Abraham’s Sacrifice of Isaac

Genesis 22 tells the riveting story of Abraham’s offering of Isaac. Isaac was the long awaited son of Abraham and Sarah. He had been promised when Abraham (“father of a multitude” — in honor of the promise) was still called Abram (“exalted father” — a name which must have sounded like mocking to him, each time it was said) living in Ur of the Chaldeas. Between the time of the original promise (Genesis 12) and the fulfillment (Genesis 21) 25 years of waiting in old age had passed. Both Abraham and Sarah had been in their mid-70’s at the time of the promise, which means that their faith in this promise from God had truly been hoping against any rational hope. Yet God had granted them a son, and they had named him Isaac (“laughter”).

But now — incomprehensibly! — God was directing him to offer his son in sacrifice, this son of promise that he had awaited so long, in a place called Moriah. And despite the terrible confusion that Abraham must have felt about such a command, he packs up and goes on this terrifying journey to Moriah with two servants and his son Isaac.

Just short of the mountain that God had designated as the place for the sacrifice, Abraham stops, puts the wood on Isaac’s back (what was often done to sacrificial animals), and tells their servants to stay behind — you might imagine why — but interestingly informs them, “we will worship and return”. “We”? It’s not that Abraham knew that God would send an angel to restrain his hand from killing Isaac. It’s not that he was just going through the motions and had no intention of following through — vv. 9,10 says he both “bound his son Isaac and laid him on the alter” and “stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son”; his intention is clear. So, what did he mean, when he said, “we will worship and return”?

Hebrews 11:17-19 gives us insight:

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, ‘IN ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS SHALL BE CALLED.’ He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type.”

Abraham was so full of faith in God that he was apparently thinking that if he obeyed God and sacrificed Isaac, God would simply raise him up again. Now, that’s faith! No wonder that Abraham is called the “father of the faithful”.

And you know, it’s not really too hard to spot real faith. It’s obedient. It lives like it can see the unseen realities God reveals to us in His word. It doesn’t hesitate or approach obedience uneasily. It acts with certainty and confidence despite threats or fears.

And it’s a good question for every Christian to ponder, “Does my life reflect my faith or my fear? Does my life — my acts/deeds/attitudes — reveal that I believe more in what my eyes see and ears hear, than I believe in God?”

Let’s live our lives, so that our faith in God shines clearly for all to see. Let the world scorn us, laugh at us, call us old-fashioned, or even fools. According to Psa. 14:1, it is the fools who say — or live like — there is no God.

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About parklinscomb

I'm a minister for the church of Christ in Manchester NH where I've worked since the 1970's. I'm a big fan of my family, archaeology, the Bible, the Lord's church, and Gander Brook Christian Camp.
This entry was posted in Bible commentary, Christian Leadership, Christianity, New Testament, Old Testament and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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