We now come to a pivotal point in the life and story of Abraham. From the moment God calls him from the land where he lived to a place He will show him up to the birth of Isaac, Abraham has shown himself faithful and obedient to God. The last 40 or so years of his life have not been easy and certainly the man has had his faith tried, tested and confirmed. It is at this point in Chapter 22 that we read the details of God telling Abraham to do something that many cannot fathom. Not only do we see the faithfulness and obedience of Abraham in this account but we also get a glimpse of God’s plan of redemption. What is fascinating to me is that although this is an Old Testament passage that gives account of an old man in a crisis situation the Gospel message is present and the finger print of Jesus is evident in this chapter.
Vs 1 – “After these things” some versions of the Bible translate this opening verse as “Some time after these things”. This suggests that a period of time has passed from the events of Chapter 21 (the birth of Isaac and treaty with Abimelech) to what we are about to read in chapter 22. Many (including Martin Luther) believe it was a significant amount of time and that Isaac is now a grown young man or a teenager.
“God tested Abraham” – We see from an outsiders perspective that this is a test but for Abraham this request that God is about to make was a reality. This was a test of faith and obedience.
Vs 2: “Take your son… whom you love” – God acknowledges that Abraham has a great affection for his son. We can assume by God stating that Isaac was the son who is loved is his way of stating that this was not going to be an easy task for Abraham. He was to go to the land of Moriah to a place where God would show him. Eventually he ended up in the mountain area (Mt. Moriah which was the place where Abraham went) and is the place where Solomon built the Temple of God. “One of the mountains” – In biblical accounts the mountains were places where people went to meet with God.
It is in this verse that God makes a huge demand of Abraham. He tells him to take his son and offer him as a sacrifice to God.
“Offer him as a burnt offering” – This was a common sacrifice where a whole animal was cut up, placed on the altar and completely consumed by the fire. This kind of a sacrifice was a symbolic gesture where one was offering oneself to God completely (In the New Testament it would be synonymous of Romans 12:1 & 2 and the animal that was offered served as atonement for the person’s sin. The blood of the animal would cover the sins of the worshiper until the next time he came in to offer a sacrifice..
Vs 3 – 4: Abraham was faithful and obedient. He did what God told him. I can’t help but think, “What was going through his mind at this time? How did he feel?” I think sometimes we lose fact that he was in fact a human with emotions and he a father to Isaac and this request must have crushed him. He had waited over 100 years for this promised son and now God is telling him to sacrifice him. His emotions must have been all tied up.
To make matters worse he travels for 3 days to get the location… I cannot imagine the burden he carried for three days knowing what he knew and what he had to do. Three days signifies the time it takes to prepare for something important and this was certainly an important thing. “Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place from afar.” This is very dramatic and the reader is left to imagine what is going through Abraham’s mind.
Vs 5: “I and the boy” - Lad – Same word used for Ishmael (probably an older teenager or a young man.
“Will go and worship” – Abraham tells his men that he and Isaac are going to worship (bow down) God. He tells them they will return –
- This was either a lie to keep the men from following him and trying to stop him.
- He was planning on taking Isaac up to the mountain and not going through with the sacrifice.
- He believes that no matter what God is going to pull through and provide the sacrifice…
- OR if he fully believed God would raise Isaac from the dead. He remembered God’s promise of blessing through Isaac. This certainly didn’t make any of this easier.
“God will provide for himself a lamb…” The faith of Abraham is made evident and in the same sense he speaks a prophetic statement that God will provide himself a lamb for sacrifice… Once again this is deep with symbolism of Jesus Christ.
Vs 9: “Bound Isaac” - What is interesting here is that not only is Abraham obedient in doing what God is telling him to do but Isaac was obedient as well even to the point of potential death. I think it is important to note that Abraham was over 100 years old and Isaac was probably a young man. Abraham was most certainly not in his prime health and Isaac was probably at his most healthy. I am certain Isaac could have overpowered his father and outrun him, but he does not.
Vs 11 – 12: God intervenes. God has an Angel of the Lord to call down to stop what was happening. The calling out from heaven shows a sense of urgency. In this Abraham is shown to be faithful.
Vs 13 – 14: What Abraham proclaimed to Isaac does indeed come to pass. God provided a ram and Abraham was reminded that God provides. In fact he names the place “The Lord will provide” or “Jehovah Jireh”.
Vs 15 – 18: Because of Abraham’s obedience and faithfulness God confirms his promise. “All Nations shall be blessed because of his obedience.
This is not an easy passage to digest. I have met people who turn to the Bible for answers to life’s questions only to come away with many more questions and this is one passage that often confuses people. I admit there are a slew of questions I have when I read this passage. I don’t understand why God told Abraham to do what He did, but we do know that all along the intent was not to sacrifice Isaac. It was a test. I do believe questions are a good thing to enhance our faith but I do believe sometimes we get so bogged down with the questions of why that we ultimately miss the forest for the trees. We are reminded continually throughout scripture that God’s ways are not our ways and we cannot fully know the mind of God. Our reasoning and his ways are not the same. Sometimes we need to chalk something up as God did what He did for His purpose and He does not have to give a reason why He does what he does.
Instead of focusing all our attention on the question, “Why did God do what he did?” Let’s look at the real key to this passage…Abraham’s obedience and faith and God’s grace. I know some people read this passage and see God as a big Meany playing a cruel joke on one of his faithful followers but really this whole account is just a prologue to what will happen a couple thousand years later in Jesus Christ. However this time it won’t be a test it will be the real deal.
I mentioned earlier that the Gospel is present and the finger print of Jesus is plastered all over this account. I see so many parallels of the Gospel in Genesis 22 that give us foreshadow of the plan of redemption God has for humanity. Isaac is a type of Christ. He is the beloved son of the Father. Isaac, just like Jesus, was the apple of his Father’s eye. He, like Jesus was the promised one who would be a blessing to all nations. He, like Jesus was to be offered as a sacrifice for the atonement of sins. Except the atonement of Jesus will not be a mere covering that needs to happen yearly; it will be a complete washing away of sin. God, like Abraham willingly gives his one and only son whom He loves (Jesus) as a sacrifice so all that put their faith in his son will be redeemed. This may seem harsh, illogical and mean but I God never asks Abraham (or us for that matter) to do something that he would not or has not already done himself and this is shown in the sacrifice of Jesus. God does provide himself a sacrifice – Jesus was sacrificed in our place so humanity could be redeemed. While the story may seem outrageous and even in some aspects pointless, there are some things we can take with us today.
So what are they?
- God may not demand you to offer your firstborn as a human sacrifice but he does desire that we offer ourselves as living sacrifices unto him. This means God desires that we give ourselves completely to him. We allow him to be Lord of our lives Sunday to Sunday 365 days a year for a lifetime. God doesn’t just want your Sunday, Wednesday or whatever day you devote to him… He wants your devotion continually and daily.
- Sometimes God calls us to a place or to do things we may not understand, but we must trust that His ways are better than ours. He has our best interest in mind and we need to trust and obey him. He is not in heaven playing Russian roulette with our lives… He has a plan and purpose for our benefit and His glory.
- God has provided himself a lamb for sacrifice and his name is Jesus Christ. This is huge for all of us. This is God’s love displayed to all humanity. A lamb was needed to be sacrificed for the sins of humanity and Jesus is the perfect, spotless lamb without blemish who willing went to the cross of Calvary so all who believe on him will be redeemed. God loves us so much that he gave his beloved son that whoever believes in him will be saved and redeemed.
- Jehovah Jireh – God always provides for his faithful followers. This is such a comfort for me and should be for you as well. We no longer need to worry or be anxious about anything because God has provided for our needs. He may not do it the way we want but he will do it nonetheless.