What’s the big idea? It is an idiom that is normally used to ask the simple question, Why are you doing that? However, it carries with it a sense of befuddlement. It is to say, Please tell me why you are doing what you are doing, because I cannot think of any good reason to do it.
When we come to the story of Abraham taking his young son Isaac to Mt. Moriah in order to sacrifice him to the Lord, it leaves us with the question, What’s the big idea? In some ways the story leaves us with as many questions as answers. We know that God told Abraham to do it. We also know that God wanted to test Abraham, and that He had no intention of allowing Abraham to go through with it. However, that begs other questions. Why would God even test Abraham in this way? Surely there were less troublesome ways to test Abraham than with child sacrifice! And why does God test anyway? Doesn’t He know the outcome already?
Not all of our questions are directed at God. Many of our questions arise out of the fact that so much is NOT said in the telling of this bizarre story. Did Abraham warn Isaac what was happening? Or did he suddenly seize him and pin him down once they climbed to the top of the mountain? Did Isaac feel suspicious when he noticed there was no animal for the sacrifice and his father simply responded with, The Lord will provide? What was going through Abraham’s mind as the boy carried the wood up the mountain? What was the look on Abraham’s face when he raised the knife to kill his son? What did Isaac think about this event later in life? Did the look on his father’s face always haunt him? Did Isaac tell the story to his sons or did he prefer not to think about it?
The list of questions could go on and on. Such is the nature of standing at the bottom of Mt. Moriah and looking up at this story. Some of our questions will never be answered on this side of eternity. However, some of them are answered when we begin to examine the story more closely. We begin to understand God and Abraham (and by extension ourselves) a little bit more clearly. The problem is that we have to climb up the mountain to get our questions answered. We have to struggle through the inclines of our own minds in order to arrive at the panoramic perspective that brings clarity. Standing at the bottom of the mountain and looking up at the climb is an intimidating place to decide whether or not we will push forward in faith or shrink back in fear. But the truth is that what appears to be a mountain of death will turn out to be a mountain of life. A journey that starts out looking at things like the sacrifices you are being asked to make end with you beholding the goodness of God. So, here you stand. Today is decision day. You are at the bottom of a mountain that could take everything you love, holding onto nothing but a promise from God. Will you climb?