It was God’s will that Abraham learn to trust totally in the Giver of the covenant rather than the covenant itself. Twenty-five years after the original promise, God finally gave Abraham and Sarah their miraculously-born son (Gen. 21:1–2). No child could have been more welcomed and loved than Isaac. Through the process of giving Isaac, God had taught Abraham that He was a God who could be trusted. God is always faithful to keep His word. He had told Abraham, “In Isaac your seed will be called” (Gen. 21:12). But did Abraham really believe God?
God gave Abraham an illustration that he could not miss. He asked him to make an offering, not of an animal, but of his most precious possession, his only son, Isaac (Gen. 22:1–2). Only son in Hebrew literally means “your uniquely born son.” Why was Isaac uniquely born? He was a miracle given to Abraham and Sarah long after they were capable of producing a child. Abraham’s uniquely born son reminds us of another uniquely born son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He was God’s virgin-born Son, a tremendous parallel!
God instructed him to take his human treasure, the object of God’s grace, and kill him. Moriah was chosen for the place of the sacrifice. Moriah means “chosen of the Lord.” God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice his son appears on the surface to be completely irrational. It had taken years for God to fulfill His promise to give Abraham a son. Would God now command Abraham to kill him? Abraham never once questioned God’s integrity. He was strong in faith. He loved his son more than anything else in life, and to obey without blinking an eye was absolutely astounding.
Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey. He took two of his young servants with him along with his son. He split the wood for the burnt offering and set out (Gen. 22:3). No delay, no reluctance, and no stress. No attempt to receive clarification of the command. There was no reference to Abraham seeking counsel from others. He simply obeyed God. Abraham was completely occupied with the presence of God. How do we know? When Abraham saw the place from a distance, he asked the young men who accompanied him to stay with the donkeys. He said, “The lad and I will go yonder and worship and we will come back to you” (Gen. 22:5). He did not say “I” will come back to you but “we.” Isaac was still a bachelor. He had no wife and no children. Abraham reasoned that until Isaac had children, there was no way he was going to die permanently. Why? Because the Giver said, “In Isaac shall your seed be called.”
Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son and off they went. He also took the fire and the knife for sacrifice. Isaac asked the question that no doubt Abraham had expected. “Look, Dad, the fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (Gen. 22:7). Isaac’s question would have torn the heart right out of an ordinary man. But Abraham’s faith never wavered. Abraham’s response was evidently given with perfect peace and grace. He said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son” (Gen. 22:8).
Sometimes it is the little words that have the greatest effect. Notice Abraham did not say that God would provide a sacrifice for “you and me, son,” but that He would provide a sacrifice for Himself. Abraham kept the issue where it belonged. The sacrifice was God’s business. It was God’s character that was at stake. Abraham was simply saying to Isaac, “Son, we are going to put our confidence in God.” Whatever happens, we must trust the Giver. Abraham also did not say “a lamb” but rather “the lamb.” Speaking of Jesus Christ, John said, “Behold the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
Abraham built the altar, placed the wood on the altar, bound Isaac, and laid him on the altar (Gen. 22:9). His security was solely in the Giver at this point. The Giver does not lie. As long as he had the Giver, he had the gift. Why? It was the Giver who had given him the gift in the first place. Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son (Gen. 22:10). Stretched out his hand is a Hebrew completed action. In Abraham’s mind, he actually did it. He fully intended to take the life of his son. Isaac had been slain. It was with complete faith and tranquility that Abraham carried out the divine orders. He loved his son deeply, but his trust was in the Giver. It was his love and trust in the Giver that motivated this action. He was caught up in the fact that, though he may not understand, the Giver knew exactly what He was doing.
But just in time, the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and told him not to lay his hand on the boy or do anything to him. He knew that Abraham trusted totally in God, because he had not withheld his most treasured possession from Him (Gen. 22:12). But what about the sacrifice? Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught in the bushes by its horns. Just at that time and in just that place, God had prepared that ram to be caught and sacrificed. Abraham killed the ram and sacrificed it in the place of his son, and then he named the place Jehovah Jireh, which means “God will provide.” God will provide the once-and-for-all sacrifice of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Abraham and his son, Isaac, walked down that hill together that day. God spared Isaac’s life, but in Abraham’s mind, Isaac had been killed and raised again. The writer of Hebrews said, “By faith Abraham when he was tested offered up Isaac.” Abraham had received the promise from God that his descendants would come from Isaac. He reasoned that if God wanted him to kill Isaac, He would have to raise him from the dead. When they walked down the hill that day, in Abraham’s mind that is exactly what had occurred (Heb. 11:17–19).
Through Abraham’s offering of Isaac, God gave us the perfect illustration that His Son would come to die and that He would be raised again. God gave this illustration hundreds of years before the actual event. What a glimpse of God’s grace!