The Sacrifice of Isaac

Daily Reading – Genesis 22

“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.”

Almost everything in pagan religion and philosophy is a twisted, perverted, and misapplied version of truth. The idea that there is wrath from an almighty deity that can only be satisfied through human sacrifice is true.

However, it is extremely important that the right human is offered up to satisfy this wrath.

Knowing only a perfect like-for-like sacrifice would suffice, Jesus “had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:17) And therefore “he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Hebrews 9:26)

While the sacrifice of Isaac would have accomplished nothing, he shares many unique things in common with Jesus that help show God’s people what to expect. The reason God commanded Abraham to offer up Isaac was to teach his people that Jesus is the only way.

Let’s take a look at the story.

Isaac was born through a miraculous work of God while Abraham and Sarah were in their old age. Abraham received promises that through his offspring all the nations of the world would be blessed. In Genesis 21, God reveals this “offspring” would come through Isaac. So Isaac is the child of the promise and the miraculously born only begotten son of Abraham and Sarah.

Then God says,

“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.”

God sends Abraham to a mountain range near the city of Salem where he previously had an encounter with Melchizedek. This mountain range is the future home of Jerusalem and will house the temple, the place of sacrifice.

When they arrive, Abraham tells his servants to wait while he and Isaac climb the mountain to go worship. We see Abraham’s confidence in God as he tells his servants that he and the boy will return. This is also the first use of the word worship, which in this instance consists of great obedience and sacrifice.

As they start to climb the mountain, “Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac.” Abraham carried the fire and the knife. On the way up the hill Isaac asked his father a question that resonates throughout the rest of the Old Testament. He asks, “Father, where is the Lamb?” Abraham responds, “God himself will provide the lamb.”

When they reach the place, Abraham binds Isaac to the wooden altar and takes the knife to slay his son. Then the angel of the Lord cries out and commands Abraham to stop.

God stops Abraham from killing Isaac because Isaac’s death would have accomplished nothing. However, God sets up the drama and allows it to play out to the point of death to accomplish his purposes. God is showing his people that the true child of promise, the only begotten Son, must go to Mt. Moriah and carry the wood for the altar of sacrifice up the hill. When they reach the place, the Father will let the knife of sacrifice fall and the fire of judgment burn.

Isaac was a placeholder until the true child of promise could get to that spot 2,000 years later. It is as if God pushed pause on the drama until Jesus had an opportunity to place himself on the altar. At that point, God pushed play and sacrfice and judgment fell.

Hebrews 11 gives beautiful insight into the saving faith of Abraham.

 Hebrews 11:17-19

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

Take some time to think of the emotions involved in this event. Clearly Abraham loved his son, but how much more did the Father love his Son. Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him. (Isaiah 53:10) Christ and the Father sacrificed and suffered a tremendous amount in order to save us.

1 Peter 3:18

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 

Philippians 2:6-8

though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

As we follow in the footsteps of the faith of our father Abraham, let us consider him who endured such suffering and deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him. Knowing that no matter what comes our way, God is even able to raise us from the dead.

The Emmaus Trail is a weekly devotional study that explores the theme of God reconciling himself to the world through the redemption of his Son which is found in all of Scripture. 

Luke 24

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. 

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