We’re studying a really challenging story from the Old Testament this week, where God asks Abraham to sacrifice his long-awaited son. Where we left off yesterday, he had the knife ready over Isaac, ready to follow through on this unbelievable and horrific command from God.
But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”
And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba. And Abraham lived at Beersheba. (Genesis 22:1-19 ESV)
He passed the test. God reiterates the covenant promise he made earlier – God will bless the world through Abraham’s many descendants. It seems there was one way Abraham would ruin it all – if he held something back from God, even the most important thing in his world, his son.
But now his offspring will multiply like stars and sand, and be a powerful nation.
Now, how is this good news? God makes a promise, follows through, then tests the poor guy, and reiterates the same old promise.
And we also need to ask, where is Jesus here? Well, that’s where the hope is.
In this story we see how no loving father could want his son to die, much less at his own hands. We see the agony that goes into even considering such an act.
“Take your son, your only son, Isaac” (v. 2); “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” (John 3:16).
First there is the love of God the Father for his son that we can see in the love of Abraham for his son.
“Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac” (v. 6); Jesus, “carrying his own cross. . .” (John 19:17).
God offered his son to our world, and allowed him to die, to be sacrificed. Fro the same reasons as humans used to sascrifice animals. To show their complete love for God, and to pay the price for sin, which is death. As a temporary solution humans could offer animals in their place. As a final solution, God allowed a single human, Jesus, to take our place forever. Heh showed us his complete love for us, and paid the price we could never pay.
“But where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (v. 7); John said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
New Testament writers looked back at this story and see Jesus as the lamb, the sacrifice.
Of course, he was a human, God’s son. God held back Abraham’s hand, and stopped him. But God didn’t hold back his hand…it actually happened. He does what he’d never ask of us.
Question: What did God learn about Abraham? Was there another way?