Sunday, December 4, 2016

Abraham's Offering

Gen 22:1–14

An Apparently Mortal Blow to the Promise

Isaac was a long time in coming, and no substitutes had been allowed. God had vetoed Abraham’s suggestion of adopting his servant Eliezar as his heir: “No, your servant will not be your heir; for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir” (Gen 15:2–4). And Sarah’s scheme to allow Abraham a son through her servant Hagar fared no better (Gen 16). No, God said, Abraham’s son would come from Sarah (17:16). God promised her that son (Gen 18), and after every single human hope was utterly exhausted, Isaac the promise-child came into their geriatric home (Gen 21).

Imagine what a blow it was be when God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac! If he were only one of twelve sons in Israel, the command to sacrifice a son would have been appalling. If he were an only child with no special covenantal promises attached, the command would have been excruciating. But this appeared to be killing off not only the family but even eliminating the very covenant. Even if God replaced Isaac with a second miracle son, he wouldn’t be the covenantal son. Isaac was it—or there was no covenant! Only utter faith could trust that there would still be a way forward in the covenant if Isaac were slain.

Abraham’s Unflinching Faith and Obedience

Abraham kept his trust in God. He thought, God will keep his word, so Isaac has to have a future somehow. Maybe God will raise him from the dead (Heb 11:19). Maybe God will provide a substitute so the covenant child can live on. In fact, he assured Isaac, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son” (22:8 ESV).

So Abraham obeyed and began preparing his ultimate sacrifice. Then God stopped the procedures. In the place of Abraham’s covenant son, God provided a ram for the required sacrifice. But just like God, who offered his only beloved Son for us, Abraham had been willing to offer his only son—even if it looked like that would write “quit” to all the promises God had ever made to Abraham. He trusted God to keep his promises anyway. No wonder we call Abraham the father of the faithful (Rom 4:16).

One day Jesus became Abraham’s most faithful descendant. Just like it was with Isaac, all the promises God had ever made were wrapped up in Jesus (2 Cor 1:20). And God still was willing to offering him as a sacrifice for our sins. Just as Abraham had hoped to with Isaac, God received Jesus alive back from the dead.

Obviously, God will not be asking us to sacrifice one of our children. God considers that practice to be an abomination (Lev 18:21; Deut 12:31; Ps 106:37-38; Jer 7:31; 19:5; 32:35; Ezek 16:20). What’s more, he himself offered up the one perfect—and therefore final—sacrifice for sin (Heb 8–1). So we should rejoice at the offering God provided, rejoice in Jesus’ resurrection, and rejoice that we ourselves will share in that one day (1 Cor 15).

Questions, Reflections, and Commitments

  • Meditating on your past walk with God: Has God ever led you to do anything that seemed to threaten your continued enjoyment of some good thing God had already given you? How did you respond? Did you cling to the existing blessing, or did you hold it lightly as you stepped forward in the obedience of faith?
  • Meditating on your future walk with God: How would you respond to a situation like the one just described if it happened in the near future?

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