. Abraham does not know how God will fulfill his promises if Isaac is not alive, yet Abraham knew that God would (cf. Heb 11:17-19).
We surrender to God by allowing our faith to be made complete by our works (James 2:22-24). As we demonstrate our willingness to set aside our ambitions, desires, and understandings to follow God’s lead, we begin to live a life surrendered to Him.