Take Your Only Son Isaac,
and Sacrifice Him as a Burnt Offering

22: 1-8

DIG: Why do you think God chose to test Abraham’s faith through his son Isaac? Knowing Elohim waited twenty-five years before providing a son for Avraham, how would you expect him to react to God’s instruction? Why doesn’t he object? Who does Abraham say will come back down the mountain? What does this tell you about his faith in God? What other evidences of faith in God did Avraham give as he was preparing to sacrifice his son?

REFLECT: Where do you sense God is testing you now? How are you doing in the test? What are you learning from it? If Elohim asked you to surrender something or someone you loved, could you do it? Is God first in your life?

Abraham had not heard from God for many years. He seemed to be silent. But some time later God tested Avraham and asked him to do the unthinkable (22:1a). This word tested makes it clear that God did not intend to have Isaac sacrificed. This is the first time the word tested is used in the Bible, and it would be Avraham’s greatest test. God called outto him, “Abraham!” And Abraham replied: Here I am (22:1b). Our faith is not really tested until Elohim asks us to bear what seems unbearable, do what seems unreasonable, and expect what seems impossible.352

When God spoke, it seemed as though every word was meant to wound Abraham as deeply as possible. God said: Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love (22:2a). Isaac was not the only son Abraham had, but he was the son of promise, the unique son. As far as God’s purposes are concerned, He was blind to Ishmael. So the first mention of the word love in the Scriptures calls our attention to the fact that the love of a godly father for his only son is a picture of the love that exists between God the Father and God the Son.

Muslims make a big deal about Genesis saying your only son. They say that it should be written, “Take your son, your only son, Ishmael,” because when Ishmael was in his mid-teens, Isaac had not yet been born. The specific reason Ishmael and Hagar were sent away was because God only recognized Isaac as the son of promise.Their twisted reasoning is that when Isaac was born, Abraham had two sons. But they don’t get the point that as far as being the son of promise, God did not recognize Ishmael, only Isaac. Therefore, God would look upon Isaac as Abvaham’s only son. The Muslims teach “because of chauvinism (or prejudice) the name Ishmael was changed to Isaac in this passage.” They teach that God has preserved the word only to show them what it should have been.353

Then God continued: Go to the region of Mount Moriah, which would eventually become Mount Zion. The words seemed like a knife stabbing deep into Abraham’s heart. Sacrifice him there as a burnt, or sin offering (before the Torah, the sin offering was the burnt offering) on one of the mountains I will tell you about (22:2b). The issue was clear. God was asking Avraham: Do you love your son more than you love Me? The principle is this: Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength (Deuteronomy 6:4). Jesus said: If anyone comes to Me and loves Me less than his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters, and yes, even his own life, he cannot be My disciple (Luke 14:26). If Abraham had laughed in his heart with joyful hope when his son was promised to him, how deep his anguish and perplexity must have been at this amazing request from the God who had been so good to him. Yet the faith that enabled him to believe such a staggering promise in the first place was now enough for an even more stunning demand. This test, then, reveals Avraham’s obedience and faith, Isaac’s submission, and Elohim’s gracious provision of a substitute in his place.354

Isaac is portrayed as a type of Christ (Galatians 3:16), and the experience of Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah pictures the sacrifice of Messiah on Mount Calvary (Hebrews 11:17-19). This is really the central issue of this entire chapter, if not the entire Bible: God did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all (Romans 8:32).

“But, ADONAI,” Abraham may have thought, “that doesn’t sound like You. You promised to make Isaac a great nation, and he is not even married yet! True, the gods of the nations around us are sometimes worshiped by the sacrifice of sons and daughters, and I certainly love You as much as these people love their own false gods; but this type of thing surely is not pleasing to You. What will happen to all Your promises if You ask this of me? And what about Sarah? Why, this will bring her down to the grave with grief!” Whether Avraham actually thought such things or not, Scriptures do not say. All we are told is that he obeyed God with no questions asked.355 Faith obeys the Word of God completely.

It is one thing to claim to trust God’s Word when waiting for something; it is quite another thing to trust and obey His Word after it is received. This was a test of how much Abraham would obey Him. Would he cling to Isaac now that he had him, or would he still obey and return him to God? In other words, how far would Avraham go in his obedience? Did he really believe that God would keep His word and raise the son of promise?356

The moment Abraham had made up his mind to obey God, Isaac was dead in his eyes. He proceeded on his grim task as someone making funeral arrangements, just putting one foot in front of the other. He did not tell Isaac of his intentions, and he probably did not tell Sarah either. Early the next morning he got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac (Hebrew: Yitz’chak). The rabbis teach that these two servants were Ishmael and Eliezar of Damascus. He also cut enough wood for the sin offering because he didn’t know if there would be enough for the sacrifice. Actually, the servants are not recorded as doing anything. They are merely there. When all was ready, the four of them set out for the place God had told him about (22:3).

Because he was old, Avraham rode a donkey, while Isaac and the two servants walked. The journey took a full two days and part of a third. The total distance was about fifty miles from Beersheba. Abraham traveled in silent resignation. There is not a single word of conversation recorded. On the third day He looked up and saw the place in the distance (22:4). He instinctively realized that he and Yitz’chak needed to travel the rest of the way by themselves. He said to his two servants, “Stay here with the donkey while my son and I go over there.” The two thieves on the cross were not permitted to see what transpired between the Father and the Son, and neither are the two servants.

For all practical purposes, Yitz’chak was raised from the dead on the third day, which is the heart of the Gospel: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (First Corinthians 15:3b-4). According to what Scriptures? Paul was talking about the TaNaKh. But where does it picture Jesus being raised on the third day? Jesus Himself talks about His death and resurrection being the sign of Jonah (Luke 11:29), because Jonah spent three days in the belly of a whale and was raised from the dead (see my commentary on Jonah Au – Jonah’s Prayer). And also here, figuratively speaking, Abraham received Isaac back from the dead on the third day.

Then Abraham said: We will worship and then we will come back to you. (22:5). He wasn’t lying to the two servants. Abraham had faith that he and Isaac would both return because God had promised him a son. God had told him that Isaac would become a great nation, in whom all the nations of the world would be blessed. If he were dead, none of that would come to pass. Abraham had learned long ago that God was a promise keeper. But how about Avraham’s statement that he and Isaac were going to worship? Could sacrificing Isaac be considered worship? Yes, because to worship simply means to bow down. To worship God is simply to bow down to His will, recognizing and acknowledging that His will is best for our lives. What He does is right, whether we understand it now or not. His will may involve waiting and suffering, even dying; but if it is His will, then we must bow down to it and accept it with thanksgiving. I do not underestimate how difficult this is, but it is then, and only then, that we worship God. Not understanding, but believing, Abraham and Isaac were willing to do His will. This submission to God’s will in an ultimate act of worship pictures beautifully the work of Christ on the cross. Jesus said: My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as you will (Matthew 26:39).357

Avraham took the wood for the sin offering and placed it on his son Isaac. Isaac carried the wood for his sacrifice up to Mount Moriah, just as the cross was placed on Christ as He carried it up to Mount Calvary (John 19:17). And Isaac himself carried the fire and the knife (22:6a). The fire symbolizes divine judgment. It was first seen in a flaming sword that was placed in the garden of Eden to make sure that Adam and Eve could make it back to the tree of life under the right conditions (3:24). It will last be seen in the lake of fire, where the beast and the false prophet will be thrown (Revelation 20:14-15). Divine judgment would be satisfied on Calvary when every claim of God’s holiness and justice are satisfied, so that He is set free to act on behalf of sinners.

As the two of them went on together, Isaac went willingly with his father. This was no child. Isaac was a grown man of about 30 years old. He was in his prime and about to be married. No doubt he was much stronger than Abraham and could have easily escaped if he had wanted. At some point he had to have known what his father had in mind. He knew what a sin offering was. They were carrying the wood, the fire and the knife, but there was no animal to sacrifice. Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and the wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the sin offering” (22:6b-7)? An honest question deserved an honest answer.

Abraham answered: My son, God will provide Himselfa lamb for the sin offering (22:8a KJV). God alone could provide that which would satisfy Himself. Shortly after this there was a ram that was caught in a thicket, and Abraham would take the ram and sacrifice it as a sin offering (22:13). Avraham says here that God will provide Himself a lamb. But there was no lamb; there was a ram, and that is an important point. The lamb was not provided until centuries later when John the Baptist would point to Yeshua and say: Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). God provided Himself as that lamb. It is very important to see that Abraham was speaking prophetically here.358 Isaac does not respond and was silent before his sacrifice just as Messiah was silent before His.

And the two of them went on together (22:8b). The two servants could only accompany them to within sight of Mount Moriah. This was going to be between the father and the son, between Abraham and Isaac. And likewise, God shut man out at the cross. At noontime, darkness covered the entire earth for three hours, while God the Father poured out His wrath on God the Son. Peter said it like this: He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness (First Peter 2:24a; Second Corinthians 5:21). But it was between the Father and the Son on that cross. Man was outside and did not participate at all. The picture is the same here.359

Therefore, God the Father did not force His Son to die on the cross. The reason My Father loves Me is that I lay down My life, only to take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from My Father (John 10:17-18). It was the Father’s will, and the Son willingly obeyed. And because the two of them went on together, lost sinners like you and me can be forgiven of our sins and receive eternal life.

 

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