22:1 Some time later God tested [purpose: to reveal true character, to grow spiritually; Abraham was not aware that he was about to be tested] Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied.
Parents often have to make difficult decisions regarding the welfare of their children. Abraham had to make an extremely difficult decision regarding his son. Some time after the birth of Isaac and after sending Hagar and Ishmael away, God tested Abraham. God examines and tests people to reveal and to refine their character. God also uses tests and trials to teach us patience and to help us grow to be the people He wants. To his credit, when Abraham heard God call his name he replied without hesitation. Although Abraham was listening and willing to obey, he did not know that God was about to test him.
22:2 Then God said, “Take [imperative] your son, your only [Abraham had other sons; word refers to uniqueness: Isaac was the son through whom God’s promise would be fulfilled (17:19-21)] son, Isaac [born 25 years after God called Abraham (12:4; 21:5)], whom you love [first mention of love in Bible: in context of a father’s love for his son; implies intimate relationship], and go [imperative] to the region of Moriah [the place where Solomon would later build the temple, cf. 2 Chron. 3:1]. Sacrifice [imperative] him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about [cf. 12:1, “the land I will show you”].”
God gave clear instructions to Abraham.
First, he instructed Abraham to take a journey with his son Isaac to the land of Moriah, the place where Solomon would later build the temple. The word love is used for the first time in the Bible in this passage. Interestingly, this word is used in the context of a father’s love for a son and not a man’s love for a woman.
Second, God told Abraham to offer Isaac as a burnt offering — the kind of offering that was to be totally consumed by fire. Although the Bible does not record any protest or revulsion on Abraham’s part, we should not assume that Abraham gladly accepted the idea of sacrificing his son or that the concept of child sacrifice was acceptable to him. However, Abraham was willing to trust and obey God, even when doing so was extraordinarily difficult.
22:3 Early [Abraham did not delay in doing what God had commanded] the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood [perhaps an indication that wood was not available or in short supply in the place where he was going] for the burnt offering [offering totally consumed leaving nothing but ashes], he set out [resolve overcame resistance] for the place God had told him about.
The following morning, Abraham promptly gathered the supplies he needed to obey God’s instructions. Because Abraham’s resolve to obey God was greater than any resistance he might have had, he set out to go to Moriah along with Isaac and two servants.
22:4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance.
22:5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we [indicates Abraham’s hope for Isaac’s survival] will come back to you.”
22:6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac [identified Isaac with the offering], and he himself carried the fire and the knife [Abraham carried the lethal materials]. As the two of them went on together,
22:7 Isaac spoke up [Isaac’s only recorded words] and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
Finally, on the third day, Abraham arrived at Moriah, the place God had told him about. As Abraham and Isaac walked to the place of sacrifice, Isaac asked his father, “where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham replied that God would provide the lamb. Although he did not know how God would provide, Abraham trusted that God would provide.
Note: “…in a greater sense, Isaac’s question sums up the Old Testament; the New Testament answer is John 1:29.” (Hobbs)
22:8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide [later immortalized in the name Abraham gave to the place (22:14)] the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.
22:9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood [Isaac loved and trusted his father; he was willing to submit to being put to death as a sacrifice (just as Jesus later submitted Himself to death on a cross)].
Abraham built the altar and then bound and placed Isaac, the son whom he loved, on that altar. Abraham believed that if Isaac died, God would raise him from the dead in order to fulfill His promise to bring a great nation out of Isaac (Heb. 11:9). While we often talk about Abraham’s faith, we often overlook Isaac’s faith. Isaac loved and trusted his father and was willing to submit himself to being offered as a sacrifice, even as Christ would later do on the cross. Finally, Abraham took the knife in his hand and raised it to slay his son. This was the moment that had likely occupied Abraham’s thoughts since first receiving God’s command to sacrifice his son. This was the ultimate test of his faith in God.
22:10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son [Abram believed that even if he offered Isaac as a sacrifice, God would be able to raise him from the dead (Heb. 11:17-19)].
22:11 But [at last moment] the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham [double expression = urgency]!” “Here I am,” he replied.
At the last moment, as Abraham prepared to slay his son, God intervened. The little conjunction but in verse 11 changed the rest of the story. But the angel of the Lord spoke to Abraham from heaven and used a double-expression to urgently get Abraham’s attention — Abraham, Abraham! As when he first heard the voice of God (22:1), Abraham replied, Here I am.
Abraham’s immediate reply indicates his complete willingness and readiness to carry out the will of God. Parenting is hard work and filled with many competing distractions. That is why it is important for parents to be tuned in to God — ready to hear and obey just like Abraham. Parents should rely on God to guide them through His Word so that they can make decisions that honor Him.
22:12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God [Abram proved his loyalty to God], because [evidenced by] you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
The angel’s instructions to Abraham were clear and simple: do not harm Isaac in any way. Abraham’s faith had been tested and proven genuine. He had given evidence that he feared God. One way to show that we fear or have reverence for God is by our willingness to follow Him in absolute obedience.
Abraham had been willing to sacrifice his only son in obedience to God’s command. His willingness to obey God was evidence that he both loved and trusted God. When Abraham placed his son on the altar and raised the knife in his hand to slay him, he passed the supreme test of obedience. Although the text does not mention it, Abraham and Isaac must have breathed a heavy sigh of relief.
22:13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead [just as Jesus died in the stead of sinners] of his son.
When Abraham looked up, he saw a ram that had been providentially caught by its horns in a nearby thicket. God gave Abraham this ram to sacrifice instead of his son. Abraham went and took the ram and then offered it as a burnt offering in place of Isaac. It is when we are dependent on God in faith that we learn firsthand of His willingness to provide.
God can provide even when we see no help in sight. The ram was the substitute that God provided for Isaac. Abraham sacrificed this ram in the place of Isaac. Abraham’s sacrifice on Mount Moriah foreshadowed the sacrificial system and also Christ’s substitutionary atonement on the cross.
22:14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide [Jehovah Jireh; to commemorate how the Lord had provided; cf. 22:8]. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”
God commended Abraham for the depth of his trusting obedience, and Abraham acknowledged God as the One who provides. Abraham named the place where he sacrificed the ram The Lord Will Provide, or Jehovah-jireh. He did so to memorialize God’s provision of a sacrifice to take the place of Isaac.
Through the centuries, the name of this place has served as a reminder that God is able to meet the needs of those who trust Him. Isaac was present when his father memorialized the place of God’s provision. Parents should keep in mind that their children, like Isaac, can learn important lessons about trusting God by observing how they handle life’s challenges. These lessons can make a difference in how our children deal with the challenges they will face later in life.
22:15 The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time
22:16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son,
22:17 [reaffirmation of God’s promise to Abraham in 12:1-3] I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies,
22:18 and through your offspring [seed; cf. Gal. 3:16] all nations on earth will be blessed [messianic element of God’s promise to Abraham: fulfilled in the birth, death, resurrection of Jesus Christ], because you have obeyed me.”
Note: Each of us will leave a legacy. The question is what kind of legacy we will leave. Our faith and obedience to God can influence the next generation, our nation, and our world. If we are to leave a legacy of faith, then we must take intentional steps to do so. Here are a few suggestions concerning how to ensure that our faithfulness to God impacts others while we are living and after we have died.
F = Future | Faith impacts more than our daily living, it impacts the future. Had Abraham refused to obey God, things would have turned out much differently. Make it a point to think deeply about how responding to life’s daily challenges with faith in God can impact the next generation.
A = Awareness | Regardless of whether we have children, we should live with the awareness that others are watching us. We can encourage those around us and the next generation to put their confidence in God by our example of faith.
I = Interaction | Parents should interact with their children concerning what it means to trust God. They should be sensitive to teachable moments to help their children learn to trust God in both the big and small challenges they face every day.
T = Talk | Talk often about what it means to trust God. Share with others about your faith and obedience to God and about God’s faithfulness to you. Share about your victories as well as about occasions when you failed to trust God.
H = Heritage | Think heritage! Make certain that you leave more than stuff to the next generation. Be intentional about leaving something of eternal value and that will help the next generation to continue to advance God’s purposes in the world.