A PICTURE OF REDEEMING SACRIFICE

Abraham ranks among the greatest of men portrayed in the Bible.  His life story is recorded in Genesis 11 - 25.  That is over twice the space used to tell the story of creation and all history previous to Abraham.  His son, Isaac, his grandson, Jacob, and his great grandson, Joseph are the primary themes of the rest of Genesis.  The bulk of all following Scripture is dominated by Abraham's descendants.

Two great peoples refer to Abraham as their father,---the people of Israel and the Arabs.  Israel descended from Abraham through Isaac.  The Arabs descended through Ishmael and Esau, a son of Isaac who married a daughter of Ishmael.

Abraham stands alone as being referred to as "the friend of God".  James 2:23 quoting 2nd Chronicles 20:7 and Isaiah 41:8.  The apostle Paul also refers to Abraham as "the father of all who believe". 

The climactic experience in the life of Abraham came to pass when God ordered him to sacrifice his son, Isaac, on Mount Moriah.  "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..."  Genesis 22:2.  The faith and obedience of Abraham shines brightly in this story.  It will be most helpful if we first consider:

THE GROWTH OF ABRAHAM'S FAITH

"Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham. . ."  Genesis 22:1.  Abraham (originally named Abram) began his spiritual journey with God by faith.  Abraham lived in the land we know as Iraq "and served other gods."   (See Joshua 24:2)  The LORD spoke to Abraham, "Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you."  Genesis 12:1.  Abraham's faith provided the motivation that enabled him to obey God.  "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. . ."  Hebrews 11:8.

ABRAHAM'S FAITH WAS TESTED MANY TIMES.

God tests our faith in order to exercise and strengthen it.  These tests also reveal the level we have attained in faith and the point at which our faith begins to fail.

When Abraham had journeyed into the central part of Canaan the LORD spoke, "To your descendants I will give this land."  Genesis 12:7.  Abraham built an altar and worshipped God.  His faith remained intact.

Abraham journeyed to the south of Canaan and was shocked to find himself in a severe famine.  Did he have faith to believe he could find sufficient provision somewhere in the land God called him to dwell.  No.  His faith failed and he went down to Egypt.  While there he became aware that Pharaoh's princes had praised his wife's beauty to Pharaoh.  Abraham was giving a correct assessment of current culture when he said to Sarai, ". . .You are a woman of beautiful countenance. . .when the Egyptians see you. . .they will say, 'This is his wife', and they will kill me, but they will let you live.  Please say you are my sister. . .'"  Genesis 12:11-13.  Abraham could excuse himself with the fact that Sarai was his half-sister, but he communicated a lie.  Faith to believe God would protect him had departed.  Sadly, this experience would be repeated at a later time and a different place.  (See Genesis 20:1-14).

Abraham continued to be tested in various ways.  For many years his most difficult test was to continue to believe that God would give him a son.  When God called Abraham to go to the land of Canaan one of His promises was, "I will make you a great nation...And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed."  Genesis 12:2,3.  As we have already noted God reinforced this promise with such statements as "To your descendants I will give this land."  Genesis 12:7.  Abraham's anticipation of that son through whom God's promises would be fulfilled began to grow.  Later, God would add this emphasis,  ". . .All the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever.  And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth. . ."  Genesis 13:15-16.

However, years passed by and Abraham's wife, Sarai, was unable to conceive a child by him.  Abraham complained, "LORD God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless. . .?"  God reaffirmed His previous promises by showing Abraham the stars of heaven and saying, "So shall your descendants be."  Genesis 15:5.  Abraham's response was of such significance that it is quoted three times in the fourth chapter of Romans, "And he believed in the LORD< and He accounted it to him for righteousness."  (See Romans 4:3, 9, 22).  This was followed by a prescribed sacrifice and a night vision in which God revealed Abraham's descendants would dwell in Egypt four hundred years before they would return and possess the land.

What immediately followed was Abraham's most regrettable and damaging lapse of faith.  The test came from the most unexpected source. . .Abraham's beloved wife, Sarai. She had been experiencing growing feelings of failure.  She saw herself as the obstacle that was preventing God from giving Abraham a son.  "So Sarai said to Abram, 'See now, the LORD has restrained me from bearing children.  Please, go in to my maid (Hagar); perhaps I shall obtain children by her'.  And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai."  Genesis 16:2.

It was eleven years after God promised to give Abram descendants that Abraham became the father of a son.  He was to find out that what he had done was not what God had in mind.  When Abram was ninety-nine years old and Sarai was eighty-nine God changed their names to Abraham (father of a multitude) and Sarah (Princess).  God expanded the covenant He had made with Abraham and said in regard to Sarah, "And I will bless her and also give you a son by her...and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her."  Genesis 17:16.  To this God added, ". . .Call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him."  Genesis 17:19.

To fulfill His promise to Abraham God restored Abraham and Sarah "to the time of life."  Genesis 18:10, 14.  Some interesting evidence is found of this in Genesis 20.  The king of Gerar, by the name of Abimelech, beheld 89 year old Sarah to be such a ravishing beauty that he felt a powerful compulsion to add her to his harem.  Once again, God intervened.

After Isaac was born God confirmed to Abraham, "...in Isaac your seed shall be called,"  Genesis 21:12.  Abraham's faith was now ready for the ultimate test.

THE TRIUMPH OF ABRAHAM'S FAITH

After a happy and peaceful time in Beersheba the voice of God called again, "Abraham!"  Abraham quickly responded, "Here I am".

GOD'S NEW ORDERS FOR ABRAHAM.

"Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom  you love..."  Isaac was the fruit of God's promise; the son produced by a miraculous restoration of life;  the son for which Abraham earnestly longed for twenty-five years, and the son conceived by Abraham's beloved Sarah whose womb had been barren for eighty-nine years.  
"...And go to the land of Moriah..."  Moriah was a mountain in the central part of Canaan that ran north and south.  A valley named Kedron separated it from the Mount of Olives.  The ancient city of Jebus was built on Moriah.  We are informed in 2nd Chronicles 3:1 that it was the mountain upon which Solomon built the Temple.
"...And offer him there as a burnt offering..."  This meant that an altar of sacrifice would need to be built and sufficient wood be placed on the altar to fully burn Isaacs body.  It also meant that Abraham must carry a sharp knife to cut Isaac's jugular vein and fire to set the wood burning.

ABRAHAM'S PROMPT OBEDIENCE.

"...So Abraham rose early in the morning..."  Abraham's obedience was punctual.  He voiced no protest; asked no questions and made no whimper.  He moved quickly and purposefully to split the wood; saddle his donkey and load up the necessary supplies.  He selected two young men to accompany him and Isaac.

THREE DAYS JOURNEY.

This was how long it took to travel on foot from Beersheba to Mt. Moriah.  The most remarkable thing about these four men was their silence.  Abraham was in no mood for small talk and the others followed his lead.  However, there were deep thoughts coursing through the mind of Abraham.  He must obey God's command.  He could see himself cutting Isaac's jugular and his life blood flowing freely.  He could see himself lighting the wood and the fire consuming the sacrifice until there was nothing left but ashes...and then he could see Isaac being miraculously raised back to life.  How can we be so bold as to make such a statement?  Because Abraham  believed that God must faithfully keep His promises.  God had promised Abraham:  "And I will bless her (Sarah) and give you a son by her...and she shall be a mother of nations;  kings of peoples shall be from her."
". . .I will establish My covenant with Him (Isaac) for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him." 
This meant that Isaac must live for all the promises of God's covenant with Abraham to be fulfilled.  To settle all doubts God gave this New Testament revelation: "By faith Abraham...offered up Isaac...his only begotten son, of whom it was said, 'In Isaac your seed shall be called, concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense'"  Hebrews 11:17, 18

EXPRESSIONS OF ABRAHAM'S FAITH.

"Abraham said to his young men, 'Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship and we will come back to you.'"  22:5.  Isaac said to his father, "Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?"  Abraham answered, "My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering."  The comment of Jesus regarding this was, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad."  Abraham saw what John the Baptist saw when he officially introduced Jesus to Israel, "Behold!  The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"  John 1:29.

After God provided a ram to offer up to God "instead of his son" Abraham called the name of the place "Jehovah-Jireh", meaning "The LORD will Provide" and Moses added these words five hundred years later when he wrote Genesis, "as it is said to this day, 'In the Mount of the LORD it shall be provided.'"  The only thing that can be meant is, "In the Mount of the LORD God will provide for Himself the Lamb for an offering."  In 30 A.D. when the Passover lamb was being prepared Jesus was taken to Calvary located on the northern portion of Mount Moriah.  As He hung on a cross God provided for Himself the Lamb of God to be an offering for the sins of the world.  "For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit"  1st Peter 3:18.

Copyright 2002 Thomas E Berry
Scripture quotations from NKJV unless otherwise noted

    Copyright 2008 Truth Helpers Inc.