Summary: This amazing chapter brings insight into why God tests us and how God’s faithfulness always prevails.
Genesis 22: Sacrifice of Isaac
When God Asks the Unthinkable – Which He Does!
• Abraham - 75 yrs old when he left Haran (Gen 12:4);
• 11 years later: Still no son. Abe figures he has to take up the matter himself; fathers Ishmael at 86 yrs old (Gen 16:16); God says Ishmael is not the promised son – will be a son God and God alone provides
a lesson of great spiritual significance here, but no time! (Gal 4:21-31)
• Years of more waiting; gets to the point of seeming ridiculous - Sarah laughs
• 14 years later, when Abe is 100 – the promise fulfilled! (Gen 21:5) Names child “he laughs” (reflection of joy, but also irony of the fact that they laughed & scoffed at God’s promise) 25 years!
brings us today to...
Genesis 22: Sacrifice of Isaac
A disturbing story. There are in fact R-rated passages in the bible (sexual content, violence).
Isaac probably in his teens at this point.
READ v.1-2 Whoa! So many questions! These verses seem to confirm some of our worst suspicions about God.
v.1 First of all, Why would God need to “test” anyone? Doesn’t he know the heart?
“testing” like this conjures image of a capricious God who gets some strange enjoyment from afflicting his subjects with arbitrary trials
• This testing is not for God’s benefit – he knows Abraham’s faith
• Reasons for “testing”:
- to “reveal” what’s inside. Not to God, but to everyone else (often including ourselves!). Abraham had faith, but it’s invisible to others until it’s acted out.
- to “purify” – not only reveals what’s inside but acts on what is inside
In NT: these tests are often referred to as trials
For example, 1 Peter 1:7:
“These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold.”
This verse speaks of the revealing aspect - “to show”. But Peter says testing also “purifies” - gold melted in crucible - impurities rise as gold sits on the flame. When cools, gold far more pure than before. An analogy for God purifying faith. He brings the heat, but his goal is to invest and refine your character, your faith. So precious to him to find someone who trusts him even when they don’t get what he’s up to, even when they are in pain. More precious, rare than gold!
v.2 Why would God suggest that he offer his own son in human sacrifice??
• As we read this, knowing the Bible, seems obvious to us that God would never really want him to do this...
Deut. 18:10 “...be very careful not to imitate the detestable customs of the nations living there. For example, never sacrifice your son or daughter as a burnt offering…”
This actually was a common aspect of ancient religions; certainly in this part of the world. God warns his people never to do this.
• Then again, Abraham didn’t know this! Couldn’t open his bible and read that. Written hundreds of years after these events. Simply didn’t know as much about God as we do – not as much revelation. Very possible in his mind that God wanted him to do this, like all the other cultures in the area were doing for their deities.
• Sunday school version: Abraham up early with a smile on his face, said "It’s a beautiful day--I can wait to get going!" and whistled as he made the preparations... This is the way you feel when you trust God!
• Not so. No indication Abe is happy about this
• Made no sense: all God’s promises dependent on Isaac!
• God could have told him to do this in the back yard, but sends him on a 3-day, 50 mile trip. To a specific place. Wonder why?...
• Imagine how agonizing this journey must have been. Imagine Abraham’s response as the two servants and Isaac chit-chatted.
• Just the two of them: Abe with fire & knife, Isaac with wood on his back. Up the hill.
• Then the dreaded question: “Where is the lamb?” Good question Isaac!
“God will provide for himself the lamb for the burnt offering..." He was expressing his trust in God, but he was probably also being deliberately ambiguous because he doesn’t want to freak Isaac out.
• Text is mercifully concise, but scene may have taken hours. Abraham breaking news. Shock and horror of Isaac. The confusion, questions Isaac must have had.
ILLUSTRATION: As some of you know I’ve spent time in the ER at children’s hospital recently with my 6yrold boy. I told him I’d be straight up with him & tell him what is going to happen. At times I’d wait til the last minute, but eventually would have to break news – some docs and nurses are going to come though that door in a minute and here’s what is going to happen... And the panic in his eyes; begging “take me home, take me home!” Breaks your heart. But this was to heal him, for his good. Abe’s situation is in a completely different category – not a hospital, but an altar on which sins are paid for with blood!