Text: Genesis 22:1-18
Theme: Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac foreshadows God’s willingness to sacrifice his one and only Son, Jesus.
God commanding a father to sacrifice his son, like some horrible, pagan custom.
And then reversing the order at the last minute.
Does God take some kind of sadistic pleasure in tormenting Abraham?
This is the stuff cynics seize as ammunition against the Christian faith.
But a closer look provides some breath-taking insights.
This passage proves to be one of the most important in all the Old Testament.
It foreshadows what the divine Father and Son would do for us.
It offers a glimpse of the gospel orchestrated centuries before the coming of Jesus.
Let’s start at the beginning. Sometime later God tested Abraham. Why we’re not told.
Likely it’s because God has given Abraham the long-awaited child of promise.
And it would have been easy for Isaac to become first in his heart- a sort of idol.
Will Abraham still put God first- even before his precious son?
God said to him: Abraham! Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love… Later in our passage it says: they went on together. Together. Father and son.
Here we find the loving, intimate bond between Abraham and Isaac.
They give us a glimpse of the loving, intimate bond between God the Father and his Son.
Vs. 2 continues: take your son… and go to the region of Moriah.
Where was Moriah? II Chronicles 3 records this event a thousand years later:
Solomon began to build the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah.
So God was sending Abraham to the very spot where his temple would be built,
where sacrifices would be offered, where one day the supreme sacrifice was made.
Take your son, your only son, Isaac…
Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about. It’s hard to imagine a tougher test!
Isaac is God’s miracle child- conceived long after Sarah was past childbearing.
At Isaac’s birth God promised: it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.
As an old man, Abraham’s life and hope and future were wrapped around this boy.
Now God says: sacrifice him… as a burnt offering.
Leviticus 1 describes a burnt offering:When any of you brings an offering to the LORD… if the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he is to offer a male without defect.
He is to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering,
and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.
Now Isaac is to be sacrificed as a burnt offering: a human male.
Isaac foreshadows another human male without defect who would be offered.
The perfect Son of God would make a permanent atonement with God for all our sins.
Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love. Sacrifice him as a burnt offering. What were Abraham’s feelings? What was his reply to God? Of this we are told nothing.
But his actions speak loud and clear. Early the next morning Abraham saddles his donkey.
He takes his son Isaac and enough wood for an offering and sets out for Moriah.
It almost takes your breath away! No pleading. No hedging. Just prompt obedience.
By the way, this is a great story for our children: prompt obedience.
In fact, Abraham is a towering example for us all: unsparing obedience to God.
Let me ask: is there any area in which you struggle to do what God asks of you?
Let Abraham be your example: to trust and obey God no matter what!
Abraham’s obedience was not only prompt, it was persistent. He kept on going.
Vs. 4: On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance.
Now the place and the sacrifice loom ahead. Yet he doesn’t flinch. Persistent obedience.
In fact, Abraham’s unsparing obedience makes you wonder: is he really human?
Or is he some automaton? How could he stab his precious son and sacrifice him?
Well, vs. 5 gives a clue to the answer. Abraham said to his servants:
Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there.
We will worship and then we will come back to you. Did you catch that?
We will come back to you. Father and son. Somehow he expects Isaac to come back alive!
How can that be? How can that be when he fully intends to sacrifice Isaac?
It could only be this: Abraham believed God would raise Isaac from the dead.
How else could he be sacrificed and yet come back with Abraham?
Centuries later Hebrews 11 confirms that Abraham was thinking along this line.
It notes: He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one + only son, even though God had said to him: It is thru Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead.
So, it turns out that Abraham was not some unfeeling machine.
Rather his obedience came from believing. He believed in God’s power to raise the dead. Here is the first hint of the resurrection- a hint fulfilled on a third day 2,000 years later.
Abraham and Isaac continue their climb. Vs. 6: Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife.
What an irony! Isaac carried the very wood by which he was to be sacrificed.
John 19 tells of another son who carried the wooden cross on which he was sacrificed.
Vs. 7: As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said: Father?
Yes, my son? Abraham replied.
The fire and wood are here. But where is the lamb for the burnt offering?
Abraham replies: God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering.
Unknown to him, his words had a grander meaning, reaching forward in time.
One day God himself provided that lamb. One day John the Baptist spotted Jesus + said:
Look, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
Vs. 9: And the two of them went on together. When they reached the place
God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.
Right here we see that Abraham is not the only remarkable figure.
From prior chapters we know that Abraham was well over one hundred years old.
And Isaac was strong enough to take this rugged trip and carry the wood to the top. Could Isaac have been bound and laid on the altar against his will? Hardly.
So, Isaac must have cooperated. He must have laid down his life as a willing sacrifice.
From John 10 we know he foreshadowed Jesus’ own words:
I lay down my life... No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.
Now the climax: Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, "Abraham, Abraham!" You can't miss the drama of this last second intervention.
This is the stuff movies should be made of.
Here I am, he replied. Do not lay a hand on the boy, he said.
Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God,
because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.
What a test of faith and obedience! Isaac had not become an idol who came before God. Abraham passed his test with flying colors!
And Isaac was spared. You see, ultimately there was no need for Isaac to be sacrificed. After all, it was only a test. Abraham saw a ram stuck in a thicket + sacrificed it instead.
But with Jesus it was different. His sacrifice was a necessity.
We had a world of sin and misery weighing us down.
Because of our disobedience, we were condemned under the righteous judgment of God. Jesus' sacrifice on the cross to pay for our sins was the only way to save us.
Here's something which boggles the mind.
Ever since the sin of Adam and Eve, God knew he would sacrifice his only Son.
Already with Abraham and Isaac God was foreshadowing his plan to sacrifice his Son. Over all those centuries of time, Jesus knew he was destined
to be the sacrifice.
And they never bailed out. They went through with it. Such was their love for you + me.
In the fullness of time God sent his one and only Son to Mount Moriah.
In the fullness of time God, in effect, went ahead and plunged in the knife.
In the fullness of time Jesus was sacrificed as the lamb of God.
In the fullness of time he made atonement for the sins of the world.
Because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.
Today it is not God speaking these words to any man.
Today it is you and me saying these words to God:
you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.
That's why we love him. That’s why we trust him. That’s why we obey him.
December 2, 2018