Genesis 22 records one of the most intriguing accounts in Biblical history. This is the account of Isaac being offered as a sacrifice and God providing a substitute. As we study this passage, there are several things to make note of.
God tested Abraham (v. 1-2). The King James text says that God did ‘tempt’ Abraham. The word tempt in this instance refers to a testing. One thing is clear, God does not tempt mankind with evil or sin. God is not the creator of evil, He is not the author of sin. However, there are times when God will test our faith. God may allow circumstances to come into our lives that will try us. In Abraham’s case, He tells him to sacrifice his son, Isaac. This, no doubt, was very troubling to Abraham. However, this may not have surprised Abraham. Human sacrifices were a known practice in the region that Abraham lived, though, human sacrifices were not performed by those who followed the one true God. Human sacrifices were not unknown to Abraham. Still, this was something that had never been requested by God before. Clearly, this was a test of Abraham’s faith and obedience.
Abraham obeyed without hesitation (v. 3). Abraham’s journey of faith led him to a place of total trust in God. He had seen time and time again how God fulfilled His promises. Though he may not have fully understood what God was doing, He trusted God completely and He obeyed. With each test of faith that we pass, our faith grows that much stronger. Those who have seen God work in the past are more apt to trust in Him in the present. Those past experiences serve as confidence builders for our faith. Where are you on the spectrum of trust and obedience? Do you trust God completely? Do you trust Him enough that you will obey Him immediately, even when He calls you to a task that seems impossible?
Abraham was believing for a miracle (v. 5). As Abraham approached the mountain on which God told him to sacrifice his son, he told his servants to stay and wait for them to come down the mountain. He made a point to indicate that both he and Isaac would return. Abraham believed that God would do the miraculous. It is very possible that Abraham was thinking that God would resurrect Isaac. Perhaps he was even thinking that Isaac was the chosen One, the Lamb of God. Whatever was going on in Abraham’s mind, He truly believed that God would perform such a miracle that his son would return with him from the mountain.
Abraham trusted in God’s provision (v. 8). As Abraham and Isaac made their way up the mountain, Isaac realizes that there is no sacrifice to put on the altar. When he asked his father about this, Abraham replied by saying that God will provide a lamb for the sacrifice. I believe that Abraham was taught by God concerning the coming Messiah. The lamb that Abraham referred to was not just another lamb, but, the Lamb. Abraham knew that there was coming a day when God would provide a lamb that would be the ultimate sacrifice for the whole world. Perhaps, Abraham thought that this could be the day that God was going to provide that Lamb. Perhaps, Abraham thought that maybe Isaac was that Lamb. If this is the case, this gives greater explanation as to why Abraham did not hesitate to go on with this endeavor. Abraham knew that the Lamb of God would be slain, but also, that He would rise again. Abraham was expecting a resurrection. He was expecting that God will provide.
Abraham passed the test (v. 11-12). Once they reached the top of the mountain, Abraham prepared the altar and then turned to Isaac and bound him and laid him on the altar. It is interesting to note that Isaac did not fight against it. He willingly allowed his father to lay him on the altar. This is exactly what Jesus did. He willingly obeyed His Father and laid down His life on the cross for you and me. At just the right moment, the angel of the Lord intervened. He told Abraham to not harm Isaac, because, he had proven his faith. Abraham passed the test. He went all the way and did exactly what God told Him to do. Obedience is the ultimate answer to the test of faith. When our faith is tested, we must be faithful to obey. We must stay on course and live in obedience to the Word of God no matter what test we may be going through.
God provided a substitute (v. 13). When Abraham turned around, he saw a ram caught in a thicket. Praise God! A substitute was provided! I believe the reason God provided a ram in this case was to show Abraham that the Lamb of God had not yet come. The ram was an illustration of what was to come through Jesus. God provided a substitute for us. Jesus came as the perfect Lamb of God who died in our place on the cross. Jesus died to save us from the penalty of sin. Jesus did for us what we could not do for ourselves. His substitutionary death on cross paved the way to heaven for all who believe on Him.
God renewed His promise (v. 16-18). Through this test of Abraham’s faith, God remained faithful to His promise to Abraham. He reminded Abraham that He would make him a great nation and that through his descendants, all the nations of the earth will be blessed. God is constantly renewing His promises to us through His Word. The promises that He made in His Word hundreds of years ago still apply to us today. We can count on His Word. It is truth without any mixture of error. It is our hope. It is the answer to all our questions. It is our guide. The promises of God are precious and should never be forgotten.
There are times when we will face a test of faith. May we pattern our response to such testing after the life of Abraham. May we respond with obedience to God and confidence in His Word.