A Filial Dread of Offending

David Bast

READ : Genesis 22:1-14

Now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son . . . from me. (v. 12)

Genesis 22 offers a story about Abraham that is both more familiar to us and more flattering to the patriarch than the one in Genesis 20. We know, and Abraham did too, that God does not want literal human sacrifice. We also know, as Abraham did not, that God himself would provide his own Son as the ultimate sacrifice, and in just about the same place where Abraham found that ram caught in a thicket. (The mountain where Abraham built his altar was later the site of the Temple in Jerusalem.)

For Abraham the trial consisted in responding to a clear command from the Lord that seemed to destroy the equally clear promise of the Lord to bless him through Isaac. Yet Abraham obeyed because he trusted God to provide a way. His obedience also proved another thing. “Now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son . . . from me.”

Biblical scholar Alec Motyer defines the fear of the Lord as “a filial dread of offending God.” Fear prompts us to obey God, not so much because we are afraid he will
punish us if we don’t but because we value our relationship with the Father we love and who loves us. “What does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him . . . and to keep the commandments of the Lord” (Deut. 10:12).


Lord, help me to do what’s required.