You know, since I started my own agency I have really loved working and plying my trade. This week has been one of those weeks though where I find myself saying, “Thank God it’s Friday!” I have been so busy this week I have scarcely had any time to get into my devotionals here. It is not that I have been without the WORD, but just not here, and I truly love this time and am glad to be back. So, when I last left off in chapter 21, Abraham had made a covenant with Abimelech, a peace treaty of sorts for the generations to follow. And now, coming to chapter 22 the scene changes again and we find Abraham alone again with God.
[Gen 22:1 NKJV] Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”
In context we know that the, “these things” in verse 1 are referring to the three major movements in the last chapter, where we learned about Isaac’s birth and weaning, the dismissal of Hagar and Abraham’s son Ishmael, and the treaty between Abraham and Abimelech. But I love this verse because it shows me two things about a man of faith. First, the man of faith is always listening for the voice of the LORD and the man of faith always answers the call of the LORD. I wish that I could hear the audible voice of God like Abraham did, but I have never heard His voice in this way. The way I have heard the voice of the LORD is through prayer, worship, and reading the WORD of God. Perhaps, I am not listening intently enough, and so my prayer would be that God would tune my ears to hear His voice.
But notice here that this was a unique calling of the LORD. Abraham did not know it, but the author gives us a clue as to what the LORD required of Abraham. Notice it says that, “God tested Abraham.” God has been about the business of testing Abraham since He called him out of his home up until now. This is what God does to prepare the man of faith for the purpose and the calling that He places upon him. Like our own sanctification, God is bringing Abraham through several tests not to prove to God who Abraham is, but to prove to Abraham who he is in God’s eyes. I think this is important to consider in our own lives. When we look back on our trials and see how the LORD has brought us through each and every one of them, it is much easier to have the kind of faith that is necessary to do the will of God.
[Gen 22:2 NKJV] Then He said, “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 on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”
Now this bears examination because it seems to be a contradiction. We know that Abraham had two sons. He was father to Ishmael and to Isaac. So why does the passage take care to tell us that God calls Isaac, Abrahams only son? Well, this, I believe, is because Isaac was the son of promise, the one whose seed would one day bring the birth of Messiah, Jesus. But this seems like a strange request. I am not sure how I would handle myself under the same circumstances. I mean to hear the voice of God would be amazing, but to hear a command to sacrifice my son and offer him up as a burnt offering? This seems to be totally counter to what the God that Abraham knew would ask of him.
It wasn’t like this was something unique in the sense of child sacrifices. Child sacrifices were practiced, no doubt in that day. Still, the request must have made Abraham as white as a ghost. God did not command Abraham to kill his son, that would be difficult enough to do, but notice He tell Abraham to offer him up as a burnt offering. Now, I can imagine the ceremonial aspects of offering up a burnt offering to the LORD. It must have been an amazing sight to witness and to perform. But to do this to your only son whom you love sounds ridiculous. And of course, it is rediculous in our day in age. God requested of Abraham something unique. A trial or test that was necessary for Abraham to accomplish what he must. With great faith there must be great trials which precede them. And so I suppose that we can take comfort in our trials for this fact. The trials we face and endure are commensurate with the blessings that follow.
God commands this because He wants Abraham to see once and for all times how faithful He is and to what degree He has purpose of Abraham for the tasks that lay ahead. You don’t just get to be the father of nations without first having learned what it means to trust with all of your being in the LORD. This is what amazes me today about men in authority that do not fear the LORD. I don’t feel that they are fully equipped to master their positions until they first come to see God through Abrahams eyes. In our own political cycles it seems that four to eight years is scarcely enough time. But here, as we will see, Abraham does not have the luxury of time, for in three days a great sacrifice will be demanded of him.
[Gen 22:3 NKJV] So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.
But Here we see Abrahams obedience. It probably ate at Abraham the task that lay before him. Still, in faith and in obedience Abraham sets off to do what was commanded of him. Now, I would like to point out that faith demands obedience. To me, they are concordant with one another as faith without works is dead (James 2:26).
[Gen 22:4 NKJV] Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off.
Abraham had to stew on this for three days as he lifted his eyes and saw the place where God would have him offer up his only remaining son. I can imagine Abraham pleading with the LORD in prayer all the way. I know I would have. Even Jesus said, “Let this cup pass from me.” I have to believe that Abraham grew weaker with every step. Still, Abraham had to trust in God. Up until this point he had trusted in the promise of God to make him a great nation, now it came time for Abraham to learn to trust in the One who had made the promise.
All too often we set out to try and fulfill the promises of God in our own flesh. The miraculous seems to…well…miraculous to come to pass all on its own. And so we set out to bring the promises of God to ourselves by our own accord. The problem is we do not have the power to do what only God can do and so our attempts are futile. It would be better for us to accept the blessings of God in His timing and according to His plan, than to set out on our own to accomplish that which only God can accomplish. We are actually in a better place when we simply lean into the LORD and follow as He commands. Still there is always this nagging doubt that lingers. This is where greater trials prove to have greater purpose in the lives of greater men.
[Gen 22:5 NKJV] And 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.”
The time had come. God had been preparing Abraham for this moment for some time. And while to Abraham it must have seemed like the end of everything, he trusted that God would deliver his son. Now, put yourself in Abrahams sandals for a moment. You just had to put out your first born son and leave him to fate to deliver him from the harsh wilderness, and now, your only remaining son is demanded of you as well?
So Abraham tells his young men, servants no doubt, to stay behind that he and his son Isaac would go up to worship, but notice this. Abraham says that they will go up and worship but then he tells them, “..an we will come back to you.” Abraham uses the word Β “we” as if he is certain that God will spare his son and that both of them would come back down from the mountain together! That is great faith. All Abraham knew was that God promised that it was through his son Isaac that his seed should be called. I believe that Abraham understood that even if he had to go through the with this sacrifice that God would raise his son from the dead in order to fulfill His promise to Abraham.
I think about the promise the LORD has placed over my own life. I know for certain what my calling is, still, to look at me today you would have to wonder, as I often do, how on earth is God going to pull this one off? Well, the answer is in the question. Earth has nothing to do with heavenly promises. It is through supernatural, God orchestrated events that Abraham would come to trust the Creator in a much more profound way.
[Gen 22:6 NKJV] So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid [it] on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together.
Now, after three days with a teenager, I am guessing that Abraham was ready to get the show on the road. Just kidding. But seriously, Abraham takes the wood that they had brought with them and gives it to his son to carry. And like any teenager, I can see Isaac rolling his eyes and saying, “Geez dad, why do I always get all the chores.” Sound familiar? But the reality is that many commentators believe Isaac was no longer a teenager at this point. Some suggest that he was more like 30 years old. If I had to wager a guess, I would say he was 33 years old. I say this because we see that Christ was about 33 when He was led to the cross as a sacrifice, and like Isaac, He too had to carry His own wood, albeit in the form of the cross.
[Gen 22:7 NKJV] But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where [is] the lamb for a burnt offering?”
Kids ask a lot of questions don’t they? Now, I don’t know how sharp Isaac was, but about now, I think Isaac is putting the pieces together. They have all of the elements for a sacrifice, save one, the sacrifice itself. I can see it now, Abraham saying to Isaac, “I hate to break it to you kiddo, but God said…” Now we are not told of the discussion that Abraham has with Isaac, but I am certain that Abraham filled Isaac in on the details, and think we get a snippet of the conversation because we read in the next verse…
[Gen 22:8 NKJV] And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together.
Base on the fact that they went together leaves only two possibilities. Either Abrahm failed to mention that Isaac was to be the sacrifice, or Isaac accepted his fate and trusted his father, and trusted moreso in the LORD. I have to believe by this point that Isaac would have been well versed in the knowledge of who the LORD was and how God had miraculously bore him from two parents who were physically incapable of having children. No doubt, Isaac understood from his father that God planned to use him for an enduring covenant which had yet to be fulfilled. So, in my honest opinion, I think that Isaac knew what was about to go down and accepted it by faith.
That is an interesting thing to consider as well. My own children are under the umbrealla of my faith even now. They benefit from the relationship that I have with my Father as I train them up to know Him as I know Him.
[Gen 22:9 NKJV] Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood.
Now, Abraham is in his hundreds at this point, but Isaac was still quite young comparitively. This is why I believe that Isaac was a willing participant, for had he been in disagreement with being the sacrifice he could have escaped or even overpowered his elderly father with relative ease. I have to believe that Isaac was willing to be martyred for sake of God, knowing that even if he died, that God would fulfill His promises. In that respect, I think Abraham successfully shared and transferred his faith to his son. I can only hope and pray that my own kids will glean sufficiently from me to have the kind of trust in their father as Isaac had in his. Beyond that, I pray that my own children would grow in faith in the LORD where their trust in me is paled by comparison.
[Gen 22:10 NKJV] And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.
This is where the rubber meets the road. Could you have done this? I have to believe that if it were you or I in this same position that we would, indeed, carry out the act. I am not saying that we are somehow callouse or evil, or that we would even do this deed without hesitation or sorrow in our hearts. No right-minded individual could do such a thing. But what I am saying is that if we were in the position that God would give us the faith required to do what He commanded us to do. It is God who apportions faith (Romans 12:3) and I have to believe that in the same “circumstances” that God would provide us with the courage to do what was required of us. And that is exaclty what Abraham does. His son, now on the altar he made and bound, a fire ready to go, Abraham raises the knife and prepares to bring the sharp blade sinking into the flesh of his beloved son.Β I picture how God must have felt when the sharp nails were pounded into the flesh of His own beloved son.
[Gen 22:11 NKJV] But the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” So he said, “Here I am.”
At the moment of decision, Abraham begins the descent and aims for the heart of his son with the wicked blade and just before contact Jesus calls out to him, “Abraham, Abraham!” Talk about the God of the 11th hour here! Have you ever been on top of a high dive platform for the first time and right before you finally muster up enough courage to take the plunge, the lifeguard blows their whistle and calls a break? It is like the adage, “saved by the bell.”
And so Abraham, probably noticably shaken about what was about to transpire wipes the sweat from his brow and answers Jesus. Now, you will notice that I keep referring to this voice as the voice of Jesus. That is because in verse 11 we are told that the Angel of the LORD is speaking. If you have followed my devotional for very long you will have likely come across this word, “Christophany.” Whenever you see the Angel of the LORD (in many Bible capitalized as in the text above) this is believed to be a preincarnate visitation of Christ Jesus.
[Gen 22:12 NKJV] And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only [son], from Me.”
God delivers Isaac. I imagine the sigh of relief that both of them gave at that moment. I know I sigh the sigh of relief everytime I read this and I have read this a whole lot of times. But notice here that Jesus says, “for now I know you fear God…” We have to keep in mind that while man has free will, God is still omniscient, that is, all knowing. It is not as if God did not know that He would spare Isaac, or that Abraham would follow through with His command. This was for Abraham and Isaac. For Abraham, it was a revelation that he was faithful to obey the LORD without hesitation. That is a good feeling when you realize that you have done something that you did not think you had it in you to do. Now, for Isaac, it was a confirmation that God was faithful. The same LORD that his father trusted was the same LORD that he could trust all the days of his life.
[Gen 22:13 NKJV] Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind [him was] a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son.
God always provides. The beauty of the LORD is that He still got His sacrifice. I can imagine the joy in the hearts of Abraham and Isaac as they, together offered the sacrifice up to the LORD. But isn’t it so like God to provide the substitute. God is really good at providing substitutes isn’t He? I mean after all, He provided Jesus, the greatest substitue that ever lived.
[Gen 22:14 NKJV] And Abraham called the name of the place, The-LORD-Will-Provide; as it is said [to] this day, “In the Mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”β
And so Abraham names the place, “The-LORD-Will-Provide.” As we discussed in my last devotional the names of places are ofte associated with a special event that occored there. As they left the place of the sacrifice, I imagine Abraham looking back at the scene as they approached the servants whom they had left behind. He looks up and the shadows on the side of the place where they had just come seem to appear like the face of a skull. It is believed that the same place where Isaac was offered up was the exact spot where Jesus was crucified. Β And as they leave the place of the skull, one of the servants says, “so…how did it go?”
Prayer: LORD, thank You for providing us with the substitution for our sins. We deserve to be the ones hanging on the cross, yet You chose to provide the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. I am grateful for Your promises LORD and again, this study has proven to remind me that You always provide. There is nothing that You call me to do that is too big for you. Help me to stay out of the way LORD and trust in You as Abraham did. I hesitate to ask for greater faith, only because I know that it is accompanied by greater trials. But apportion to me the amount of faith that You will so that I can walk in obedience to Your commands. I love You LORD and give You all praise, for You alone are worthy. It is in Your name that I pray. βAmen