Let’s take a moment to recap what we have learned about Abraham, as it sets up what we will learn about Isaac.
In Genesis 12:1-3, we read the first mention of God’s game changing covenant with Abraham: Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
The problem was Abraham and his wife, Sarah, were unable to have kids, and they were very old—we are talking 100 years old, old. The name Isaac, which means “he laughs,” was derived from his parents’ reaction when God told Abraham that he would have a son (Genesis 17:17; 18:12).
Isaac was Abraham’s second son; his first, Ishmael, was from Sarah’s maidservant, Hagar, as a result of Sarah’s impatience in order to give Abraham a family (Genesis 16:1-2).
In Genesis 21, we read that Isaac is finally born, and his arrival was so important Sarah insisted that Abraham send Hagar and her son away, ensuring the family inheritance would go to Isaac (Genesis 21:3-12). Everything would change through him. We must see a lifetime of anticipation for his arrival was heightened by the huge promise of God to bless the nations through him.
Now let’s read Genesis 22 beginning with verse 1:
Genesis 22:1 After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”
The Hebrew word here for “test” doesn’t mean God didn’t know where Abraham was and so God had to do something to find out. It is God’s way of revealing something that He knows is already there. God knew Abraham was a man of great faith. So, He puts before him a once-in-a-lifetime circumstance that would put his faith on display.
How often are the hardships we face simply divine appointments of God for us to put on display our faith or the Gospel of Jesus? This is a great reminder to us.
Let’s see what God says for him to do:
Genesis 22:1-2 After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take 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.”
Notice something key here:
In the Hebrew language, this verse powerfully reveals four clauses that build a very emotional impact: your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac!
This is a way of highlighting how important Isaac is to Abraham and his lineage.
Genesis 22:3-8 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.
A very important, and interesting, thing we find here. Isaac had to carry the wood. He had to labor up the mountain.
Genesis 22:9-10 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son.
Many people have considered Isaac to be young here, but biblical scholars believe Isaac could have been as old as 30 because of when this happened in relationship to when Abraham died.
This means Isaac had all the power to resist this and flee or never go in the first place. But, not only is he going to be faithful to his father and carry the wood up the mountain, he is going to willingly be bound, lie down, and watch his father draw the knife of his death over his body without struggle or plea.
But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”
Abraham was faithful in the end. He showed great faith in probably one of the hardest tests ever given to man. We are given many examples of faithful men and women willing to sacrifice themselves for God, but the faith of a father to sacrifice his one-and-only-son is much greater.
And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”
God was faithful, also! He was faithful to fulfill His promise to Abraham that his heritage of the blessings of the nations would come through Isaac. I believe Abraham’s confidence in God’s faithfulness to fulfill His promises was the foundation by which Abraham built this faith.
On what is your faith built? Is it on what you can see and touch and produce yourself? Often these are the things we build our lives on. But this is not faith. The author of Hebrews defines faith like this: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
Our faith is placing our assurance, our confidence, on the things hoped for. In other words, it is the promised things of God that we place our living hope in. There is an assurance because of Who has promised those things—God, Himself. It is sure, because God is sure. He cannot, and will not, be thwarted, swayed, nor lazy. He will deliver on His promises. It is a conviction of things not seen—the things of God—God, Himself.
While we can’t see God, Romans 1:19-20 makes it clear that He can be seen through what He has made—His general revelation.
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:19-20)
God is faithful. This is what Abraham’s faith was built on. Also, “Yahweh will provide!” This is Abraham’s proclamation and name for this place.
What is interesting is most of the time Jewish names were based on what had happened, not what would happen. The name that makes more sense is Yahweh did provide!
But Abraham sees something powerful. He sees that God is working up something much bigger. I’ll come back to this in a moment.
Can you imagine the celebration between father and son at the news that he need not die? Let’s consider this for a moment.
Turn with me back to the New Testament.
Matthew 3:17(NIV) and a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."
All through Scripture, we see God the Father’s beautiful affection and cherished love for His Son.
John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
One of the tools used to interpret Scripture deeper is The Principle of First Mention. This means the first place something is mentioned gives us a base to understand it elsewhere.
Did you know the first mention of the word “love” in the entire Bible is found in Genesis 22:2? It says, “Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love’…” (RSV)
Because the Jewish people knew this word so well, they valued that a high form of love is found in the love of a father for his son. What this also points to is a love that is rooted in a son’s willingness to be bound and placed on the altar of death to be sacrificed in order to please the father.
It is an obedience that is not rooted in obligation, or in rule-keeping, like we so often find ourselves in trying to be obedient. Instead, this is rooted in sacrificial love—a sacrificial love that echoes all the way back to the source of true love, found in the Trinity, the ongoing relationship of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Now, let’s look at how Isaac and Jesus are connected:
Isaac’s birth is miraculous. Jesus’ birth is miraculous.
We see Abraham’s deep love for his son. We see God’s deep love for His Son.
Isaac carries the wood of his own sacrifice up the mountain. Jesus carries the wood of His own sacrifice up the hill of Golgotha.
Isaac willingly climbs up into the altar to be slain. Jesus willingly allows Himself to be arrested, falsely accused, beaten, and placed on His erect altar to be sacrificed.
The place that Isaac was to be sacrificed is called Yahweh will provide. The place that Jesus was laid bare for the sins of His people was where Yahweh did provide.
God is carrying out His promise to Satan that He made in Genesis 3:15, where He promised to defeat Satan, and death, through the seed of the woman. God is carrying out His promise to Abraham by giving him Isaac and enduring Isaac, so the line to Jesus can continue.
Next, God reaffirms the covenant He made with Abraham within Genesis 26:3-5:
“Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws”
Though there are no overwhelming achievements to speak of concerning Isaac’s life, it was Isaac that God chose to continue the covenant line, the same line that would produce our Messiah, Jesus.
And for many generations, the Jewish nation described their God as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. For the next few weeks we will study his wife and sons and get to see another side of Isaac.
But for today, may our hearts be full of worship for God, as we see His hand on all these details pointing ultimately to Christ and our redemption.