Summary: God tests Abraham with the sacrifice of Isaac and reveals more of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We’re studying through Genesis, and today we come to one of the greatest chapters of the Bible. Abraham has been walking with God for more than 25 years since He called him out of Ur into the Promised Land. After a long wait God finally gave him the son He’d been promised, and now it’s time to test Abraham’s faith:
And it came to pass after these things,
After Abraham cut a covenant with Abimelech over the well at Beersheba,
that God did tempt Abraham,
Now don’t get confused about this. “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man” (Jas. 1:13). The key word here being “evil.” There’s a difference between Satan tempting men to commit evil and God tempting men (or testing them) to prove their faith. This tempting isn’t to get Abraham to do something he shouldn’t but something to prove his faith. So, in this sense, God tempted Abraham.
and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. 2And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac,
Now, remember that Abraham does have another son (Ishmael), but God rejected him in the inheritance. Isaac is the son of the promise, and God says, “In him shall thy seed be called” (Gen. 21:12). So, take your only son,
whom thou lovest,
It seems a strange thing to point out that the father loves the son, but it emphasizes the personal sacrifice about to be made. This isn’t some stranger; it’s not the family pet—this is Abraham’s only son whom he loves.
and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.
Wow. A burnt offering. That means everything is totally given over to God. He’ll have to cut Isaac’s throat and then set him on fire. That’s a pretty tall order, but especially so for a man who waited 100 years to receive his son. Now, is God taking him back?
3And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave [split] the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. 4Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. 5And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.
Now, this is the first statement of faith we hear from Abraham. Because of it I’m convinced that Abraham never had the reaction of fear most of us would have had. Think about it: Abraham lied to Pharaoh and Abimelech to save his own life even though God had promised to take care of him. It didn’t make sense that Abraham could die before his son was born, so he should have known he was invincible. In other words, all Abraham had to do was say, “God promised that I’d have a son and that I’d name him Isaac. Since I have no son to name, then I can’t die at least until he’s born and I name him.” Then there would have been no reason to fear.
Now we see Abraham later in life and his faith seems to have matured enormously. God says, “Go sacrifice your son,” and Abraham reasons: “God said that my son will have a son, so there’s no way he can die or at least he can’t stay dead until he has a son.” Listen to what Hebrews says: By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure (Heb. 11:17-19).
He probably didn’t know exactly what would happen, but he seems to have known what wouldn’t. Isaac can’t die, but even if he can, he cannot stay dead.
6And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. 7And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?
Isaac knows they’re going off to make a sacrifice, but he realizes there’s no lamb. “We have everything we need, but we don’t have a sacrifice.”