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.” 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.
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. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 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.” 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.” (Genesis 22:2-14)
Abraham and Isaac, a classic story. Abraham willing to sacrifice his son, his everything, for God. God providing at just the right moment a ram to sacrifice instead. What a great, wonderful, and true picture of God offering His son, His only son, on our behalf. Another ram was not provided as Jesus walked to Calvary. Instead, Jesus was the substitute sacrifice provided on our behalf. He completed the sacrifice, once and for all.
Stop, and imagine Abraham. Walk in his shoes. Trod up the mountain with his son, his only son. I love the cadence of that phrase in the text. See it in verse 2 and then in verse 12. God asks Isaac to not only sacrifice his son, but he recognizes the deep and painful truth that this is his only son, who held the promise of generations as endless as the stars in the sky. For Abraham this is like having your parents give you a beautiful new car and then asking you to go wreck it. Okay, obviously people are way more important than cars, but still. You get it. It sounds crazy. Why wasn’t Abraham freaking out? Why was he quietly plodding along, up the hill?
First, don’t assume this passage gives us a sneak peek into the depths of Abraham’s heart. He may have struggled, but his faith was enough a part of him that He obeyed the Lord’s command and believed God would provide the sacrifice or complete the promise through Isaac in a way that would blow him away (See Hebrews 11 for the mind blowing to continue!).
Abraham obeyed because he knew the truth–God is nothing if not faithful. It was a truth he knew in his bones and had experienced over the years.
So, Abraham built the altar. It was not an altar of thankfulness, but of faithfulness and obedience. Abraham built the altar before the ram was provided, before he completely understood the way that God would keep his promises. I included this passage in the altars of thankfulness because I imagine that after the altar was built and a substitute sacrifice was provided, Abraham must have been exceedingly grateful. The Bible tells us nothing of Abraham’s feelings, but we can imagine his thankfulness as he named the place where the sacrifice was made, “The Lord will provide.” And, centuries later, God continued to provide as Jesus became the sacrifice for our sins and saved us from death.
We are thankful to be saved!
Questions for contemplation:
Published November 2013