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October 17, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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“Abraham answered, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.’”—Genesis 22:8 (NIV)
We all know the story . . . In Genesis 22:2 (NASB), God commands Abraham, saying, “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.” The story known as the binding of Isaac is one of the most well-known and significant stories in the Bible, but what is this story truly about? What’s happening here?
Why did God ask Abraham to sacrifice Isaac? Abraham knew God too well to believe God wanted such a sacrifice. He also had full knowledge of the gospel, which God revealed to him. So, we can reasonably assume that Abraham was fully aware of the outcome, but what about Isaac?
Even though the common depiction of Isaac in this moment is of a child, most biblical scholars believe he was between 18 and 33 years old; after all, he had to be big and strong enough to carry all the wood for the burnt offering. That makes his silence throughout the entire journey even more significant. His only question? “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” to which Abraham responds, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (Genesis 22:7–8 NIV). Louis Berman points out, “The father’s answer is tender but evasive, and the boy must have sensed the truth by now.”
Friends, imagine being Isaac right now. As a man in his prime, Isaac could have easily overpowered his approximately 130-year-old father and run away, but he didn’t. Instead, he offers no resistance, nor did he protest, cry, or demonstrate any distress. He is completely obedient and silent . . . “as a sheep is silent before the shearers” (Isaiah 53:7 NLT).
In Isaac’s story, a beautiful dual picture is on display for us to see.
First, he is a picture of Jesus Christ. Isaac foreshadowed Jesus in many ways . . . Isaac climbed Moriah; Jesus climbed Calvary. Isaac was laid on the wood; Jesus was laid on a wooden cross. Abraham, Isaac’s father, willingly gave up his beloved son; God the Father gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16). Both were “obedient unto death” (Philippians 2:8).
Here’s the thing, though: Isaac not only depicts Jesus Christ, but in this moment, he is also a picture of us! You see, just as God provided a ram as a substitute for Isaac, God provided His Son, the Lamb, as our substitute (Hebrews 10:10). And just as Isaac was symbolically raised from the dead (Hebrews 11:19) when he stepped off the altar, we too are raised to walk in the newness of life when we take a step of faith and are baptized into Christ’s death.
Isaac’s role here goes even deeper than just offering a picture of humanity; he also offers us an example to follow. You see, Edward Kessler points out, “Isaac was willing to give up his life; was not forced by human hand to carry the cross but carried it freely, was not forced to offer himself as a sacrifice but willingly gave himself up to his father.” He embodied the words of Jesus in Luke 9:23 (NASB): “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Isaac willingly denied himself, he laid down his life to be obedient to the Lord. He literally took up his instrument of sacrifice to follow after God. He showed us what it means to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1 ESV).
As believers, we’re called to lay down our life at the feet of the cross and “carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:10 NIV). We’re called to lay down our will and desires, seek first Christ and His kingdom, and surrender ourselves to Christ.
We may not always understand why things happen or why we’re put in certain circumstances, but we can walk in obedience and humility regardless. Why? Because faith does not demand explanations; it rests on promises. Abraham and Isaac both rested on the promise of God, and we, too, can rest in His promises.
Danny Saavedra has served on the staff of Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.