The story in Genesis of God telling Abraham to sacrifice his long awaited for son, Isaac is one of the most uncomfortable stories in the whole bible. If you have children, I’m sure you’ve considered the horror of being in Abraham’s position and probably, like me, fallen well short of the potential obedience required for this type of request. It raises all sorts of questions about God’s character. We of course know what happens in hindsight, but how could a loving God even ask such a question and go through with the charade?
When you look at what this scenario shadows, it puts things into a new perspective. In a minute we’ll look at the similarities between Isaac and Jesus. But consider this: God doesn’t ask us to do anything He wouldn’t do Himself. Isaac the sacrifice was spared, but Jesus the sacrifice wasn’t. There wasn’t a ram caught in some bushes next to Golgotha. Jesus was the lamb readied for sacrifice, and God the father went through with the whole thing, right to the end.
There is a reason we feel uncomfortable, we are supposed to. The full horror and consequences of sin need to be soberly considered and fully appreciated. There was no other way that sin could be atoned for.
The story of Abraham and Isaac is striking in its similarity with Jesus. Consider the following;
Isaac and Jesus both had miraculous conceptions. Isaac’s mother was 90 years old and Jesus was born of a virgin.
The place of Isaac’s sacrifice was a small mountain range called Moriah. This was next to the place that Jerusalem would later be built. Jesus was crucified on a hill outside Jerusalem. Although the bible doesn’t state it, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the location was exactly the same spot.
Isaac and Jesus both submitted to and were obedient to the will of their fathers. There was no record of Isaac struggling to get on the altar and be tied up. Similarly, Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane prayed “Not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)
Isaac carried the wood of the sacrifice up the hill. Jesus carried His wooden cross up the hill. They were both laid on that same wood.
A resurrection was prophesied. Abraham said to His companions “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” (Genesis 22:5) Jesus told His disciples he would be resurrected;
From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. (Matthew 16:21)
The sacrifice provided was a substitute. The ram was a substitute for Isaac, Jesus was a substitute for us.
It’s highly significant, given last weeks blog, that the ‘angel of the Lord’ was communicating with Abraham throughout this process. As we saw last week, the angel of the Lord is Jesus himself. In that first instance He was an observer of the obedience of Abraham and Isaac knowing all along that later He would recreate that same scenario as the sacrificial lamb himself.
Abraham proved how much he loved God by not withholding his only son. God proved how much he loved us by not withholding His only son.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
What great love God has for us and what a sacrifice He gave. I can only wonder in awe how He planned this all before the creation of the world, so that you and I might be saved. What an amazing shadow of what was to come.