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An Example of Divine Sacrifice — Genesis Chapter 22

This blog post will cover the devotionals #106-111 for Genesis Chapter 22.

Please note that this devotional book is for sale as a physical (paperback) &/or digital (PDF) book on my website.

[106] Genesis 22:1-3

After Isaac had been weaned and Ishmael sent away, we’re told that Abraham had another tough experience. God told him, “Take, now, your son—your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell you about.” Notice how God didn’t just tell Abraham to sacrifice his child but pointed out very specific traits about him that revealed just how big of a sacrifice this'd be; “your only son—whom you love”. God knew what Isaac meant to Abraham, because He Himself had worked with Abraham leading up to the time that he’d be miraculously born to Sarah. This reminds me of the fact that Mary adored Jesus and knew that He was born miraculously to her. She must have felt very similar to Abraham, having watched Jesus led up the mountain to be sacrificed on the cross. Just imagine how God, His Father, felt watching it. Did you notice that there wasn't really any back-and-forth dialogue between Abraham and God? One would tend to think that Abraham would’ve contested God’s command, but it doesn’t show that he responded in any way but to get up and prepare to go on the errand. The reason that I believe nothing was shown is because in past conversations where they spoke, Abraham didn’t withhold his sentiments about the things that God said. I don’t believe that the writer would just suddenly change his method of storytelling and leave out important details such as Abraham’s possible response to this situation. In devotional #108, we’ll see why Abraham responded the way he did to God’s seemingly unreasonable expectations.

[107] Genesis 22:3-9

Abraham got up early the next day, prepared his donkey and the wood, got two servants and his son, and set off towards their destination. It took three days to get there. Could you imagine the suffering Abraham might have experienced for those three days, knowing what was coming? When they finally had the place in sight, Abraham told his servants to stay put with the donkey while he and his son went to worship. The servants loved Isaac, and if they’d been present, they surely would’ve tried to prevent Abraham from carrying out his dreadful act. Abraham laid the wood of the burnt offering upon Isaac, while he carried the knife and fire. Then they headed up from there. How interesting it is that Abraham chose to lay the wood on his son, when he could’ve either carried it himself, or had his servants or even the donkey bear the load. It’s even more interesting that Isaac himself was to be the sacrifice. He, just like Christ, had to bear his ‘cross’ to the mountain, where he was to die on it. As they continued up, Isaac reasoned that they had everything they needed for the sacrifice, except for the lamb—to which Abraham responded: “My son, God Himself will provide a lamb for the burnt offering.” They continued together. We know Jesus Christ's called the Lamb of God. We could even reword the verse to say, ‘Jesus Christ is the Lamb provided by God.’ We’ll look at that more in devotional #110. When they arrived, Abraham built the altar, set the wood in its place, and bound up Isaac and laid him on it. The place of sacrifice was prepared, the wood was set in place, and the son was laid on, and secured to, the wood. Doesn’t this sound like what happened with Christ at Calvary? We question how Abraham could’ve bound his son without resistance unless he was a little boy. One might think he was since we’d last seen him weaned. However, a toddler couldn’t likely carry a load of wood up a mountain (even at five years old), nor would he probably have intelligently reasoned about the missing element of the sacrifice. We also saw that, after Abraham dismissed Ishmael from the home (upon Isaac’s weaning), they remained in the land of the Philistines for many days. The Bible often refers symbolically to an actual year as a ‘day’. So, from there, they’d probably stayed many years. Several historians state or suggest that Isaac was in his twenties or thirties (the most prominent Jewish historian, Josephus, believed him to be twenty-five years old). Thus, he was probably quite a bit older—plenty old / grown enough to prevent himself from being bound for sacrifice—unless he was willing. I have a theory that Isaac may have been roughly thirty-three when he was bound for sacrifice. The reason for this is that Jesus was about 33.5 when He was crucified, and there are many distinct parallels between these two stories. Regardless of the exact age of Isaac, he willingly allowed himself to be prepped for sacrifice. Abraham explained to him why this was happening before binding him, but there had to be implicit trust and obedience to submit to death as an innocent man (and a very painful one at that). Isaac was amazed (with terror) but reasoned himself into gratitude that God would accept him as a sacrifice. There’s no way that Abraham, an old man (around 120-140 years of age) could’ve forced a young, strong man (of twenty to forty years) onto the altar. Likewise, there’s no way that men could’ve forced Jesus Christ, the Son of God (and God Himself), onto the cross—accept that He allowed it to be done. John 10:17, 18 says, “Therefore does My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again. No man takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have the power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. I have received this commandment from My Father.”

[108] Genesis 22:10

We mentioned that Abraham likely said nothing to contest God’s command to offer up Isaac, but we should consider what he had to have been thinking. First off, Abraham knew in his heart that God had given them Isaac, and that it was a miraculous conception / birth—considering Sarah’s infertility and their old ages. He knew that God had promised to multiply his descendants through Isaac—who didn’t yet have a wife or child. He knew that Isaac was his one, true, chosen son. He knew that God wasn’t arbitrary, nor would He lie or break any of those promises. Thus, Abraham was ready to slay his son. Genesis 22:10 shows him lifting his knife to thrust down into Isaac. How could he do it? Did he think that murder was okay? We already learned that he wasn’t an aggressive, violent person—he did all he could to avoid it. So, the answer to that is clearly, no. What must he have been thinking? If God could provide him this son in such a miraculous way, then He could do anything it'd take to fulfill His promises through him despite his death on the altar. Abraham knew that God could raise him from the dead. Isaac must have known all the same things that Abraham did. He submitted to it—knowing that God could raise him, but even if He didn’t—he was prepared to obey God. This is exactly what we saw with Jesus. Christ knew He could be raised from the dead—but on the cross, He had no assurance of even His Father’s presence, let alone that He would be raised. And yet, He permitted Himself to die a painful, humiliating death to accomplish the purposes of God. Jesus Christ (before Adam and Eve ever sinned) was the One who volunteered to die to save man. That isn’t something that the Father asked or commanded Him to do.

[109] Genesis 22:1,11,12,15-18

Just as Abraham was about to thrust the knife into his beloved son, God halted him in his tracks—calling out to him by name. Abraham once again responded (just as he had when God spoke to him about offering Isaac), “Here I am.” From here, God tells him that he’d come to a place in his experience where he was ready to be used by God. In Isaiah 6:1-8, Isaiah saw God, was purged of his sin (his character was made righteous)—and then the Lord said, “Whom will I send, and who will go for Us?” It was then that Isaiah was prepared to answer both questions, with: “Here I am. Send me.” Abraham (though beloved and chosen by God for great things and often full of obedience and faith) had also made many mistakes. His lack of faith at times (and attempts to work things out for himself) were a testament that he still wasn’t fully prepared to be used by God without hesitation. But now he’d redeemed that and had shown evidence of not only obedience, but faith, that God would work through even the most unimaginable grief possible. It was now that God essentially called to him, saying, “Whom will I send, and who will go for Us?” and He got the response back from Abraham, “Here I am, send me.” Then God reassured him that His promise would indeed be fulfilled—and that his seed would be innumerable. Recall, from Genesis 18:18, 19, that God stated that Abraham would become a mighty nation, and all nations of the earth would be blessed in him because he’d raise / train his children to keep the way of the Lord (and they would)—and then God could fulfill His intentions. I believe that what happened at the altar between Abraham, Isaac, and God was evidence that this'd indeed happened. Abraham proved that he’d kept God’s way, and he’d trained his son to as well. Isaac proved that he was following Abraham’s training—and he too, kept God’s way. Because Abraham (but maybe even more importantly, Isaac) had been obedient unto death in this matter—God could indeed work through Isaac as He had planned. In that sense, both Abraham and Isaac answered the call with, “Here I am, send me.” God had given Abraham a son, and in his faithfulness concerning Isaac alone, God could multiply his offspring (both physical and spiritual), as we see in Matthew 25:23, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you a ruler over many things: enter into the joy of Your Lord.” I think there’s an incredibly important point to make in the introduction of this story. It says that “God tempted Abraham.” The fact that it says this should tell us a lot about what was really happening here, since James 1:13 tells us, “Let no man say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’: because God cannot be tempted with evil, nor does He tempt any man.” If we look at the definition of ‘tempt’ in the context of Genesis 22, Strong’s Concordance shows ‘test’ or ‘prove’. If we look, in James 1:12-14, at the usages of ‘tempt’ we can see that the result of the testing and proving is ‘accepting’ and ‘approving’. More specifically, those who pass the testing and proving are accepted and approved. This is exactly what happened with Abraham and Isaac. They were tested / proved, and they were accepted / approved.

[110] Genesis 22:8,12-14,16

Romans 8:32 says, “He that did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all…” God expected Abraham to do the same thing that He Himself had committed to do. I believe God was giving Abraham, and the rest of the world, a clear example of the type of sacrifice that both God the Father and God the Son were making at the cross. Abraham had to feel the pain of his upcoming loss for three whole days as they approached the mountain. The Father had to feel the pain of His loss for eternity. God was also teaching that no possession (or relationship) is too valuable or precious to surrender to God. Abraham was called to give up his beloved son as a lamb to the slaughter, and Isaac was called to submit to it. God (both the Father and Son) would never ask us to do more than They would be willing to do Themselves. The Father had to surrender His Son, and the Son submitted to be surrendered. Genesis 22:18 says, “In your seed, all of the nations of the earth will be blessed; because you have obeyed My voice.” We know that Jesus Christ came through Abraham and Isaac’s line—so that alone is a blessing for the nations through Isaac. But the seed that God was referring to was Christ Himself (which we mentioned in devotional #79). Galatians 3:16 says, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He did not say, ‘And to seeds’, as of many; but as of one, ‘And to your seed’, which is Christ.” Genesis 3:15 says, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; it will bruise your head, and you will bruise His heel.” The nations were blessed by the enmity that Christ brought between humanity and the devil—Christ bruised Satan's head (his reputation / credibility) on the cross, where Satan bruised His heel. They were blessed by the ability that Christ gave them to choose between God and Satan (through His death on the cross). Once the conversation had been completed, Abraham looked up and noticed that a ram (a grown male sheep) was caught by his horns in some bushes. Just as we saw Abraham and Isaac responding to the call from Isaiah 6:8, “Whom will I send, and who will go for Us?” in devotional #109, God the Son responded to the same call with “Here I am, send Me.” before the need had even arisen. Isaiah 65:24 says,“And it will happen that, before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.” God knew that sin would arise, and that man would need a Savior. Furthermore, He knew that they wouldn’t be able to choose Him, or even seek Him (as we saw Adam and Eve fail to do after they sinned). Thus, They made a plan (for Him to step in as the Lamb in their place) long before sin occurred. He provided an answer before they called for help. Abraham planned to slay his son, knowing that God would work it out. He didn’t anticipate that God would stop him—so he intended to follow through. Thus, he didn’t bring a back-up animal to sacrifice in case God ‘changed His mind’ about Isaac. And yet, Genesis 22:8 shows Abraham responding, “God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering.” Therefore, when God did indeed prevent him from killing Isaac, He also provided a replacement for him before Abraham even looked for or requested one. I believe verse 8 has two meanings. First, God Himself will provide a lamb for the offering’, and second, ‘God will provide Himself as a lamb for the offering.’ What a powerful thought! Once he’d completed his offering, he named the place, ‘Jehovahjireh’, which means, ‘Jehovah will see to it’. Genesis 22:14 says that it was named that because they say, “It will be seen in the mount of the Lord.” God did see to it, Himself, that the problem was solved, and His character was seen on that mountain.

[111] Genesis 22:19-24

This devotional will serve to set the stage for what we’ll see in Genesis 24. In devotional #74, we heard about Abraham’s brother, Nahor (not to be confused with their grandfather, Nahor) and his wife. He married his niece, Milcah (their brother Haran’s daughter). They had Huz, Buz, Kemuel, Chesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph, and Bethuel. Bethuel had Rebekah (as well as Laban). Thus, Rebekah was Abraham’s niece and Isaac’s first cousin, once removed (meaning she was the child of Isaac’s first cousin). In devotional #116, we’ll see the greater connection that was eventually formed between them. Bethuel owned large flocks but lived in the city. Nahor’s family lived in Mesopotamia—at Haran, the ‘city of Nahor’. When their father, Terah, died, Nahor (Abraham’s brother) and his family held tightly to their home and idols, while Abraham (and Lot) followed God’s call to become pilgrims. Abraham was aware of their idolatry, but he also knew that they still cherished the true God, so he felt that they’d be the better option (over the Canaanites) to seek out a wife for his son, Isaac. His hopes were that she’d unite with Isaac in maintaining worship of the one true God. We’ll also see, starting in devotional #131, that Bethuel’s son, Laban (Rebekah’s brother), though not mentioned in Genesis 22, will come back into the picture again, when it comes time for Isaac’s own son, Jacob, to marry.

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