Genesis 22:1-3 After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.
This is one of the most difficult passages in Scripture. It’s difficult because we look only at the surface and don’t discover what’s going on inside the story. When Abraham was 100 years old and his wife Sarah was 90 they were blessed with the birth of child. God had instructed them to call his name Isaac because they had laughed when God told them they would have a child. So here we find God commanding a very difficult thing. Many Bible scholars will tell you that Abraham was mistaken -- that God could not have commanded such a thing. Not only could he but he did!
Please take note that God never intended that Isaac should be killed. Also, this was not a test to find out what Abraham would do. All of Scripture tells us that God knows the end from the beginning and nothing ever comes into play that God does not already know about. Abraham was the man who needed to know what he would do. Isaac also benefited from the time on the mountain with his father. There was a definite plan when…
God tested Abraham. Let’s look at James 1:2-4. Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
We learn from this that faith is not a feeling it is a response to testing that we confront. If there is any area of our life that we have not brought under Christ’s control he will bring it up again and again. We will be confronted by the same test until we pass!
Let’s look further to James 1:12-14. Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.
Anytime we are tempted it is because of our weakness. God is not trying to find out what we will do he is pointing out where we are at spiritually. God’s testing in our life is a blessing from God. He will bring that test back again and again until we have a handle on how to live it out. I believe it is God’s intention that everything that we have should belong to him.
I remember a time in my own family when my father had to decide a fairly tough question. The church we attended had two Sunday services. One in the morning that was fairly well attended and one in the evening that was less well attended. My younger sister was handicapped. Her condition placed a strain on our family. It was easy to allow her condition to shape our decisions. There was never any question of our attending the morning service. We had to make a decision about the evening service and the Wednesday night prayer meeting.
I remember my dad saying to us, “If we use (my sister) Joy’s condition to keep us out of church it would be a simple matter for God to take her away.” From that moment on there was never any question as to where we would be when the church doors were open. From time to time Joyce was not up to coming to service and one of my parents would stay with her while the rest of us went to church. I would never have considered the possibility of not being there. My sister was like Isaac whom God described to Abraham as…
Your son, your laughter, the one you love. God pointed out to Abraham how close he was to Isaac. So far as God was concerned Isaac was the son who would carry on the promised blessing. Isaac was now old enough to carry the wood to be used in his own sacrifice. He was at least a teenager!
Isaac was a source of happiness to his parents. And now God was calling on these parents to offer him up as a sacrifice to God. Let’s look at the scene and see what it involved. There was…
The mountain in Moriah. Let’s look at 2 Chronicles 3:1. Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to David his father, at the place that David had appointed, on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.
The place that they came to would have been very close to the early town that would later be called Jerusalem. In fact, it would be included in the city of Jerusalem under David the king. There would have been a smooth stone floor because it would be used later to thresh out the grain for Ornan the Jebusite. Since Abraham fully intended to carry out God’s command…
They brought the necessary material. Let’s look at Genesis 22:7-8. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.
Isaac was an obedient son but that did not prevent him from questioning his father. He could see that they had wood necessary for a burnt offering and they would’ve also had a fairly large incense pot full of smoldering embers that a fire could quickly be made.
I think it’s interesting to observe that, in later years, Isaac himself would have a strong faith. One thing for sure, from that day on, Isaac never doubted his father’s faith! He had seen with his own eyes that his father was perfectly willing, apparently without complaint, to put him to death. He could not have understood the event in the same way as his father did. He had not had the many experiences that Abraham had to strengthen his faith.
I recall a missionary story. There was a missionary in the South Pacific who had begun to tell the story of God to a pagan people. Beginning in the Garden of Eden the missionary pointed out how God had dealt with people throughout history. The pattern the missionary followed was to teach a couple of hours each morning, take a noontime break, and then teach a couple hours more in the afternoon. As he came to the story of Abraham and Isaac he told his listeners the story up until Abraham took Isaac onto the Mountain. Then he broke for lunch! He promised to continue the story in the afternoon.
The missionary went to his hut and prayed. For some time he listened to the people as they discussed what they had heard that morning. When the discussion came to an end some of the elders of the people came to his hut. They told the missionary they did not want to wait instead they wanted to tell him what they expected would happen. They had heard so much about God that they understood his character. So they knew that a substitute would be provided because God would not violate his own character by allowing Isaac to die.
Let’s move to the book of Hebrews to see…
The basis of Abraham’s faith. Hebrews 11:17-19 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.
He had received the promises all of which included his having descendants. There was no question of God’s ability to solve the situation. He believed that God was able to raise Isaac from the dead if necessary. In fact, in a manner of speaking, Isaac was brought back from the dead. In order to carry out the command Abraham had to accept the possibility that he may have to go through with the sacrifice. But even if he did he knew that Isaac would come back with him from the mountain. We see that faith being maintained in…
Genesis 22:5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”
Abraham said to his young men “stay with the donkey ”. He pointed out that he and the boy were going ahead to the spot God had chosen where they would worship. Then he spoke his faith. Let me paraphrase it, “We will both go over there and worship and then we will come again to you.” Abraham knew that the promises of God required that Isaac continue to live until he had a son to carry on the family line. Therefore, if he had to really sacrifice Isaac God had to bring him back to life. Abraham’s faith was now complete! There could be no greater challenge than to take the child he loved and offer him in sacrifice to God.
I can imagine the scene as they left the servants. As Isaac gathers the wood from the donkey’s back he began to consider what might be happening. So he questioned his father, “Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”
Abraham’s response might have sounded to the ears of Isaac like, “God has provided himself the lamb.” Rather than, “God will provide himself a Lamb.” God had provided Isaac to Abraham and Sarah when they were many years past the time of child bearing.
Abraham gathered the large stones in the area and shaped them into an altar. Then he arrange the wood on the altar while Isaac watched. We are not given any indication as to Isaac’s thoughts. He had learned to trust his father to the point that he would obey him in this situation. After the altar was built and the wood was put in place Abraham tied up Isaac so he could not resist if he chose. Then he placed him on top of the wood and raised his knife to take his son’s life. Then the angel of the Lord called to him and stopped the sacrifice from happening.
Then the unseen hand of God placed a year old male goat in the bushes behind Abraham. This goat would’ve had no blemishes because it represented the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). There must have been a great rush of relief for both Isaac and Abraham!
Genesis 22:19 So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba. And Abraham lived at Beersheba.
Immediately all the stress was off the situation and the servants who had been watching from a distance now saw Abraham and Isaac coming back to them. We do not know how much they saw of the previous proceedings. They certainly now understood that their master, Abraham, would obey God no matter what the challenge. And that God would fulfill his promises with regard to their master.
If there had ever been any doubt in Abraham’s mind he now understood that…
God’s promise would be fulfilled. Let’s look at Genesis 22:16-18. “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
The promise was not just to Abraham it was to us as well. In Abraham’s offspring we would be blessed. The apostle Paul in writing to the Galatians pointed out that “the offspring” that would bless all nations did not mean many — only one and that one is the Christ who would take our sins into his own body and give us the hope of salvation (Galatians 3:16).
When Adam and Eve sinned God provided skins for their clothing. From that time forward God provided animals as sacrifices until the offspring/Jesus should come to whom the promise had been made.
We have seen Abraham’s faith grow over the years. First, he heard God’s voice with instruction to leave his family and obey God. Again and again, as he grew in grace, Abraham believed God against all worldly opposition. In this account, Abraham did not hesitate because he had learned what he needed to know about God. He knew that God always kept his word and that God would provide a way. We need to have that same kind of faith. No matter what we face, God will keep his word in his time and in his way. Our responsibility is to obey him when he speaks to us in our hearts and/or in his word. Have you received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Today can be your day of salvation.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.