1 After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 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.” 3 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. 4 On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. 5 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.” 6 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 26 knife. So they went both of them together. 7 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?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. — Genesis 22:1–8 (ESV)
The journey to Moriah was long for Abraham and Isaac. A three-day walk to be exact, but what must’ve made the walk seem even longer was trying to deal with the idea of what was supposed to happen at the end of the journey. Abraham was just told by God that he must take Isaac, his only son, whom he loved, and offer him as a burnt offering unto God. On the last day of the journey, as Abraham loaded Isaac up with the firewood for the burnt offering, Isaac started to inquire where the sacrificial lamb was. Abraham’s response? “God will provide for himself the lamb…” — a substitute offering.
This story would frame Israel’s hope that one day God would ultimately fulfill his promise to Abraham, that in his offspring, all the nations would be blessed (Genesis 22:18), eventually leading to the redemptive acts of Jesus, God’s own beloved Son.
This story sets up the parallel of the two offsprings, Isaac and Jesus. Both are only sons, who are deeply loved by their fathers. Both travel to the mountain of Moriah. (Moriah is the place where Jerusalem would be built.) Both are loaded up with wood for the final stretch of the journey, Isaac with the sacrificial wood, and Jesus with the sacrificial cross. Both willingly lay their lives down for the sacrifice. Both cry out to their father regarding the sacrifice. Isaac gets an answer, but Jesus does not. One is spared while the other is not.
"'God will provide.' But it wasn’t without tears or pain..."
The answer Abraham provided for Isaac was simple: “God will provide.” But it wasn’t without tears or pain, I’m sure, for either Abraham or Isaac. God was asking both Abraham and Isaac to obey and trust him. He was telling a story that would be handed down for generations until it climaxed in Jesus, God’s only begotten and beloved Son. And Jesus is our sacrificial Lamb who died for our sins, once and for all.
This testing of Abraham was an example of what faith in God looks like. It is also a picture of the Gospel. In it, we see how God graciously offered his Son for us. Through the completed work of Jesus on the cross, he welcomes us to know him so that we might be able to say with John the Baptist, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
Oh God, our promise and provision, we commit this Lenten season to you. Prepare our hearts to hear and know both the battle and victory of your Easter epic. Let the history of our people never feel commonplace.
Though we have heard before, that: We are welcomed to know our Redeemer, You have provided the sacrifice, The Lamb has died once and for all, And that sin has been defeated, We confess these truths do not always move us as they ought.
Remove our rotten cores. Upset our realities. Give us eyes to see the beauty of the Gospel anew. Instill in us, oh Lord, a fresh wonder at the unvarnished truth.
While it’s a story we’ve heard before, let it sink in deeper this year. May the roots of our redemption, spread, flourish, and take hold in our hearts. Steep us in your goodness. Let us listen with the fidelity of Abraham and the reverence of Isaac; as a people hungry and captivated. We pray that Israel’s hope would truly be our hope so that when we hear yet again of Christ resurrected, our joy will be unmatched. Let the light of your glory expose the lackluster dinginess of our worldly loves.
We are here today because of the sacrifice that fulfilled the promises to Abraham.
God, equip us, your saints, with perseverance and sustained belief, so that we might tell the triumphant account to our children with vigor, and they to theirs.