Genesis 22:1-14 God has Provided WC McCarter
By way of introduction, look with me at John 8:48-59 and particularly v56. “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” The ‘day’ refers to Christ’s passion and work of redemption on the cross.
“But when could Abraham have seen anything on that order of sophistication? Probably when he took his son Isaac up on Mount Moriah to be offered. . . . Abraham saw that God himself would provide a substitute, someone in that coming ‘seed’ who would somehow be connected with the sacrifice and deliverance of Isaac, the son of promise” (Kaiser, 50).
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
The Testing of Faith (1-2)
Without the first verse in the chapter, we would be completely lost on the events of the chapter. There is nothing in any of the narratives before that would help us to understand where this test comes from. It seemingly comes out of nowhere. We are almost as surprised as Abraham is to hear this command. It is a difficult passage anyway, but Moses, the writer, helps us with the first verse. There he tells us right up front that this is a test. The reader is led to believe that the sacrifice of Isaac will not take place, but that only softens the tension of the narrative because in the story, Abraham does not know that this is only a test. We are forced to focus on the inward, spiritual struggle of Abraham as we read through the passage. Verse two, like 12:1-3 narrows in on the personal nature of the command: son, only son, Isaac whom you love.
Let me say that Abraham would not have considered this request to be normative. Many claim that it would have been because the pagan nations roundabout were constantly offering child sacrifices, but those sacrifices of the pagans would have been mainly of newborns soon after birth. Abraham is asked to offer his teenaged son to the Lord. Yet, here is the thing, God is the giver and taker of life. He is allowed to take life whenever He sees fit. The dilemma for Abraham, the difficult nature of the event is that God requires Abraham to carry out the sacrifice. There are three commands: take, go, and sacrifice his son. We do not get much more elaboration than that, and it doesn’t seem that Abraham does either. The way that Moses constructs the recounting of the event forces us to rely on Abraham’s assessment of the situation. His response becomes our supreme example.
This “testing” is not a tempting of Abraham to sin. God does not tempt in that way. He never coerces believers or unbelievers to sin. What He does is test His people to know their hearts. He wants to “prove” Abraham’s faith, obedience, and fear of the Lord. There is no tricking, deceiving, or entrapment. Abraham is tested straight-up whether he will trust and obey or not.
This kind of testing is done in order to manifest what is in the heart of the person. It is for God to experience, for the person to know, and for the whole world to witness. Many things in the Scriptures are isolated events. For example, the testing of Job does not seem to be normative, neither does this one event of testing Abraham. I would not say that God does the sort of thing all the time that He did with Job and Abraham. Yet, we are put to the test on several occasions in different ways. We are told that this is for our good and that we should count it all joy when we face tribulation. God is glorified in it as we continue to trust and obey Him, and we are made stronger through it.
The Obedience of Faith (3-10)
Verse three is clear right up front that Abraham is willing to obey. He is not perfect in his obedience, and he has had some mishaps in his faith but not on this occasion. He rose early in the morning and got to it. Notice how the narrative is so slow in progressing. The best way for us to go about this narrative is to read through it while making various observations.
Just as Abraham had done what the Lord had commanded in C12, so he does here without hesitation. There are many details here that don't actually contribute much to the story, but may we suppose that they were added to accentuate the inner struggle of Abraham? After three days they arrive at their destination. For three days Isaac is reckoned as dead to Abraham. After what seems to be prolonged, numbing silence on Abraham's behalf, we finally here from the father of faith. A bold statement of confidence is given at the end of v5. He says, "We will come back to you." Abraham may not know exactly how God is going to work in this situation, but he is confident that his God will see to everything that He has promised.
In v6 we get a hint at the age of Isaac. He must be a teenager by now because he is able to carry large enough load of wood for a burnt offering on his back up a mountain. We also learn from this detail that Isaac could have surely fought off his father, but he willing obeys the command of the Lord along with Abraham.
By the time we make it to v8, we receive another confident assertion from Abraham. He says, "God will provide for Himself the lamb." Abraham is already beginning to understand that God will provide a substitute. God will see to it that everything is taken care of. So, Isaac cooperates and allows his father to bind him and lay him on the altar.
How do we reason that Abraham was so confident in God? What is it that Abraham was thinking when he said that God would see to all of the details? Heb 11:17-19 gives us an answer, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.”
The Approval of Faith (11-14)
Finally, after one heart-wrenching detail after another, the narrative comes to a head as Abraham stretches out his hand to sacrifice his son, but he is abruptly stopped by an angel of the Lord. He is commanded to not lay a hand on the boy. The test how now been completed. Abraham has been accepted. It has now been shown to God, to Abraham, and to the whole world that Abraham fears God, that is, he is obedient, trusting, and willing to give up what is most precious to him.
Ultimately a substitute is offered in Isaac’s place. Abraham had actually anticipated this when he said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb.” And there is no doubt that this foreshadows the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Like Isaac, Christ willing carries the cross on His back, He willingly heads up the mountain to the place of execution, He willing lays down His life. Like Abraham, God the Father puts His own Son to death. There was a ram caught in the thicket that took Isaac's place this time, but it would ultimately be the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world that would take Isaac's place, Abraham's place, and our places. He bore our penalty for sin as our substitute on the cross.
Conclusion and Christian Application
(1) Genuine faith is always ready to move and go to action when the promises and commands of God are heard. Abraham was always ready to hear and obey. Are you always ready to hear and obey? What is your faith-posture? Are you standing and ready for action, or have you sunken into a spiritual sloth?
(2) What was it that Isaac not only represented but actually embodied? Isaac was Abraham’s only son, the heir of the promises of God, the progenitor of the land, nation, and blessing to all peoples. Abraham was willing to sacrifice everything. The question was, did Abraham desire the promises of God or did he desire God Himself? The same is true for us today. Are you wanting only to maintain some sort of image for others to see? Are you wanting only to escape the torments of Hell? Are you wanting only to go to Heaven when you die? Or are you wanting to know God and to see His glory?
(3) The translation, “God will provide” is literally, “God will see to it.” Abraham trusted that God would take care of the details. You must trust God in the details. He is the God of the long-range plans, and He is the God of the details of day-to-day life. Do you trust Him for the future? And do you trust Him for today? He must be trusted in the big things and the small things. In the easy things and in the hard things.