After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” 6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. 7 And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here am I, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.
9 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” – Genesis 22:1-14
A story without finality pointing to a Story with finality.
There are events in this passage that have little finality. You have God Himself commanding Abraham to go and do something so horrid, so awful, so gut-wrenching as to take his own son’s life by slitting his throat with a knife and burning him. His little boy, whom the Lord Himself supernaturally brought about through Sarah’s womb! This really strikes home having a little boy of my own whom I love dearly. Abraham proceeds with what the Lord commands, confident the Lord will provide, but is stopped short of slitting his son’s throat and then the violent, dramatic act doesn’t happen after all. You have Abraham reach for the knife, on the verge of slaughtering his own son and then the Lord intervenes to stop him. Then the story just moves on after the Lord provides them a ram to sacrifice instead of lamb which was the very animal Abraham said God would provide. What in the world are we to make of this? What is this really about? Is it about Abraham and his faith or something bigger?
We have several hints that the passages’ intent is way more than teaching us, “Abraham is our example of faith.” Of course that’s true, but if that’s the whole point, then we are stuck back in a religious, works-based mode of thinking, because then we are to try really hard in our own effort to “measure up” to the standard of faith Abraham possessed. But in ourselves, that is, in our sinful, depraved flesh, we are unable to do just that. Faith comes from God’s might and power, granted in the cross. Abraham’s ability to perform what the Lord had commanded of him was itself a gift of grace. Was it not?
This passage is laced with grace, both temporally and eternally. Something bigger, something grander is taking place in all of these actions that we must hone in on. We must look upon this passage in light of the New Testament. Why is that you ask? Because that’s exactly the way the writers of the New Testament themselves (and Jesus himself) interpreted the Old Testament: in light of Christ and His work to save us, fulfilling the Law and the prophets and accomplishing all that was necessary to save us from the wrath of God and bring us safely into His arms.
Pointers, types and shadows pointing to the cross
To see the beautiful picture God is painting in this passage of Genesis at the top, we need a few things pointed out that are striking in light of the New Testament. Abraham puts the wood on Isaac’s shoulders, the one who is to be sacrificed. Then Abraham, responding to Isaac’s question about where the sacrificial lamb is, says the Lord Himself will provide one. Abraham prepares Isaac to be sacrificed, reaches for the knife to cut his throat and then the Lord says, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”
Do you see the parallels and forshadowing to the sacrifice of Christ here? They are clear as day. Abraham says that God will provide the lamb for sacrifice; that Lamb was ultimately Christ, because in the story the Lord instead provided a ram, but in the end, God provides His own Son, the Lamb of God. Isaac carried the wood upon which he would be sacrificed, though the Lord prevented the final action; Jesus bore His own cross on the way to Calvary, the place where He was slaughtered on our behalf. Isaac was Abraham’s only son of promise. Jesus is God’s One and only begotten Son from all eternity, very God of very God. Whereas God mercifully kept Abraham from slaughtering Isaac, the Father didn’t hold back His wrath from His only Son, but instead unleashed His infinite justice upon Him so that all God’s people for all time could have the peace of God rest on them through obtaining peace with God, a peace made by the blood of His cross.
Though Abraham didn’t know specifics, he did know the Lord would provide a sacrifice to bring salvation, eternal peace and joy, not just temporal peace and joy. He knew that though he might kill his own son that God could and would raise him from the dead, if not then, then at the end of time. Abraham looked forward, not to a bunch of land and a bunch of stuff, but to the hope of God Himself, enjoying His presence forever, basking the glory of His being and character, having His face shine upon him forever.
This story is such a beautiful picture of how Christ came and fulfilled the Old Testament. All of the events, words and actions of this story parallel a much greater story, the one proclaimed to us in the Gospel of Christ, that He is King over all, all things have been made through Him and for Him. The King is also the Judge who will be coming back again to judge and rule the Earth. He offers pardon to any who would accept His grace and mercy provided for at the cross, sealed in the resurrection. Repent of your sins, turn from your unbelief and receive forgiveness at the right hand of God in the blood of Christ. Wash yourself of all your stains in
The faith of Abraham a gift of God, procured in Christ
When seeing and considering the faith of Abraham, should we not sit back and ponder how in the world he trusted God through such counter-intuitive callings? Where do I get that faith? Abraham was a depraved, idolatrous sinner, called out of the land of Ur, where they worshiped the moon. Why did he respond with such trust and faith in God? The only answer that can be given, especially in light of the following interpretation of Abraham’s life in Hebrews, is that God is one who grants the ability to carry out exactly what He commands. We are utterly dependant upon His power in us.
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.
13These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
17By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. – Hebrews 11:8-19