2012-10-28 Abraham and Isaac: God’s Faithfulness Seen in the Sacrifice of His Son | Genesis 22:1-19
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. (Heb 11:17-19)
This passage can be broken down into three parts: God’s test, God’s provision and God’s blessing. Let’s look first at GOD’S TEST. There are two aspects to Abraham’s test. God’s question and Abraham’s response. God’s question, in effect is, Are you willing to surrender to God the best you have?
In Genesis 22:1-2 (ESV) we read, ¶ 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.”
A test in Scripture is also called a trial or a proof of something. God sometimes tests his people to determine the extent of their faithfulness. For example, in Exodus 16:4 (ESV) ¶ the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.” God may test his people by asking them to obey him in inexplicable ways. An effective test is one that is sudden or surprising, like a pop quiz in school. It tests you over what you remember in the long-term, not what you were able to cram into your head the night before. So we must always be ready for a test because it may come at any time.
Abraham’s test is surprising and inexplicable. God had promised that through Isaac would come a great nation and through him all the nations would be blessed. Abraham and Sarah had waited 25 years for the fulfillment of the promised birth of this miracle child. And now some 15 years after that birth, God is commanding that he be killed and offered as a sacrifice to the Lord.
This final interaction between God and Abraham recorded in Scripture, however, sounds familiar to Abraham, much like his original call in Gen 12:1 where God had commanded him, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you… Now in chapter 22 God is commanding, “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.” For Abraham, this represents the final and ultimate test.
Abraham had already left his family and way of life behind and waited all these years for the fulfillment of the promise, now, suddenly, surprisingly, he is commanded to destroy what he thought was the purpose of it all. God commanded that what had become most precious to him must be surrendered, given up, as a sacrificial offering to the Lord. This test is like the one Jesus issued to his disciples in Luke 14:26-27 (ESV) “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
How many of you have experienced a test of faith like Abraham? Asked another way, how many of you have been asked by God to surrender, to sacrifice, to give up, to let go of, something that was most near and dear to you, something you considered a gift from God? You may have been asked to give up your husband or wife to an untimely death. You may have been asked to surrender your child, either because you were never able to have children, or to an untimely death, or to the kind of life you would not have preferred for them. You may have been asked to give up your best friend to death, or when they moved away, or when they decided they didn’t want to be friends anymore. You may have been asked to give up a girl- or boy-friend or fiancé that you thought was going to be “the one.” You may have been asked to give up a ministry or a job or a career that seemed to fit you like a glove. Or maybe you’re not yet a believer, and God may be asking you to give up your own self-determination, your desire to run your own life without his interference or without his help.
I suggest that each of these is a test to demonstrate to you the extent of your faith, but more importantly, to demonstrate God’s faithfulness to you, his ability to provide and to bless in spite of what you have lost or stand to lose in the process. How can we surrender as Abraham did? I suggest we can do so only when, as he did, we trust in God’s ability to provide for our immediate needs and to bless whatever future he has laid it out for us.
The second part of any test is our response. Vv 3-10 tells us that the proper response is obedience based on trust in God. It might be stated like this –I am willing to surrender the best I have to God, trusting that he will provide. Abraham willingly obeyed God, without complaint and without delay to accomplish what God had commanded.
Genesis 22:3-4 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. 4 On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar.
He started early the next morning. He made all the necessary preparations, and he traveled straight to the place God told him to go. However, during the three day journey there was plenty of time to think and we see a hint of what he was probably thinking when he says to his helpers, 5 “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”
He expected both he and Isaac to return from offering the sacrifice. The writer of Hebrews interprets this passage for us. Heb 11:17 and 19 tell us, 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… He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead… Abraham must have concluded that the only way Isaac could be both a sacrificial offering to the Lord and become a great nation was for God to raise him from the dead, that God could do the impossible.
Not only did Abraham obey God, he trusted in him to provide. Look at vv 6-10. And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. 7 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. 9 ¶ When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son.
The phrase, Yahweh-yireh, “the Lord will provide” can also be translated, “the Lord sees.” Like Abraham, we are enabled to obey God’s Word because we trust in the Lord to see what we need and to provide it. Abraham’s answer, “God will provide” deferred the answer to God. Eg., St: “I want a baby.” B: “You’re going to have to talk to Jesus about that.”
How about you? When you faced that test from God – as you are now facing that test from God, were you – are you – able to answer, “I am willing to surrender the best I have to God, trusting that he will provide?” Kierkegaard wrote of Abraham in his book, Fear and Trembling, “…he knew it was the hardest sacrifice that could be required of him; but he knew also that no sacrifice was too hard when God required it.”
We’ve looked at God’s test. Second, let’s look at GOD’S PROVISION. God demonstrates his approval of our obedience by providing for our needs. In vv 11-12 we see God’s approval of Abraham’s sacrifice. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”
Because he obeyed, his offering is accepted as complete. Abraham’s action demonstrates his faithful obedience to God. James 2:21-22 says Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works. His faith resulted in obedience, which is its expected outcome.
The result of Abraham’s obedience was God’s provision. In vv 13-14 God provided, as Abraham had believed he would. And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”
The place was memorialized not as “Abraham was faithful” but as “The Lord will The The point The point of this story is not so much that Abraham was faithful, but that the Lord provides for his people who put their faith in him. As we saw in Heb 11, Abraham imagined that God would provide by raising his son from the dead after he was killed. Instead, God provided a substitute for the offering. This story points us forward to ultimate substitutionary atonement for our sins. Jesus is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). We can obey God’s command to offer to him the best we have because he has already offered the best he has for us.
Sometimes, when God tests us, he requires us to go all the way, to surrender something completely. At other times, when he sees we are willing to go all the way, he provides a temporal substitute. Pam’s friend’s son, EG: While in prison, Brandon was encouraged to join gangs. He refused. As a result, the gang sought out to kill him. A group was going to distract the guards and another group was going to kill him. Yet, Brandon didn’t go outside to the grounds that day. Instead, he remained in the dining hall. A group came toward him and a young, Asian man sitting next to him, stood up and said, whatever you are going to do to him, do to me. God provided protection. The young man got a beating, but Brandon remained safe. God provided a substitute.
Finally, we can obey God’s commands because to his present provision he adds his future BLESSING.
Genesis 22:15-19 (ESV) ¶ And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16 and said, “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.” 19 So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba. And Abraham lived at Beersheba.
Because of Abraham’s obedience, the promises that were once conditional are now unconditional. The blessing includes many descendants and especially the one descendant, who is Jesus through whom all the nations will be blessed.
Like Isaac, Jesus is the beloved son. At his baptism and again at his transfiguration, the heavenly voice declared, “This is my beloved son.” Again in John 3:16 we read, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Like Isaac, Jesus’ life was offered as a sacrifice on Mount Moriah. 2 Chronicles 3:1 tells us that “Solomon built 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.” Jesus’ sacrificial death took place “outside the gate” of the temple on that same mountain.
Just as Isaac carried the wood for his own sacrifice, so Jesus carried his own cross to Golgotha…. John 19:17 …and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha…
Just as Isaac willingly complied with his father’s will, so of Jesus it is said, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phil 2.4)
Just as, twice, the phrase ”So they went both of them together,” indicates the intimate relationship Isaac and Abraham, we see the same intimate relationship between the divine Father and Son who says, I and the Father are one, (John 10.29) and the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. (Joh 5:19).
And finally, Jesus is the substitutionary lamb who takes away the sin of the world. (Jn 1.29).
The purpose of God’s testing is to demonstrate God’s faithfulness to you, his ability to provide and to bless in spite of what you may lose in the process. You are enabled to surrender to him what is most precious to you, because he has already surrendered what was most precious to Him in his son Jesus, and in so doing has provided everything you need right now, and promised eternal blessings forever and ever. Amen.