Sunday our sermon text was Genesis 22:1-18. Probably no other text captures the heart and dread as much as this chapter. After years of waiting, all beyond the child-rearing age, Abraham and Sarah are promised a son. It’s so amazing that Sarah laughs (Genesis 18:11-15); and when they finally have a son, they name him Isaac, “he laughs” (Genesis 21).
God tests Abraham
But now “God tests Abraham” concerning this very son that was born to Abraham and Sarah. The word when used of people refers to them “tempting” God; it shows their unfaithfulness. Yet when used with God as the subject, it is “testing” of people; testing to show their faithfulness to His promises.
God’s test is not your normal, quick-study, slam bam, we are done. No, this is what God says:
“Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you” (Genesis 22:2).
Now that is a test!
What would you think? Do? My heart screams, “I’ll do anything for you, God, anything, but not my son, Isaac! Take me, let me die in his place. But not Isaac!” Would we call the committee to debate our options? Would we check the internet to see if it offers something else? Not Abraham.
“So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him” (22:3).
Abraham, a man of faith, now begins the journey of trust, that God is faithful even when it seems impossible. God had called him in 12:1-3, reaffirmed that calling and promise in 15:1-6, sealed it with a sign and name change, 17:1-26. And now Abraham is asked to trust God even with the life of the promised one. Even Isaac is learning about faith and trust.
[Isaac asked,] “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.
Abraham passes the test, showing that he had faith in God. In Hebrews we read,
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, “In Isaac your descendants shall be called.” He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type (11:17-20).
Abraham saw by faith something far greater happening than even his son, Isaac being offered. For ultimately Isaac is God’s son of promise. It is through this very child that God will produce the ultimate substitution.
“God will provide” — God passes the test
A simple statement, a simple yet profound statement of faithby Abraham. Indeed, as the story unfolds, we discover that God does indeed provide the lamb, the substitute for Isaac. For we discover that it is the object of Abraham’s faith, not Abraham himself, that is critical.
Thus, behind the scenes something greater is happening. God Himself is being tested. Is He faithful to what He promised? Three times the phrase “your son, your only son” is used in this chapter (22:2. 12, 16) describing Isaac. In the New Testament, we read that God Himself offers up His own Son, His only begotten Son (John 1:14, 18), to be the perfect sacrifice, not just for Isaac, but for everyone who falls short of God’s expectations (Law), namely for every person.
God has provided—the perfect sacrifice. God knows what it is to give up yourself; He gave up His very own Son. Thus, He has promised even greater things. “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). “Neither death nor life shall separate you from the love of God” (Romans 8:37-39). “Come to Me all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). And the promises continue.
This another demonstration of how critical it is to be hearing God’s Word, reading God’s Word, and receiving His forgiveness, life, and salvation gifts in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. God’s Son, His only Son, is now also Savior, Lord, Redeemer, Deliverer, …
Looks like God passed the test with flying colors, the color of His own blood!