A Father's Faith

Abraham is well known to us as a man who "believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness" (Letter to the Galatians 3:6). 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, the son of promise, and to offer him in sacrifice.

Abraham met his greatest test when God said: "Take now 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 the mountains of which I shall show you" (Genesis 22:2).

It was as though God did not spare Abraham's feelings when he referred to Isaac as "your son, your only son, whom you love." There was a special sense in which Isaac was his father's only son, as Ishmael, Hagar's son, was not recognized along with Isaac as the child of promise, Sarah's miracle son. And "whom you love" would underline and emphasize that Abraham's affection and hopes centred upon Isaac.

The Terrible Command

How Abraham spent that night we are not told. Perhaps he was 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 what ever battles there might have been, "Abraham rose early in the morning . . . and took . . . Isaac his son . . . and went to the place of which God had told him." His rising early in the morning surely speaks of his 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 His servant? There is the story of a father standing in a dark cellar and calling 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 her father caught her in his arms. If he had had no intention of catching her and had allowed her to fall to the floor he would rightly have been guilty of a criminal act.

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 fathfulness 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 being 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, we read of the fire, we read of the knife – but we ask with Isaac: "Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" And we hear Abraham's reply: "My son, God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering."

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, for Isaac, unresisting, acquiesced,and was bound and laid on the altar upon the wood.

Then Abraham "stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son." But before the knife could be plunged into Isaac the voice of the "Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said . . . Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your 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 spoke a blessing on his obedience and faith: " . . . in blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your descendants . . . and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice."

The Word reveals to us that when he was released from the sacrifice of his son Isaac, "Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son."

Truths For Us

We see in this incident several important truths that teach us, firstly about resurrection from the dead. In the New Testament we read: "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac . . . accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense" (Letter to the Hebrews 11:17).

We must remember that there is no reference in the Bible prior to this time of any person 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 round 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 who had accompanied him on his journey: "The lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you." ?

Secondly, does it not seem that Abraham here stands as a type of the God who gave His own blessed Son to death for us? Was the Messiah not "delivered by the carefully planned intention and foreknowledge of God . . . " (Acts 2:23)? And is it not true that "God was in the Messiah reconciling the world to himself" (Second Letter to the Corinthians 5:19)?

And if Abraham stands as a type of God, is not Isaac a type of that Beloved One whom God gave for our salvation? We remember Isaac's question when he and Abraham were on their way to the place of sacrifice: "Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?"

And did not John the forerunner of the Messiah reveal a precious facet of the Messiah Yeshua's ministry when he identified Him as: "The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." (John 1:29)? He was indeed the sacrifice, the lamb "caught in a thicket by its horns" , as this was fulfilled on the day when they "twisted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head" (Matthew 27:29).