One of my favorite stories in all the bible is found in Genesis 22 – God tells Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering. Abraham starts preparing immediately and departs early the next morning with Isaac, two of his servant and wood for the burnt offering in tow. Three days into the journey they arrive. Abraham commands his servants to stay put and then loads Isaac up with the firewood (he is carrying the wood that he is sent to be the burnt offering over). As they begin walking, Isaac asks Abraham where the lamb is for the burnt offering. With nary a bit of doubt, Abraham replies that the Lord will provide Himself with a lamb (God foreshadowed his own provision of Jesus). Once they arrive at the place God has told him, Abraham binds Isaac and lays him on the altar. Abraham’s hand is outstretched with a knife when an angel interrupts him telling him not to lay a hand on Isaac. As Abraham turns he notices a ram caught in the thicket nearby.
Despite my love for this story, I haven’t had a very deep understanding of it until recently. Let’s rewind and review a bit of what I know about Abe. Abraham and his wife Sarah waited 25 years for Isaac to be born after God originally promised them. When Isaac was finally born, Abraham was 100 years old (Genesis 21:1-12). During that 25 year period, Abraham did not have a bible available to him; he simply had to wait for God to reveal himself; and reveal himself He did. Over those 25 years God promised Abraham that He would bless Abraham and his descendants through a son from his own loins. Abraham’s descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the dust in all the earth. (Genesis 12:1-3, 13:14-16, 15:1-8, 17:15-21)
Now I don’t know about you but I have the bible right in front of me, in fact I read it almost every day, yet my faith is not near what Abraham’s was. I’m not sure what my reaction would have been if God appeared and told me to sacrifice the son I waited 25 years for. In discussing this story last night with my Hebrews study group, it really hit home though when we started discussing Isaac. Isaac was not a small boy when God commanded Abraham to do this. Isaac was 40 – a grown man. A grown man that was probably much stronger at this point than his father who was now 140 years old. The bible doesn’t say, but I don’t think Abraham told Isaac at first where they were going. I am assuming though that Abraham finally told Isaac that he was the burnt offering. Isaac had to have willingly submitted to his father, allowing his arms and legs to be bound, and then maybe even hobbling over to the altar to be sacrificed. Isaac could have easily gotten away with his advantage in age and strength, but he didn’t. Why?
Throughout Genesis, Abraham is a wonderful picture of faithfulness toward God. God revealed Himself and Abraham believed. It is obvious by this story that Abraham instilled this same faith and obedience to the Lord in his own son who willingly allowed himself to be led to the altar. Isn’t that crazy? While I am not a parent, God willing I will be someday. And if I am entrusted with children, I pray that I too may instill faith, reverence and obedience in my children, so much so that if asked they would submit as Isaac did.
Now let’s talk a little more about Abraham. Abraham was confident that God was faithful and powerful enough to fulfill his promise of abundant descendants – God specifically told him that it was through Isaac that all his descendants would inherit God’s promise of blessing (Genesis 17:19). Abraham’s faith in God allowed him (somehow) to believe in some type of resurrection for Isaac if he carried through with the sacrifice. Romans 4:17-21 tells us that Abraham was fully assured that what God had promised, He was fully able to perform. Hebrews 11:17-19 tells us that Abraham knew God could raise Isaac back from the dead if necessary.
After studying Abraham’s story in light of what the New Testament says, I have come to love this story even more. It is my ravenous desire that my faith might grow solidly under God’s teaching. I have God’s word before me at my whim, yet I don’t access it with the reverence and obedience that Abraham did when God revealed Himself. I pray that Abraham’s story would serve as motivation and encouragement for you – what’s holding you back from believing God’s promise of faithfulness and blessing?