The Offering of Isaac - Part 1
[God] said, Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I will tell you. - Genesis 22:2
This month we'll take a look at another section of the scarlet thread that weaves its way so beautifully through Scripture. Our portion this month is Genesis 22, and the offering of Isaac - and the picture it gives us of the plan God had from the beginning for the redemption of mankind.
There are some staggering parallels between the events in our passage and the events that took place nearly two thousand years ago in Jerusalem when the Messiah faced His final hours on Earth. These events in Genesis are a beautiful foreshadowing of what was to come - as well as showing us the depths of God's love for us.
Isaac was the son of promise. It was through Isaac that God was going to continue the covenant He had made with Abraham (Gen. 17:19; 21:12). And it was by Isaac that God tested Abraham's faith. Make no mistake - Isaac's faith was tested that day as well.
In the beginning of Genesis 22, we see that God speaks to Abraham and tells him to take his only son (his son of promise) to the region of Moriah (again, not giving specifics as to where ,but saying He will show Abraham when he gets there) to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. There is no mention of a verbal response form Abraham - no haggling as when Sodom was in peril - simply obedience to what the Lord asked of him. There is also no mention of Abraham telling Sarah what was going on either, which was probably a good thing.
Early the next morning Abraham arose, got the wood ready, loaded up his donkey and set out with Isaac and two of his servants. On the third day they came to the place God had designated. Here's where the rubber met the road - or should I say sandals met the sand? Abraham took the fire and knife to take with him. He took the wood and put it on Isaac's back to be carried up the mountain. When Isaac questioned his father about the lack of a lamb for the burnt offering, Abraham replied in faith, knowing full well that God could not lie and that He had promised to fulfill His promises through Isaac - “My son, God Himself will provide a lamb for the burnt offering.” (Some translations render this as “God will provide Himself a lamb.”)
Upon reaching the appointed location for the sacrifice Abraham built an altar to the Lord, bound Isaac and laid him on the altar. Then Abraham took his knife and raised it in preparation to offer his son as a sacrifice to God. This is when the Angel of the Lord called out and stayed Abraham's hand, knowing that Abraham was not willing to hold back even his beloved son from God. It was also at this time that Abraham saw a ram caught in the brambles nearby. It was this ram that Abraham offered as a burnt offering to God instead of his son.
In and of itself this is quite an exciting account. But let's take a little closer look at what happened and how it foreshadowed what the Messiah did when He offered Himself as our sacrifice.
First of all, we need to remember two things about Abraham and Isaac. Abraham was well over one-hundred years old at the time of this event. Isaac was not a young child as he is usually depicted. In fact, it looks now that Isaac was most likely 33 years old when this took place. Now I don't know about you, but I have a feeling that Isaac could have won handily over Abraham in a contest of strength, which means that Isaac had to willingly allow his father to bind him and place him on the altar to be sacrificed. Both Abraham and Isaac had to have believed that God would either stop the sacrifice or, if Abraham had indeed been required to take Isaac's life, that God would resurrect Isaac from the dead in order that God's promises to Abraham would be fulfilled. Even on a good day, I don't think my faith would be quite that resolute.
Once it was evident that Abraham fully intended to follow God's instructions, God did indeed spare Isaac's life. (It is interesting to note that the text reads that it was “the Angel of the Lord” who spoke to Abraham. It is widely acknowledged that in the Old Testament, the appearance of the Angel of the Lord is an appearance of the Messiah Himself. If you have some time, this makes for a fascinating study.) When Isaac's life was spared, Abraham saw that a ram was caught in the brambles and he offered that ram to God for a burnt offering - a ram, which is the male leader of the flock.
So, let's jump forward to Yeshua's thirty-third year, when He was betrayed and turned over to the authorities. After His trail and “conviction,” He was sentenced to die on the cross. The wood that Yeshua was to be nailed to was placed upon His back for Him to carry to the appointed location for the sacrifice. He carried that wood to the hill where He would be hung - the exact location where Isaac was bound by his father. Yeshua was then affixed to the cross, allowing Himself to be sacrificed. And on that very spot, where so many years before He Himself has stayed the hand of Abraham, Yeshua cried out to His Father, who did not intervene for His own Son's sake. At that moment, on the mountain that Abraham named “The Lord Will Provide,” God did indeed provide Himself as a lamb, a perfect and pleasing sacrifice. At that moment God fulfilled, through His Son, what Abraham and Isaac had foreshadowed so long ago, that we could be forever reconciled with the One who created us.