Abraham was called to the ultimate test: to sacrifice his only son (22:2). But he did have another son, Ishmael. We know that Ishmael may have been cast out, but he was still Abraham's son. Then how was Isaac his only son? The actual Hebrew word means “unique, only begotten.” Isaac was unique in that he was the only begotten son of the promise. Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years for this child, and now, God was telling him to offer Isaac up as a human sacrifice! Abraham had faith and he obeyed. Amazing.
Genesis 22:11 says that Isaac was a “lad” or “boy,” but most scholars believe he was a teenager and could have resisted at any time. This implies faith of not only the father but also the son.
Abraham was called to go to Mount Moriah (22:2) from Beersheba, a distance of about 50 miles. This spot will continue to be important in the history of the Jews. In 2 Samuel 24:18, the prophet, Gad, instructed David to build an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite (Jebus is Jerusalem) in order to stop a plague. Moriah was the threshing floor! He offered to buy it from Araunah, and Araunah wanted to give it to him, but David said, ”I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God which cost me nothing.” Later, it became the site of the temples built by Solomon, Zerubbabel, and Herod the Great. It is now the site of the Dome of the Rock erected in 691 AD by Muslims. Mt. Moriah is an important spot!
Even though human sacrifice was common in ancient paganism, it was not common for God’s righteous people. Abraham obeyed with immediate, unquestioning obedience though. He obeyed in faith! His faith was evident when he said to the servants, “We will come back to you” (22:5). So, he had faith that somehow he would return with Isaac. Also, He knew that God was Yahweh Yireh, the God who provides, when he proclaimed “God will provide a lamb” when Isaac questioned about the absence of a lamb for the burnt offering.
Hebrews 11:17 says:
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, ‘IN ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS SHALL BE CALLED.’ He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead. . .God provided a ram in Genesis 22:13, but its ultimate fulfillment will be the “Lamb of God”!
The Scarlet Thread of Redemption
“Behold the Lamb of God
who takes away the sin of the world.”
John 1:29LaSor puts it so well:
I can never think about the willingness of Abraham to offer up his son Isaac without thinking of the willingness of God to offer up His Son Jesus. God provided a lamb to take the place of Isaac, but there was no lamb to take the place of Jesus. He was the Lamb! You and I have our life and our salvation and our hope of eternity because of what God has done for us in Christ; and the only way this world will ever come to know the salvation we know will be by way of our faithfulness. God expects us to be faithful.
(LaSor, William S. Great Personalities of the Old Testament, p.30)This is a story of a faithful man who, in his old age, had come to believe God for anything! He called the place, Yahweh Yireh (The LORD Will Provide) looking forward to the time of the “Lamb of God” who would be provided as the substitutionary sacrifice for all time in that place.
Can you say AMEN to that! (Come on, shout it out in your home or even the public place you might be reading this!!)
Every time I meditate on this passage, there is a tug of pain in my heart over the choice that Abraham had to make. I have two sons, and I cannot imagine picking either of them to be sacrificed, and I did not even have to wait 25 years for them! They are precious to me, and I love them. (By the way, 22:2 is the first time love is mentioned in the Bible), and I do not know if I could obey as Abraham obeyed (22:18 is the first time for this word too). Everything inside of me would fight against it, but Abraham knew his God could even raise the dead! Do I really believe that my God can do anything? Do I believe that He will provide above and beyond the unexplainable? OH, how I want that kind of radical faith AND obedience!
In Michael Card’s introduction to his song “God Will Provide a Lamb”, he writes:
The life of Abraham is a parable of salvation. His radical obedience to God in the offering of Isaac is the greatest single act of submission in the Bible apart from the Cross of Jesus. In this story, we see proof of the fact that Christ will never ask us to do anything which He Himself is not also prepared to do.This challenges and stirs me to the core. How about you?
Think about the radical obedience of Abraham and ask God about where you might not be trusting Him. Lay it before Him as an offering.
You might like to apply this passage by meditating on this song by Michael Card:
"God Will Provide a Lamb"
by Michael Card
(Genesis 22:1-14 & Hebrews 11:17-19)
Three days journey to the sacred place
A boy and a man with a sorrowful face
Tortured yet faithful to God's command
To take the life of his son in his own hands
God will provide a Lamb
To be offered up in your place
A sacrifice so spotless and clean
To take all your sin away
Here's wood and fire, where's the sacrifice
A questioning voice and the innocent eyes
Is the son of laughter who you waited for
To die like a lamb to please the Lord
A gleaming knife, an accepted choice
A rush of wind and an angel's voice
A ram in the thicket caught by his horns
And a new age of trusting the Lord is born
For God has provided a Lamb
He was offered up in your place
What Abraham was asked to do He's done
He's offered His only son!
What Abraham was asked to do He's done
He's offered His only son
Lord, You are Yahweh Yireh, the God who provides. Thank You for Your perfect provision of Jesus as an atoning sacrifice. I love You. I worship You. Teach me to obey You with unquestioning obedience to Your upward call in Christ Jesus. Amen