Have you ever been asked by someone to do something that did not make sense to you? If so, then you can understand what went through Abraham’s mind when God asked him to sacrifice his son Isaac, the story of which is in Genesis 22:1-19.
Satan tempts people to bring out their worst: God may test His loved ones to bring out their best. The people closest to God often find themselves in the midst of bigger tests. But Christians must remember: God will only ask them to do what He will enable them to do.
God tests our faith so that we might know what is in us. We might say that we love God and that He is first in our lives or that our marriages are centered around Him or that we trust or obey Him. We can easily deceive ourselves unless that love for God is put to the test.
Each of us has three parts to our personalities: intellect, emotions, and will. Each was included in the test as God sought to refine Abraham to a purer faith. When God commanded Abraham to offer his promised son as a burnt offering, Isaac was approximately 15 years old. In this defining moment, God asked Abraham to take all his future hopes-all that Abraham expected from the Lord according to His covenant-and surrender them on an altar. Although this instruction made no human sense, Abraham did not argue or plead; he simply obeyed.
The Hebrew term for the word “worship” describes the specific act of a person bowing all the way down to the ground. More important is the force of the verbs used in verse 5: “worship” and “will come back to you” express great determination and faith. Abraham in effect told his servants: Once these acts of worship are complete, Isaac and I will return. Abraham had no precedent that God would somehow bring his son back to life after the offering, for no one had ever seen a resurrection. Nevertheless, he trusted God to do the impossible, maybe because he had already seen God deliver the impossible through Isaac’s birth.
Faith is matured and strengthened by stress much like our bodies are strengthened through exercise. Faith operates in the tensions of life. It demonstrates itself more fully by the responses to stress than times of ease and prosperity. Abraham was asked to evaluate his faith in terms of his love for Isaac. No loving human can take such testing lightly.
There were spiritual implications to what Abraham was being asked to do. God’s promises to Abraham were wrapped up in Isaac, especially the promises regarding the salvation of humanity. God’s promises required that Isaac should live, but God commanded that Isaac be sacrificed. God appeared to contradict Himself, but in reality, He was testing Abraham. God allows testing for all His children, including Jesus. Belief in God doesn’t call for human sacrifice, but God demands other sacrifices. God wants us to sacrifice everything that keeps us from loving and serving Him.
We are like Isaac. We’re the children of a great promise, just like Isaac was the son God promised to Abraham and Sarah. We were born into a sinful world, and we justly deserve God’s anger. Because of our sinful nature, we deserve to be put to death, but at the right time, God provided Himself as the sacrificial lamb instead. We were set free from sin by a substitute so we can live our lives as heirs and children of God.
It is appropriate that we read this passage about sacrifice at this time of year. We are in the season of Lent. It is a season where we remember Jesus’ time in the wilderness and His sacrifice on Good Friday. Lent is a time of sacrifice or giving up something, and many Christians give up things during Lent-things such as chocolate, candy. When God has a plan, He will see it fulfilled. What is God calling you to sacrifice as a test of your faith in Him? Is it your reputation or your wealth? Is it a relationship or an ambition?
We tend to hold closest the things that are most dear to us. We hold on to the things that we think will bring us security and comfort and assurance in our lives. We see them as physical signs that we are protected and will be provided for. The true act of faith on the part of Abraham is not blind faith but the ability to see God’s provision in our lives, especially when things are tough.
Abraham’s faith was locked in the promise that God would keep His promises. God would remove the obstacles to that promise. That faith allowed Abraham to press on and prepare to sacrifice Isaac. He knew that God would do something.
Just as with Hagar and Ishmael in the wilderness in Genesis 21:16-17, God spoke at the very moment Abraham needed to hear from Him; just as he took the knife to slay Isaac. God did not want Abraham’s son to die; He wanted Abraham’s submission to Himself. When God said, “Now I know that you fear God,” He validated Abraham’s deep faith.
Why did God wait until the last minute to provide the sacrifice? Why does God wait until the last minute today to bring our provision? It is because we must be empty before we will receive God’s fullness. It wasn’t Isaac who had to die that day. It was Abraham-to his own plans, prospects and viewpoint.
Faith puts people in positions where they can see God’s abilities, timing and providing. God’s people place themselves in places where God will deliver what is needed at the right time and in the right manner.
Abraham’s confidence that God would provide is rewarded in verses 13-18, for God honours those who honour Him. God reaffirmed His covenant to Abraham with the most steadfast of oaths. The phrase “The Lord Will Provide” is a fitting name for Moriah (the Mount of the Lord), because here God provided not only a ram in Isaac’s place but also a Saviour in humanity’s place.
God often gives us a vision in our lives only to let it die first before the purest version of the vision is manifested. When God gives a vision and darkness follows, waiting on God will bring us into accordance with the vision He has given us if we await God’s timing.
No matter what circumstances we may be facing, we should follow Abraham’s example. We should keep our eyes on God. Instead of being overwhelmed by our circumstances, we should place our faith in God, His love, His plan, and His provision. No one or no thing can stand between us and God.
The story of Abraham and Isaac is the story of our relationship with God. He asks us to give up the things we hold dearly, just like He asked Abraham to sacrifice his much-loved son Isaac. God provided a sacrificial substitute for Isaac in the form of the ram. He demanded that we sacrifice ourselves to pay the penalty for our sins, but provided a sacrificial substitute in the form of Jesus Christ. As long as we believe in Him and what He did for us on the cross, we will live for eternity in heaven.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, p. 32-33)
- Briscoe, D.S. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 1: Genesis (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1987; pp. 183-187)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
- Thea Lunk, “Only Son Isaac.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Alan Wright, “Where is the Lamb? Part Two.” Retrieved from sss.SharingtheLight.org
- Os Hillman, “His Vision, His Way, In His Timing.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Michael Youssef, Ph.D.,” A Test of Faith.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Joni Eareckson Tada, “Be a Blessing.” Retrieved from www.joniandfriends.org
- Ron Moore, “Hello, My Name is…God.” Retrieved from www.ronmoore.org
- Juliana Classens, “Commentary on Genesis 22:1-14.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org