By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death. Hebrews 11, verses 17-19.
So much to unpack here.
Devotion. Are you amazed by Abraham’s devotion to God? And even his devotion to Isaac? Our modern interpretation of the Bible can pain Abraham in an unkind picture. “He was willing to murder his own son.” Admit it: you’ve thought that; so have I. How could Abraham MURDER his child? Our society (rightfully) looks at that as heinous. Here comes the part you won’t like (because it’s uncomfortably true): Abraham wasn’t told to murder, nor did he try to murder Isaac, nor did he have the heart for murder. God commanded Abraham to SACRIFICE Isaac to Him. God was saying to Abraham “commit to Me everything about what you love most. Be willing to give even your son’s life to Me because you trust Me.” A murderer thinks otherwise (if he thinks at all). Abraham was willing to kill his son, his most precious family member, if it meant dedicating that person’s life and his own to his Father. Devotion like that is rare even in the Bible. Would you or I be that devoted?
Foreshadowing: “He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son” could have been written about the Father Himself. From the moment of man’s fall, God had promised to redeem mankind from the sin we accepted and made our own. This included Abraham and Isaac, who were sinful people not unlike you or I. Abraham had trusted that God would keep His promise to give him a son and God kept that promise. God then commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, that firstborn son and the heir of all Abraham had or would be. Can you see how, in all of this, God was foreshadowing to Abraham (and us) what He Himself would do with Jesus? What’s more, God promised that it was through Isaac that all this would happen, that Abraham’s offspring “would be reckoned.”
Reason. Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead. He didn’t just FEEL it: Abraham REASONED. He thought it through. He quickly but logically, cogently deducted that God had kept His prior promises and that God was powerful enough to do anything He wanted. Abraham reasoned that, if God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, God would bring Isaac back from death. It wasn’t an emotion, and it wasn’t being caught up in the moment, though both of those probably happened. Instead, Abraham intellectually deduced this honest conclusion about God.
That brings us to our final point: resurrection. Abraham deduced that God could resurrect Isaac, so he prepared to end his son’s life. It was the action of faith that Abraham took in response to the action of faith God had already offered to him. God foreshadowed yet again that Isaac’s death could be overcome by God. He promised Abraham that the sacrifice would be worthwhile because it was to God Himself. That sacrifice could only be completed in resurrection, which was how God ultimately completed the even greater sacrifice of faith that took place on Calvary. Death could only be reasoned, only be accepted, only be tolerated, only be made right through resurrection, through Divinely restoring life to lifelessness because spiritual death was true lifelessness. Abraham grasped that thought as he held a knife to his son’s throat. And that’s when God stayed the knife.
Like you and I, Abraham and Isaac wandered in this world. Abraham perhaps more than any of us because he lived as a nomad, residing most of his life in tents as he traveled from place to place. He knew that God would bring him home, and he knew that God would always abide with him no matter where he wandered. Yet in this greatest test of his life (and perhaps ours), God called him to account and asked him “what do you REALLY believe?” It was for Abraham’s benefit, not God’s. Abraham wasn’t a super-human: he was just a man, albeit one of good character. But he was simply a man, like you or me. How amazing is it that God chose to reveal these things about His character and ours through the life of this ancient patriarch.
For further reading: Genesis 22:1-10, James 2:21, Geneses 21:12, Romans 9:7, Romans 4:21, John 5:21.
Lord, thank You for the willingness of Abraham to commit everything to You.