Read Genesis 22
1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about.4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance.5 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.”
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. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.
9 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. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
12 “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.”
13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 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, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”
19 Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.
20 Some time later Abraham was told, “Milkah is also a mother; she has borne sons to your brother Nahor: 21 Uz the firstborn, Buz his brother, Kemuel (the father of Aram), 22 Kesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph and Bethuel.” 23 Bethuel became the father of Rebekah. Milkah bore these eight sons to Abraham’s brother Nahor. 24 His concubine, whose name was Reumah, also had sons: Tebah, Gaham, Tahash and Maakah.
This is one of the more difficult stories to read in Scripture. On the one hand, we know how this chapter ends. We know that even though God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, He stops him before Isaac gets hurt. But it’s hard to read this story because we place ourselves in it. We ask questions of the text as we read it. Would we be willing to sacrifice our children like Abraham was? Would God ever ask us to do something like this? Would we do it even if He asked? Do we have that kind of faith? But, what if we aren’t supposed to read ourselves into this particular story? Maybe this story isn’t about us. What if it’s honestly not even about Abraham and Isaac (although their faith is worth celebrating here)? What if this is a story foreshadowing what happens 1800 years later on the cross–what if this is a story about God and His Son, Jesus?
In this text, Abraham is a representation of God and Isaac is a picture of Jesus. Like God, Abraham was willing to sacrifice his one and only son, whom he loved. In fact, in this chapter, we see the first use of the word “love” in the entire Bible, and it’s used in reference to a father’s sacrificial love for his son. Abraham’s love for Isaac is a visual of God’s love for His only beloved Son, Jesus. In this passage, we also see Isaac submit to the will of his father. Abraham was over 100 years old and Isaac was around 30 at this time. Isaac could easily have fought off his old man, but he didn’t; he did what was asked of him. In that same way, Jesus submits to His Father’s will and goes to the cross willingly. Also, Isaac carried the wood up the hill for the sacrifice and Jesus carried His own cross up the hill before the crucifixion. In fact, the hill that Isaac was almost sacrificed on is believed by scholars to be the same exact hill Jesus was crucified on in modern-day Jerusalem.
As you can see, the parallels between Abraham and Isaac and God and Jesus are numerous in this story. Except for one really crucial part. At the last second, God provided another sacrifice for Abraham, in place of Isaac–a ram caught up in a thicket. But God didn’t provide a way out for His own Son. Jesus was the ram in the thicket that God provided for us. You see, God would never ask Abraham to do something that only He could do. Isaac’s sacrifice would’ve been worthless. The only sacrificial blood God needed was the blood that He Himself would shed through Jesus. The reason we can’t read ourselves into today’s text is because God doesn’t want us to. There’s no part for us to play there; there’s no cost left for us to pay. He’s already filled that role and paid that price through Jesus’ death on the cross. Praise Jehovah-Jireh, the God who provides, for providing His very own self as the ultimate sacrifice, because we couldn’t have done it on our own.
This chapter shows us just how much Abraham’s faith has grown. He is quick to do what God asks and trusts that God will provide. Evaluate your own faith. How has God been growing it this past year? Month? Week?
Abraham had to trust and obey God without seeing the full extent of His plan. Why do you think God typically only reveals His plan one step at a time? Do you obey and walk with God even when you can’t see where He’s leading you, or do you wait to obey until you see the fullness of His plan?
How has God provided for you?
Did You Know?
Many scholars believe Mount Moriah, the mountain God led Abraham to in order to sacrifice Isaac, is the same mountain that Jesus was crucified on, in modern-day Jerusalem. In between the time of those two sacrifices, they also believe that Solomon built the temple on that same mountain, where people sacrificed animals on the altar in order to pay for their sins. That mountain, named “The Lord will Provide” by Abraham, signifies God’s provision–first with animal sacrifice, and then eventually with His own Son, the ultimate sacrifice.