Read Genesis 22
We last saw Abrahm together with Isaac when he was celebrating Isaac’s weaning. At that time Isaac was somewhere between three and five years old. Genesis 22 begins in verse one with the phrase Some time later… So fast forward to today’s story where some say that Isaac is now in his thirties. He’s been the apple of his parent’s eye for thirty or so years now and even as his name means laughter, he’s provided laughter and joy to both Abraham and Sarah. Which as we’ll see makes the next phrase in our story, God tested Abraham, just about as gut wrenching as you can imagine. Abraham is about to hear what to him must have seemed like a very strange request from the Lord.
“Abraham!” The Lord said.
“Here I am” Abraham replied.
“Take your son, your only son, whom you love–Isaac–and go to the region of Moriah.”
The name Moriah means “Foreseen of Jehovah.” It’s as if God is saying, Here’s a prophetical enactment, a foreseeing of the time to come when I will sacrifice My only Son, who I love. Indeed in our story we’ll see just that. Even as Jesus experienced a Gethsemane, a Calvary, and a Resurrection, it could be said that these three are also found in the story of Abraham’s test.
“Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering,” the Lord continued.
What a strange and amazing request. We don’t know if Abraham sweat great drops of blood as Jesus did in the garden, but imagine yourself in Abraham’s place for a moment. Imagine his anguish. Imagine the incredible heaviness of his heart. Imagine the tears, the thoughts of how Sarah would react, the thoughts of acting out what the Lord has requested of him.
So, what did Abraham say to God? NO Lord, I can’t do that because I love him too much? Or perhaps, NO Lord, Sarah will never stand for it and how would I face her if I did such a thing? Or, NO Lord, I just can’t bear to do what you’re asking me to do?
As you know, he didn’t say any of these things. Instead, the Bible tells us that after his Gethsemane, Abraham rose up early the next morning, loaded his donkey with enough wood for the burnt offering, rounded up two servants, rounded up Isaac, and set off to do what the Lord had told him to do.
I am so impressed with Abraham, doing this thing that I don’t believe I could ever do. He didn’t waste time, he didn’t tarry, he set off to do what the Lord told him to.
After three days of travel with the donkey, Isaac, and the two servants, Abraham looks up and sees the place that God told him about.
He 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.”
Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac even as the cross was placed on the shoulders of God’s own Son, Jesus. (John 19:17) And Isaac carried it up the hill even as Jesus carried the cross up the same hill. And Abraham carried the fire and a knife. The fire speaking of God’s judgement as it does throughout scripture.
Now, as they progress up the hill, Isaac asks a very intelligent question, “Father?” he asks.
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replies.
“The fire and the wood are here but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
Abraham answers, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”
And the two of them went off together.
When they climbed the hill and reached the place that God had told Abraham about, Abraham, as we have seen him do so many times before in scripture, builds an altar. He arranges the wood on it, and, I imagine, with tears streaming down his face and with his heart breaking, he binds Isaac to the altar. The binding of Isaac speaks of Isaac’s submissiveness to his father in that there’s no way Abraham, an old man, could have possibly bound his son to the altar had Isaac not submitted himself. Therefore Isaac appears to be as willing as Abraham in the matter.
“Who is it you want?” Jesus asked the detachment of soldiers when they came to arrest him.
“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.
“I am he,” Jesus said. When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. (John 18)
Jesus, the One Who said “I am he” and knocked over every soldier present, the One who spoke three words and blew away a detachment, didn’t have to submit to being bound. But even as Isaac was willing, Jesus was also willing to submit to the will of His Father. A few verses further along in John 18 Jesus allows the soldiers to bind him and lead him away.
Back to Abraham: Then Abraham, fighting against his own heart’s cry to spare his son Isaac, Abraham, with the very hands that so many times before he had lifted toward heaven in worship to his Lord, Abraham, in obedience to God’s word and trusting that God will provide a way for Isaac to live according to His promise, reached his hand and took the knife to slay his son.
How did he do it? How did Abraham find the faith to obey God’s command?
We find a clue about how he found this great faith in verse five where Abraham said something very interesting to his two 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.”
“…we will come back to you,” Abraham said. Even as Jesus said in Mark 8:31 that He would rise after three days, Abraham says, “…we will come back to you.” We, he said. I and the boy will come back to you. Abraham knew that God had promised him descendants from Isaac, for some years ago the Lord said in Genesis 21:12 that “…it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” And for that reason he knew that the Lord, ultimately, had to provide a way for Isaac to live, even if it meant that He had to raise Isaac from the dead.
When speaking of Abraham’s faith in this incredible situation the Lord tells us in Hebrews 11:19 that Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.
So Abraham, trusting that the Lord will resurrect Isaac, lifts his hand to slay his only begotten son…
…but, the angel of the Lord called out to Abraham from heaven, called out to him twice, called out to him urgently, “Abraham, Abraham!”
And Abraham, obedient once again, stays his hand and says, “Here I am.”
Stop! Don’t slay him, don’t do anything to him, the angel of the Lord says. “Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
Just then Abraham looks up and sees a ram caught by his horns in a thicket. It was just as Abraham had told Isaac it would be when he said in verse eight that, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering…”
So Abraham took the ram from the thicket and sacrificed it as a burnt offering, in place of his son.
And from then on that place has been called “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
Then the angel of the Lord tells Abraham that, “I swear by myself…”
(Whenever we see the term the angel of the Lord, it speaks of Jesus preincarnate. Men always swear by someone greater than themselves, but who can the angel of the Lord swear by but Himself, for there’s no one greater than Him)
“I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”
The Prophetic Picture
Do you see the amazing prophetic picture that’s been painted here?
Even before the story of Abraham’s test we find remarkable parallels between Isaac and Jesus.
Both Isaac and Jesus were conceived miraculously. Isaac was miraculously conceived by a man and woman 100 and 90 years old respectively. Jesus was miraculously conceived by God, of a virgin.
Both Isaac’s and Jesus’ births were promised previously. Isaac’s some twenty-five years before and Jesus’ thousands of years before in Genesis 3:15.
Both Isaac’s and Jesus’ parents were instructed by the Lord what to name their son.
And of course within today’s story there’s more:
“…all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” God said in verse 18. All nations will be blessed because Jesus Christ, the source of eternal salvation for all of the world, would come from the line of Isaac. (Hebrews 5:9, Matthew 1, Luke 3)
“The mountain of the Lord,” is the same place, the very place where God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, would be sacrificed thousands of years later.
On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided, Abraham called the place. John the Baptist said of Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world.” (John 1:29) On the mountain of the Lord God provided His lamb as a sacrifice in place of me, and in place of you. In the very spot where Abraham and Isaac prophetically enacted Christ’s story of the death and resurrection, Jesus died for your sins and mine, in place of you, and in place of me.
Here am I, Jesus said, let these go their way. (John 18:8 KJV)
The price that God requires for your sin, the price required for every debt you owe, the price required for every time you fell short has been paid for on Mount Moriah (also called Mount Calvary) by Jesus, God’s lamb, provided by God…
as a substitute
in place of you.
Thank the Lord.
Glory to God in the highest.
The Bride of Christ
The last five verses of chapter 22 list the genealogy of Nahor’s sons which might seem a little random unless you notice that Rebekah is included in the genealogy. Rebekah, the one who will become Isaac’s bride later in Genesis. This completes the picture as it speaks of the bride of Christ, the church, who will ultimately be united with Jesus. That’s you, and that’s me, and that’s good news.
[Image via dalbera – Creative Commons]
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