By Sam E. Stone
In last week’s lesson God assured Abram that he would actually have a son who would serve as his heir. Abram believed God. In the chapters that follow (Genesis 15:18–22:1), we read about Hagar and Ishmael, the covenant of circumcision, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot, and Abimelech. Abram’s name was changed to Abraham (Genesis 17:5), literally “a father of many nations.” Finally Sarah gave birth to a son, Isaac (21:2).
Genesis 22:1, 2
After Isaac grew into young manhood, God tested Abraham. The King James Version says that God “tempted” Abraham, but this is an incorrect translation. James 1:13 makes it clear that God tempts no one. God gave Abraham a most difficult test. Take your son, your only son, Isaac. Sacrifice him . . . as a burnt offering. What a challenge! Abraham and Sarah had only one son; he had been born late in life; God had promised to bless Abraham through him. This was the ultimate test of Abraham’s faith and loyalty.
The place where this sacrifice was to occur is described simply as the region of Moriah. Second Chronicles 3:1 identifies the temple hill in Jerusalem as “Mount Moriah,” and most Bible scholars feel this is the place where the offering was to be made. E. F. Kevan notes, “Three purposes were served by this command: to prove Abraham, to express God’s abhorrence of
child sacrifice, and to set forth Christ, ‘the Lamb of God.’”
Early the next morning Abraham set off with two servants and his son Isaac to the designated spot. It is about a three-day journey from Beersheba to Jerusalem. On the third day, Abraham instructed his servants to wait there, while he and Isaac went on ahead. “We will worship and then we will come back to you,” he told them. “Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death” (Hebrews 11:19).
Isaac’s age is not given. He is called a boy (Genesis 22:5), but this term was used to describe a young man of military age (compare 1 Chronicles 12:28). He was old enough and strong enough to carry the wood for the burnt offering on his back. The picture of father and son walking off together is one of the most moving scenes in Scripture. You can almost hear Isaac ask his father, “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham’s reply was profound. “God himself will provide the lamb . . . my son.”
When they arrived at the spot, Abraham must have explained what was to happen and why. After arranging the wood, Abraham bound Isaac. Isaac could have resisted. Instead he yielded himself just as Jesus voluntarily offered himself as our sacrifice (Philippians 2:8; Ephesians 5:2; Acts 8:32). On Calvary Jesus became the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Abraham’s action pictures God the Father who spared not his own son, but delivered him up for us all (Romans 8:32).
Abraham picked up the knife and raised his arm to slay his son. At that instant, the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” He responded, “Here I am.” He then told him, “Do not lay a hand on the boy . . . Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Abraham’s faith was shown to be real, not just by his words, but by his actions. “His faith was made complete by what he did” (James 2:22).
Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. He sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of Isaac. Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. Jesus spoke of giving his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). On this mountain the Lord provided the sacrifice for Abraham to offer. When Christ died on Calvary, he provided the eternal sacrifice for all people at the same place!
J. W. McGarvey wrote, “Abraham, like all of us, could not honor God by doing his will perfectly. But he could honor him by being fully persuaded that God would keep his Word, even though it might seem to involve an impossibility . . . The sinner honors God in trusting his grace, as much as Abraham did in trusting his power.”
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.