By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.” -Hebrews 11:17-19
As evidenced in his second encounter with King Abimelech (The Treaty at Beersheba), Abraham’s faith in God had grown.
In Genesis 22 we arrive at one of the greatest crisis recorded in Scripture. God tests Abraham with someone dear to his heart, his long awaited promised son.
You may read Genesis 22:1-19 here: Bible Gateway.
Abraham had learned the hard way the importance of obedience. This time he didn’t question or hesitate when God told him to sacrifice his only son. The next morning he saddled his donkey and gathered wood, two servants, and his son, Isaac.
I wonder what went through Abraham’s heart and mind as he journeyed three days—50-60 miles—to Mount Moriah. His heart undoubtedly agonized over the difficult task ahead.
Several questions surface from this passage. I found the following commentaries both informative and encouraging.
How are God’s tests different than Satan’s tests?
God tests to confirm and strengthen; Satan tests to corrupt and weaken.” –Layman’s Bible Commentary
Why did God test Abraham?
God tested Abraham, not to trip him and watch him fall, but to deepen his capacity to obey God and thus to develop his character.” –NIV Life Application Bible
Why did God ask Abraham to perform human sacrifice?
The Bible does not explicitly give God’s reasons. Child sacrifice was common among the pagan Canaanite religions of the time. In this case, however, it was a test of faith, never an intention to eliminate a child’s life (Genesis 22:12). It was also a unique test that has not been used since and likely will never be used again. The test carries significance for us because it prefigured the act of God Himself offering His own Son, Jesus, as a sacrifice for us.” –500 Questions & Answers from the Bible
How does this account foreshadow Jesus Christ?
- Abraham placed God first by being willing to sacrifice his only son. God the Father loved us so much that He also was willing to sacrifice His only Son (John 3:16).
- Isaac was willing to do what his father instructed. Jesus also obeyed His Father, even unto death (John 10:17-18).
- Abraham’s sacrifice took place on Mount Moriah (Jerusalem). Jesus was sacrificed on the edge of Jerusalem (John 19:17-18).
- A ram was provided as a substitute for Isaac. God the Father provided Jesus, the Lamb of God, as a substitute for us. He paid our sin penalty by death on the cross to spare us the eternal death we deserve. In exchange, He offers us eternal life (Romans 6:23; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
- Abraham’s son (Isaac) was the child of the promise; he was connected to the idea of resurrection (Hebrews 11:17-19). God’s Son, Jesus, is the child of promise (Isaiah 9:6) who is resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:1-11).
Just as fire refines ore to mine precious metals, God refines us through difficult circumstances.
Abraham trusted that God would keep His word, even if that meant raising Isaac from the dead. Abraham’s story—along with many others in the Bible—entails sacrificing lives, desires, and wishes.
Abraham received abundant blessings for not holding back. God not only gave Abraham’s descendants the ability to conquer their enemies, but also promised Abraham that his descendants would bless the whole earth as a result of knowing his faith.
God’s blessings far outweigh our sacrifices. His gifts are meant to overflow to others. The greatest rewards, however, await God’s children in eternity.
Is God asking you to give up something of great value? What can we learn from Abraham’s example?