1After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”
2He 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.”
3So 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.
4On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar.
5Then 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.”
6And 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.
7And 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?”
8Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.
9When 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.
10Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son.
11But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”
12He 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.”
13And 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.
14So 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.”
15And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven
16and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son,
17I 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,
18and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
19So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba. And Abraham lived at Beersheba.
This passage is so rich it is difficult to know where to even begin. We are instantly drawn into the pathos of Abraham as he is tested by God in a most dramatic way. Inside of the details of this event is the stuff of obedience, faith, relationship, and prophecy. The mysterious God emerges in all His glory and the only thing we can do is bow down in worship.
Isaac, repeatedly referred to as Abraham’s only son, has grown into at least his teen years by this time; possibly even young manhood. This is important only because it means he was old enough and most likely strong enough to run away or even fight back – neither of which he does. As we tout Abraham’s obedience here, so too we must recognized Isaac’s. Abraham and Sarah have had several years of life with this child of promise and all seems well. Then out of the blue God tests Abraham’s faith and reliance upon Him. Abraham’s obedience to God’s call to sacrifice Isaac is immediate. The next day he heads out with two servants and his son to accomplish the task set before Him. Honestly, I would have procrastinated. I may not have been blatantly disobedient, but I would have done some major feet dragging. Things would have come up and I would have been just too busy to get right on that. Take home point number one – telling God you’ll get to it (whatever “it” is) when you have time is disobedience.
We’ve talked about “type” before, so you’ll recognize Isaac as a type of Jesus in this story. One, he is Abraham’s only son, repeated several times throughout the passage. Two, Isaac carries the wood to the place of sacrifice, just as Jesus carried His own cross. Three, he is a willing participant in these events. Four, he is spared in the end. Oh wait, God did not spare His Son. Jesus finished the sacrifice, as that is what was needed to purchase our salvation. While Abraham did not have to see the death of his son, our Heavenly Father was forced to witness the death of Jesus. In His case, it wasn’t a test but our reality.
The writer to the Hebrews gives us an insight into what Abraham was thinking and experiencing in this incredible event. “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, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” Hebrews 11:17-19 This was a test of Abraham’s faith and he passes with flying colors. He believed that even if he had slain his son, God would have brought him back to life. After this story, we find no more incidents of Abraham failing in his faithful service to God. He doesn’t tell foreign kings that Sarah is his sister. He doesn’t live in fear anymore. He has faced his greatest fear – the loss of his son – with faith in God. It is a turning point. And there is our second take home point for today – when we fear only God, there is far less in the world that can scare us or threaten our faith. This is a fantastic story to return to over and over again when we ourselves are tested. The true shining point in this story isn’t Abraham’s faith, it is God’s faithfulness.