Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Father’s Day 2006
Genesis 22:1-2 (Holman) After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he answered. “Take your son,” He said, “your only son, Isaac, whom you love, go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”
VERSE ONE: Any situation in life can serve as a spiritual test. It can serve either to draw you upward or draw you downward. When God tests us, His desire is always to lure us upward, for He can never tempt us to do evil (James 1:13). When God spoke, Abraham responded. Abraham had remained conscious of God’s presence. He had remained in tune with God and this allowed him to hear the moment God spoke.
VERSE TWO: Ishmael is gone. Isaac is Abraham’s only hope for seeing the promises of God fulfilled (Genesis 21:12). The test calls for Abraham to go against common sense, human affection, and lifelong ambition (Kidner). The test is not to see if Isaac will die, but to see if Abraham has died to everything earthly. This is the ultimate test for Abraham. He has already given God his past and present, but now God demands his future. God not only determines the act, but also chooses the place. Moriah is mentioned again only at II Chronicles 3:1. It is the place where God stopped the plague of Jerusalem and where Solomon built the Temple. Being at Jerusalem also makes it in the vicinity of Calvary. By deed and location this incident serves as a mirror of the later event which will reveal God’s even greater love.
Genesis 22:3-4 So early in the morning Abraham got up, saddled his donkey, and took with him two of his young men and his son Isaac. He split wood for a burnt offering and set out to go to the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance.
VERSE THREE: Abraham obeyed immediately. No explanation was given by God, but Abraham did not hesitate. He had to believe and obey. Obedience and true faith are synonymous. They always go together. True faith is sure to be a tested faith. And when you are testing steel, you turn up the heat. For weak Christians, a bad-weather weekend or a financial pinch may be too much of a test. But for Abraham, the test was to give his son; for Job, to lose all; for David, two chances to kill Saul. The Lord has ways of letting us know what we are made of spiritually.
VERSE FOUR: Moriah comes into view the third day. When “third day” is used in Scripture, it usually illustrates a resurrection truth, as it does here. The three days also make this a test of sustained obedience. He had plenty of time to back out. Being with Isaac for three days would make the upcoming event even harder on Abraham. Nevertheless, Abraham marches on.
Genesis 12:5-8 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go over there to worship; then we’ll come back to you.” Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac. In his hand he took the fire and the sacrificial knife, and the two of them walked on together. Then Isaac spoke to his father Abraham and said, “My father.” And he replied, “Here I am, my son.” Isaac said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God, Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” Then the two of them walked on together.
VERSE FIVE: It is significant Abraham said he and Isaac would both return to the servants. Abraham believed God would raise Isaac from the dead. Abraham “considered God to be able even to raise someone from the dead, from which he also got him back as an illustration” (Hebrews 11:19 Holman). Resurrection was the only way Abraham could reconcile God’s command here (22:2) with God’s statement, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called” (21:12). Henceforth Abraham would see Isaac as given back from the dead. Thus he would be more grateful than ever for Isaac. This also reminds us that our lives have been given to us through death (II Corinthians 5:14ff). In Christ’s death, all believers figuratively die to self. Hence, the life we now live is not us, but Christ in us (Galatians 2:20). We are all living a resurrection-life (as baptism symbolizes).
VERSE SIX: Abraham and Isaac proceed alone. The servants were not allowed to come for they might have tried to intervene. There are times when believers must walk alone with God, unaccompanied and undistracted by others. Abraham not only brought a knife, he also brought fire and wood. He was not only going to kill Isaac, but also burn his body. Yet he still believed God would bring forth resurrection life from the ashes. Abraham put the wood on Isaac. We can’t help but think of John 19:17, “Carrying his own cross, He went out.” The most important thing to notice here is that father and son are walking together. We see here a foreshadowing of Isaiah 53:4, 6, 10 and John 3:16.
VERSE SEVEN: Isaac represents the willingness of God’s servants to suffer on God’s behalf. Abraham, exactly 100 years older than Isaac, would have been no match for Isaac if he had resisted. Somewhere in these last moments Isaac realized what was happening, but he did not resist.
VERSE EIGHT: “God will provide” became the name of this place. This phrase has been the answer of many a troubled saint to an agonizing question. Abraham had reached the stage of spiritual growth where every word and gesture are worship (Barnhouse). People have marveled at this father-son march for 4000 years. Surely even the angels followed it in awe.
Genesis 22:9-13 When they arrived at the place that God had told him about, Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood. He bound his son Isaac and placed him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” He replied, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not lay a hand on the boy or do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your only son from Me.” Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it as a burnt offering in place of his son.
VERSE NINE: As the event reaches its climax, the writer slows down the narrative and relates every minute detail. This is classic story-telling. Abraham was obedient even in the little details. It is time to offer his son, but “this did not deter him from gathering stones and building the altar. Bits of him had died before: the remainder was to die now in final obedience” (Barnhouse) These were agonizing moments for Abraham.
VERSE TEN: Since verse 5, the center of the scene has been shifting back and forth between father and son. They are doing this together in yielded cooperation. This is a beautiful picture of what the Father and Son did at Calvary.
VERSE ELEVEN: Only direct intervention from God prevented this sacrifice. He did not allow Abraham to deal the death blow. God repudiated the idea of human sacrifice. Abraham had willed to offer the ultimate sacrifice, but God allowed no harm. Notice that Abraham was still conscious of God’s presence and able to discern God’s will. “We believe that ninety per cent of the knowing of the will of God consists in willingness to do it before it is known. When we are ready to pick up the knife or lay it down, God will pour out His richest blessings” (Barnhouse).
VERSE TWELVE: Abraham was willing to give his all. Faith can do no more and God expects no more. Abraham’s level of devotion is noticed by God. The phrase “your only son” shows that God noticed every little detail in Abraham’s devotion. This incident has stood before all generations as an example of the utmost in faithful obedience.
VERSE THIRTEEN: God’s provision was ready and waiting nearby. “In place of his son” points for the first time in Scripture to the idea of a substitutionary sacrifice. We should also note that the idea of substitution was first illustrated by a ram provided by God Himself. This serves as a foretaste of the sacrificial ritual described in Leviticus 1:4. Throughout the Old Testament God instilled a reflex in the minds of His people. Every time they thought of sin, they had to think of death. Sin brings death (Romans 6:23). Every person will die. Their choice is whether he or she will die to self (be born again) or die in self (lostness).