We heat with wood. A thirty-two-year-old Ashley wood stove sits in the heart of our home—the kitchen and family room area. Our boys grew up watching their father labor with a chainsaw, axe, and splitting maul, eventually helping him load the eighteen inch lengths of wood into the pickup bed and then onto the wood racks. Every time a friend or neighbor lost a tree or several large limbs fell, the phone rang, and the three of them set off for a Saturday’s worth of work that kept us warm for a few days and the heating bill down where we could pay it.
At first those small boys could only carry one log at a time, and a small one at that. Wood is heavy if still unseasoned, and always rough and unwieldy. By the time they were 10, an armful numbered two or three standard logs, even the lighter, seasoned ones. They were 16 or older before they could come close to their father’s armload of over half a dozen logs, and grown men before they could match him log for log. Even that is a small amount of wood. In a damped woodstove, it might last half the night, but on an open fire barely an hour.
So I laugh when I see pictures of an 8-10 year old Isaac carrying four or five “sticks” up Mt Moriah behind his father Abraham. To carry the amount of wood necessary to burn a very wet animal sacrifice, Isaac had to have been grown, or nearly so, not less than 16 or 17, and probably older and more filled out. In fact, in the very next chapter, Genesis 23, Isaac is 37 years old. In chapter 21, his weaning, he is somewhere between 3 and 8, probably the older end, so all we can say for certain is he is between 3 and 37 at the time of his offering. Our experience with wood carrying tells me that he was far older than most people envision.
Do you realize what that means? This may well have been a test of Abraham’s faith, but it also shows that Isaac’s faith was not far behind his father’s. He could easily have over-powered his father, a man probably two decades north of 100, and gotten away. He, too, trusted that God would provide, even as he lay himself down on that altar and watched his father raise his hand.
How did he know? Because he watched God provide everyday of his life. He saw his father’s relationship with God, heard his prayers and watched his offerings, witnessed the decisions he made every day based solely on the belief in God’s promises, and his absolute obedience even when it hurt, like sending his brother Ishmael away (Gen 21:12-14). Isaac did not know a time when his family did not trust God, so he did too. “God will provide” made perfect sense to him.
When that young man carried that hefty load of wood up that mountain, he went with a purpose, based upon the example of his father’s faith and his Father’s faithfulness. Would your children be willing to carry that wood?
The living, the living, he thanks you, as I do this day; the father makes known to the children your faithfulness. Isaiah 38:19