God provides

One day, God dealt Abraham an untenable command. “Take Isaac, whom you love, and offer him as a human sacrifice on a mountain I’ll show you in Moriah.”

Abraham got up early from a restless night’s sleep and woke his son. He saddled a donkey and cut up some wood for a burnt offering. Taking a couple of servants with him, Abraham and his son headed north for Moriah. After three days of travel, he looked out and saw the place God had designated for the altar.

“Stay here with the donkey and supplies,” Abraham told his servants. “Isaac and I will go up, worship, and then return.” Abraham gave the wood to his son, while he carried the lighted firepot and the knife. They walked together up the steep hill to the place of worship.

“Father,” Isaac called out as they walked along. “We have fire and wood, but where is the lamb for our offering?”

“God himself will bring the lamb, son,” Abraham said, a lump welling in his throat. They continued to walk on together. “God always provides for the faithful.”

When they reached the right spot, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood accordingly. Next, he bound his son and lifted him up onto the platform.

Abraham brought the sharp knife close to the boy’s throat for a quick, clean cut, and with tears searing his face, an angel from God called out from the sky. “Abraham!”

Abraham halted, the knife tremoring in his hand. “Here I am,” he ejaculated.

“Don’t harm the boy in any way,” he answered. “I know now that you fear God since you’ve withheld nothing you treasure.”

Abraham cut the cords that bound his son and wiped the tears from his bloodshot eyes. He looked up and spotted a ram, its horns tangled in a thicket. Taking the animal, he put it onto the woodpile in place of his son and offered it up as a sacrifice to God.

For the remainder of the time they worshiped on the mountain, and neither Abraham nor Isaac spoke. Amidst the smoke and silence, the angel called out. “God promises by his own name that because you’ve been obedient and not withheld your treasure from me, I will absolutely bless you and make your family as numerous as the stars in the sky. They will conquer their enemies, and by them, all nations will be blessed.”

Abraham and his beloved son returned to the servants who were camping below, unaware of the profound experience both men of God received. In the morning they got up and traveled down to Beersheba.

Abraham settled there, and word reached him that his brother Nahor became the father of eight sons, of whom, Bethuel became the father of a little girl named Rebekah.

Inspiration: Genesis 22

Cain’s tattoo

Adam and Eve settled in a valley somewhere east of paradise and eventually had two sons: Cain, a farmer, and Abel, a shepherd.

Each son offered part of their yield on an altar, a gesture of faith in their God’s continued provision. Underneath a blistering sun, Cain would throw together an indiscriminate mix of berries and greens and scatter them upon the unwrought stone. Abel, on the other hand, would take from the firstborn of his flocks, carefully cut the choicest sections of meat from the bone, and burn them down to a charred powder.

Abel’s labor of love pleased God, so he blessed him with healthy flocks and herds. But he ignored Cain’s offering, and the elements of nature showed no mercy. Over time, grubs and vermin ravaged whatever fruit the sun or frost didn’t take in their season.

God asked Cain in a dream, “If you offer your best, will you not be blessed?” Then he saw a hideous serpent showing a fang through his curled lip and hissing like a hot spring. Cain inched closer to seize the viper and snap its neck, but the unholy creature struck his ankle and bit clean through the ligament.

Cain let out a visceral shriek and awoke with a start.

On a brisk morning after, Abel was leading Cain to a new field he thought might produce food for them. Cain, lagging a few steps behind, gathered his bronze sickle with both hands.

“Abel,” Cain said, a pipe of steam on his breath.

Abel turned, and Cain swung the tool swiftly and surely, lopping his brother’s head off.

Cain stood stock still and watched the blood drain from his brother’s body. The soil drank it eagerly, darkening the earth around his torso like an unholy shadow.

God haunted Cain’s nightly dreams with the question, “What have you done with Abel?”

“When did he fall under my watch?” Cain asked the wraith, writhing in a pool of cold sweat. “I’m not his guardian.”

A cold shadow emerged from the ground where Abel’s carcass lay rotting, and his blackened blood cast a spell on the new field. Soon rumors about his treachery echoed in the valley, and Cain became a wanted nomad.

Withered by malnutrition and paranoia, Cain eventually begged for God to rescue him from his misery. God met him with tenderness and mercy.

“If anyone kills you,” he promised, “I will give them a sevenfold punishment.” God burned a mark into the outcast’s flesh to deter anyone from assaulting him, and Cain settled in the land of Nod. From his family tree came some of the earliest civilized people, including shepherds in man-made huts, musicians, and smiths.

God eventually blessed Adam and Eve with another son, Seth. From Seth’s family tree came godly men such as Enoch the Consecrated One.

Enoch walked with God, just as Adam and Eve had done in the beginning. Meditating on the movement of stars, the cycles of seasons, and the withering of trees, he remembered his ancestor’s prelapsarian state. He divined that nothing in nature transgressed the laws of God, so he, too, walked the righteous path, creating order from the chaos around him. Then one day, Enoch mysteriously vanished.

Inspiration: Genesis 4