Summary: Abraham was commanded to sacrifice Isaac. What resulted was a foreshadow of a greater sacrifice to come.
There is a trial that is probably the hardest of all to go through in life. That trial is watching your child suffer and wonder if they will live or die. To suffer yourself is one thing, but to watch your own child hover between life and death is unbearable.
Some of you know this better than I do. Sharon and I had a small taste of this bitter experience when Katy was born. It was a Monday night when we went to the hospital for the second time in two days with the certainty that this time the baby was coming.
After a restless night in the hospital and very little progress, the nurses did a scalp test on our baby and found that the oxygen in her blood was dangerously low. Worse yet, she just wasn’t coming out. It was soon discovered that Katy had the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck twice. Every time Sharon pushed it was like tightening a noose on our baby’s neck. Wisely the staff promptly ordered an emergency C-section.
I sat by Sharon’s head in the OR and talked with her as the medical staff did their job. After an agonizing time of waiting a nurse came around and put a baby in my arms and said we had a girl. Her eyes were wide open and staring at me and I couldn’t help crying and said, “She’s beautiful already.” Sharon in her delirium wondered if I had the car seat along. But then they took Katy away from me and the worrying began again as they continued to work with her. It seemed that her breathing wasn’t right and she was sent to neonatal care for several days. I wondered seriously if she would live. We were told later what the problem was but until then as parents we thought of nothing else but the life of our child. It was a time of testing. It was a time of helplessness. A time when faith was all you had.
It is true that God tests us to see if our faith is genuine. This is not the same thing as tempting us because the result would be sin. A test of faith is experiencing the trials of life and choosing whom you will rely on: yourself or God. It is this test that we observe in Genesis 22 in the life of Abraham. But hidden in this test was the fate of the entire world.
1. The Father gives the Son
a) The Test – Abraham has heard the voice of God before in his life so he knew it was God commanding him to “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about” (v. 2).
What the writer of Genesis does not tell us is the emotion that Abraham felt when he heard this command. Did he feel horror? Incredulousness? Anger? What must have gone through his mind at this point was some question as to how God was going to bless him as the father of many nations if he has to kill his only son. You know how old Abraham and Sarah were when they had Isaac – it was a miracle to even have a son at their age. Now God wanted a burnt offering, their only son burnt to a crisp on an altar of worship.
There is nothing to suggest that this is only a test. To Abraham this is real and God is serious. To God it is a test of faith to see where Abraham stands in relationship to the Almighty.
But the test God place before him was one that asked for more than commitment in words as we often do. This required action. “If this was at the heart of the test Abraham faced, it is not, in principle, any different from one that every child of God is called to undertake. All believers are to love the Lord their God with all their hearts, souls and minds, and to put him above all other things, possessions, persons or ambitions, in daily and total consecration.” (Tidball)
b) Abraham’s obedience – The test was severe but Abraham responded in amazing obedience. Consider these facets of his obedience to God’s command:
His obedience was prompt (v. 3). “Early the next morning…” he put his obedience into action. He did not sit and think about the options and look for an escape clause. Abraham acted as early as possible. Someone said, “To linger is to court ruin. Delay is the craftiest net of Satan.”
His obedience was firm (3-4). The destination God gave Abraham was 45 miles away and 3 days journey. That’s a lot of time to think. Obedience like this requires perseverance. It is always easy to be diverted from the path of obedience when there is time to think.