A Father's Faith

by Keith Macnaughtan

Abraham is well known to us as a man mighty in faith, a man "who believed in God and it was counted unto him for righteousness." And in no incident of his life is his faith more clearly seen than at the time when God commanded him to take his son, his beloved son, Isaac, about whom all his hopes were centred, and to offer him in sacrifice. Abraham met his greatest test when God said, "Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest, even Isaac, and get thee into the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of."

It was as though God did not spare Abraham's feelings when he referred to Isaac as "thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest." There was an especial sense in which Isaac was his father's ONLY son: and "whom thou lovest" would underline and emphasize that all Abraham's fond affection and his hopes centred upon Isaac.

That Terrible Command

How Abraham spent that night we are not told -- perhaps in assuring himself that it was indeed God's will for this seemingly dreadful thing to take place; perhaps in reasoning with the Almighty; perhaps with sinking heart as he contemplated the future. But whatever battles there might have been, "Abraham rose early in the moring ... and took ... Isaac his son ... and went unto the place of which God had told him."

His rising early on that morning surely speaks of his grim determination to see this thing through. Perhaps Abraham didn't dare hesitate lest his love for Isaac overcome his determination to do God's will.

God was proving Abraham by commanding him to do this thing. But was God justified in thus commanding Abraham? I am reminded of the story of a father standing in a dark cellar, who called to his little daughter to jump into the cellar to him. Although she couldn't see him, she did as she was told, and of course the father caught her in his arms.

If he had had no intention of catching her and had allowed her to fall to the floor, she perhaps even crippling herself, he would rightly be judged to be guilty of criminal neglect. But he had known all along that he would catch her if she jumped. It was a test of HER love and obedience, not of HIS faithfulness as her father. So God, when He gave this command to Abraham, had known all along that the knife of sacrifice would never be plunged into Isaac – but Abraham did not know this?! It was HIS obedience, not God's faithfulness, that was put to the test.

God Will Provide the Lamb

So Abraham and Isaac journeyed to mount Moriah, the place which centuries later Solomon dedicated as the site of the magnificent Temple. We read of the wood for the burnt-offering, the fire, and the knife. But we ask with Isaac, "Where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?" And we hear Abraham reply, "God will provide Himself the lamb ..."

Arriving at the place of sacrifice, Abraham erected an altar and laid the wood on it in order. Apparently at this time he also divulged to Isaac that HE should be the lamb God had provided. Isaac, unresisting, acquiesced, and was bound and laid on the altar, upon the wood. Then Abraham "stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son." But, before the knife could be plunged into Isaac's breast, the voice of the angel of God spoke from heaven, "Lay not thy hand upon the lad ... for now I know that thou art a God-fearing man, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from Me."

Abraham had proved his faith. He had passed the test. We know not what agony of soul he had suffered, but faith had triumphed. And God again spoke a blessing on his obedience and faith: " ... in blessing I will bless thee ... and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou hast hearkened to My voice."

The Story is Typical

We see in this incident several types of important truths. First, there is a type of resurrection from the dead. In the New Testament we read, "By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac ... accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him, in a figure." (Hebrews 11:17)

Remember, there is no reference in the Bible to any person, prior to this time, having been raised from the dead! Yet so great was Abraham's faith that he believed God would resurrect Isaac, so that His promises which centred about his only son, might find their fulfilment. And he believed this although, as yet, no one else had ever been raised from the dead. Had he not told his young men, "I and the lad will go yonder, and worship, AND COME AGAIN TO YOU" ?

Second, does it not seem, too, that Abraham here stands as a type of God Who gave His Blessed One to death for us? Was He not "delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" for "God was in Messiah reconciling the world unto Himself." (Acts 2:23; II Corinthians 18:21)

Isaac a Type of Messiah

But if Abraham stands as a type of God, is not Isaac a type of that Beloved One Whom God gave for our salvation? Remember Isaac's question when he and Abraham were on their way to the place of sacrifice, "Behold the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?"

Did not John the Baptist reveal a precious facet of Messiah's ministry when he identified Him as "the Lamb of God ..." ?