Summary: The sacrificial love of the Father is pictured in Abraham.
As the chapter opens, Abraham is alone. It has been a very long time since God has last talked to him. Lately, he has wondered if God will ever speak to him again. On this day, though, God breaks His silence. He calls Abraham by name, and Abraham answers, “Here I am.” He is anxious to hear what God has to tell him. “What promise does God have for me now?” he thinks. “What encouraging words will God give me?”
Then God says, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love so much, and go to the land of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will point out to you.” These were words Abraham did not expect. Did he hear right? Did God actually want him to do this? Each word was like a knife sinking deeper and deeper into Abraham’s chest—“your son . . . your only son, Isaac . . . whom you love so much.” In short, what God said was, “Abraham, go kill your son.” How he wished God had said, “Go sacrifice your lamb.” Abraham willingly would have parted with them by the thousands to save Isaac! But, no, God had said, “Take your son.”
Abraham’s mind is filled with many agonizing questions.
“Why does God want me to kill Isaac? He forbids murder. How can this be right?”
“God knows how much I love my son. Why has He asked me to do this horrible thing? This just doesn’t sound like the Lord.”
“I waited for my son to be born for so many years. Sarah and I doubted that we would ever have a child together. Now that we finally have one, why does God want to take him away from us?”
“What will happen to all the promises that God has given to me? He has told me that a great nation will descend from Isaac. How will this happen if he is to be killed? He is not even married yet!”
“How will I ever be able to look Sarah in the face again? How will I be able to return home with the stains of Isaac’s blood on my clothes?”
Despite all of these questions, Abraham rises early the next morning and saddles his donkey. He has made up his mind that he will obey the Lord and trust Him. He says goodbye to Sarah only telling her that he and Isaac will be gone for a few days. He says nothing of God’s instructions. If she knew, she would try to stop him. He takes with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. Then he chops wood to build a fire for a burnt offering and sets out for the place where God told him to go.
On the third day of the journey, Abraham sees the place in the distance. “Stay here with the donkey,” Abraham tells the young men. “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come back to you.” At least Abraham hopes he will come back with his son. “Perhaps the Lord will raise him from the dead,” he thinks to himself.
Abraham places the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carries the fatal knife and fire. As the two of them go on together, Isaac says, “Father?” His son’s words melt Abraham’s heart. He thinks to himself, “Don’t call me your father. Can a father be so cruel as to kill his own son?”
But he holds his tongue and calmly waits for his son’s question. The boy asks, “We have wood and the fire, but where is the lamb for the sacrifice?”
“God will provide a lamb, my son,” Abraham answers. And they both go on together.
With weary steps and a heavy heart Abraham arrives with his son at the dreaded place. He builds an altar—the saddest he ever built—and places the wood on it. Then he ties Isaac up and lays him on the altar over the wood. Finally Abraham takes the knife and lifts it up to kill his son.
At that moment the angel of the Lord shouts to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Yes,” he answers. “Here I am.”
“Lay down the knife,” he says. “Do not hurt the boy in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” You see, God didn’t really want Abraham to kill Isaac. It was all a test and Abraham had passed with flying colors.
Then Abraham looks up and sees a ram caught by its thorns in a bush. So he takes the ram and sacrifices it as a burnt offering on the altar in the place of his son. Abraham names the place Jevhovah-Jireh which means “The Lord Will Provide.”