Today, I wanted to share a wonderful look at Genesis 22, where God tests Abraham. Those of you who attend a foundational, bible-teaching, church should already have been presented with this view of the story. However, as society and the evangelical community drifts further and further away from bible teaching, I think we should take some time to check it out now.
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.”
His only son Isaac? Why is God ignoring the fact that Abram had already fathered Ishmael by Hagar? Abram was 86 years old when Ishmael was born. God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, and Sarai’s name to Sarah 13 years later. God’s covenant with Abraham (circumcision) was established when he was 99 years old. At the time of their circumcision, Ishmael is referred to as Abraham’s son. So is this a contradiction? Absolutely not. Let’s look at what God said of Ishmael specifically regarding God’s covenant with Abraham for all of mankind, His Promise of the Messiah.
Genesis 17:15-21 (ESV) 15 And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16 I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” 17 Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” 19 God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. 20 As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.”
God was very clear about Isaac being the son of Promise, the son with whom God will keep His covenant with Abraham. Yes, He heard Abraham’s request for Ishmael to be blessed, and Ishmael was blessed (while still being a wild donkey of a man…). But Sarah was upset when she witnessed Ishmael laughing at Isaac, and implored Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away.
Genesis 21:10-13 (ESV) 10 So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.” 11 And the thing was very displeasing to Abraham on account of his son. 12 But God said to Abraham, “Be not displeased because of the boy and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named. 13 And I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring.”
God does make a nation of Ishmael. However, God’s promise to Abraham, for his namesake, for the lineage of the Messiah, is through Isaac, not Ishmael. Therefore, with respect to God’s promise to Abraham, God’s covenant with Abraham, there is only one son, Isaac. There is no “back-up”… plan B was rejected before plan A was even implemented. No turning back. Therefore, when God told Abraham to sacrifice “his only son”, He wasn’t miss counting offspring, He was letting Abraham know that He was fully aware that Isaac was the sole bearer of Abraham’s namesake, the only son by which God declared His promise to Abraham. This is significant, because what follows next points directly at the cross.
John 3:16-18 (ESV) 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Praise the Lord. Next, let’s take a look at where God send Abraham for the sacrifice, to the land of Moriah, to a mountain He will show Abraham. Now, this is long before the captivity in Egypt, the Exodus, and the Law of Moses. Before Israel is lead into the Promised Land. Before King David and King Solomon. But notice the location of where King Solomon built the Temple of the Lord:
2 Chronicles 3:1 (ESV) 1 Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to David his father, at the place that David had appointed, on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.
How cool is that? Even more interesting, is that if you’ll remember your history, when the Second Temple was built (after the Babylonian exile), the Temple remained in the same place, and maintained its same dimensions, but Herod wanted to make it more grand in nature, so he widened the temple mount… essentially creating a plateau of the hills around Mount Moriah, so that the Temple Mount was extended around the Temple. Jesus was crucified outside the city, on a hill of Moriah… where Abraham was lead to sacrifice “his only son” as a burnt offering to the Lord God. Let us continue on with the story.
Genesis 22:33 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 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.
Isaac carried the wood for the burnt offering, the sacrifice. We read in John 19:16b-17 (ESV) “So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, 17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.” Praise the Lord.
Genesis 22:9 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. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 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.” 13 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. 14 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.”
Now here, we have the provision of God. God provides the sacrifice. Yes, Jesus was born of a virgin, and was fully man, the offspring of Abraham provided by God. God intervened so that mankind might by saved, spared from the judgement. Have you ever wondered about the crown of thorns they placed on Jesus head? Notice the ram provided by God as a substitutionary sacrifice on man’s behalf, is caught in a thicket by his horns.
15 And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
We see here that God is again letting Abraham know that the Messiah is coming from his offspring because he obeyed the voice of the Lord God. Praise be to our Lord and Savior. In closing, I’d like to borrow from the Apostle Paul’s closing of his letter to the Romans:
Romans 16:25-27 (ESV) 16 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.
May the Lord bless you and keep you,