Calvary Road Baptist Church

“FATHER ABRAHAM OFFERS HIS SON”

Genesis 22.1-14

 

We know the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross, was buried, and rose from the dead after three days. We have historical proof of Christ’s resurrection from the dead.[1] There is simply no credible authoritative historian who denies the resurrection of Christ, and scientists who deny the resurrection of Jesus Christ are trafficking in the respect people have for their acumen as scientists in order to cloud the judgment of their audiences when they speak about spiritual and/or philosophical matters for which they have no demonstrable expertise. What is legitimate to question for the curious mind is whether the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ took place with any forewarning, took place in fulfillment of any prediction, and took place with any foreshadowing of those important events. Or was it a total shock and a complete surprise? Of course, forewarning, prediction, and foreshadowing of those monumental events that established the foundation for sinners to be reconciled to God through faith in Christ did take place, many times![2]

Turn in your Bible to Genesis chapter 22, where we will consider but one of the numerous historical events recorded in the Bible that serves as a forewarning of Christ’s sacrifice for sins. My text for this message is Genesis 22.1-14. I will approach today’s text somewhat differently than is usual for me, reading one verse at a time and then commenting before proceeding to the next verse. After I rehearse and then remark on each of the fourteen verses in my text I will proceed to the central portion of my sermon to provide structure for our understanding of the tempting of Abraham and the typology of Abraham and Isaac.

But first a bit of background leading up to our text. In Genesis chapter 12 God spoke to Abram in Ur of the Chaldees and called him to a place He would show him. Abram responded in faith, though his faith was not saving faith.[3] In Genesis chapter 13 Abram took his wife and nephew Lot to Egypt where he obtained great wealth and a slave woman named Hagar. Upon returning to the Promised Land Abram and Lot discovered that their newly acquired wealth made it impossible for them to dwell together, because their flocks were too large. So they separated. In Genesis chapter 14 we learn that Abram rescued his nephew Lot who had been kidnapped along with others from the city of Sodom. After his rescue of Lot Abram encountered Melchizedek, the priest king of the city of Salem, to whom he gave tithes of the spoil he had captured. In Genesis chapter 15 we learn that Abram was afraid (possibly fearing retaliation from those he attacked to rescue Lot), the LORD then coming to him in a vision, saying, “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” Concerned about his future, his advanced age, and God’s as yet unfulfilled promise to give him an heir, Abram is told that his heirs will be as numerous as the stars in the sky. “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”[4] Thereby was Abram justified by faith. In Genesis chapter 16 we learn that Abram fathered a child by the Egyptian slave woman named Hagar. It was a sad attempt by a man who had exercised saving faith, but who then went on to demonstrate that he was not entirely free from his sinful nature. He was eighty-six years old when the baby was born. There is no doubt that he greatly loved his son born in his old age, whose name was Ishmael. In Genesis chapter 17 we learn that God changed Abram’s name to Abraham when he was ninety years old. We also learn that God instituted the rite of circumcision for Abraham and all his male descendants. Further, He changed his wife Sarai’s name to Sarah and promised her a child in her old age. In response “Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!” Abraham was ninety-nine years old and Ishmael was thirteen years old when they and the rest of his household were circumcised. Genesis chapters 18 and 19 are devoted to Abraham hosting the Angel of the LORD and pleading for the preservation of the city of Sodom, the deliverance of Lot and his family from the destruction of Sodom, the death of Lot’s wife, and Lot’s terrible sins with his daughters while in a drunken stupor. In Genesis chapter 20 we are once more focused on Abraham taking his family south to the region known as Gerar, where he lied and said his beautiful wife was his sister (to spare his own life at her expense), with Sarah preserved from any harm at the hand of Gerar’s king Abimelech by God’s direct intervention. In Genesis chapter 21 we learn that Sarah conceived in her old age and bore a son who was named Isaac. When he was eight days old Abraham circumcised him. Things did not go well with two women in the same household who had each born Abraham’s child. The domestic situation deteriorated until it became intolerable. Therefore, since Ishmael was now old enough at age sixteen, Abraham was directed by God to send the lad and his mother Hagar away.

Imagine if you would the heartache and sense of loss that Abraham must have felt resulting from the departure of his son Ishmael. Yet there was nothing he could do about this divine remedy for the difficulty caused by his past sin. It was clearly God’s will that the young man and his mother depart. Thankfully, Abraham’s son born of Sarah, Isaac, was there to occupy his attention and to benefit as the recipient of his father’s love and devotion.

We now turn to our text:

 

1      And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.

 

A phrase at a time here.

 

“And it came to pass after these things” - Hereby is indicated the passage of time. Genesis 21 records Abraham’s family when Isaac was a newborn to about three years of age.[5] Now the narrative takes up when Isaac is a young man, some twenty to thirty years later.

 

“that God did tempt Abraham” - This is the first place the word translated “tempt” is found in the Bible.[6] This would not be an enticement by God for Abraham to commit sin, but rather the greatest test of his life to demonstrate the faith he had in God.[7]

 

“and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.” - By what means God communicated with Abraham we are not told. God could have spoken by means of an audible voice. He could have spoken to Abraham in a dream while he slept. By whatever means it was accomplished, we can be sure Abraham was provided some method of authenticating God as the source of the communication. The scriptural principle of two or three witnesses to verify matters of fact is found throughout the Bible and would certainly apply in this instance. God would not have it otherwise.[8] Additionally, Abraham’s response, “Behold, here I am,” are the only words he speaks to the LORD in our text until he reaches his destination.

 

2      And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

 

He waited eighty-six years to father a child. Then when Ishmael was sixteen he had to send him away. He was ninety-nine years old when his beloved Isaac was born, and now his Creator, the Sovereign who had called him from Ur of the Chaldees and made promises to him that included this son being his heir, has directed him to offer him as a burnt offering. Take careful note of how the LORD speaks about Isaac to him: “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest.” And do what? “and offer him there for a burnt offering.” Lambs, goats, and bullocks Abraham had willingly offered in worship. Only now God directed him to offer his son, his only son Isaac, who he loved. Can a more difficult test be imagined? As well, how significant it must be that God chose this as the first verse in the Bible wherein is found the word “love”; and it is associated with the pending death of Isaac at his father’s own hand.[9]

 

3      And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.

 

Notice that no words of pleading or protest are recorded in this verse. No record of Abraham’s heartbreak is found. Only his obedience to his God is important. Notice also that Abraham’s obedience is not only timely, but that it is early: “Abraham rose up early in the morning” and complied with God’s directive. No delay. No procrastination. No attempt to put off the inevitable. No evidence that Abraham’s emotions overruled his faith.

 

4      Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.

 

From where Abraham had been is not normally a three day journey to Mount Moriah, unless he was slowed down because of his advanced age, or perhaps because he was packing in a great deal of wood. However, we must wonder about the three days. Three days would come to mean very much indeed, since our Savior rose from the dead after three days.

 

5      And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.

 

It is no wonder Abraham and Isaac ascended the mountain alone without the two young men who traveled with them, for this was serious business that was no one’s business to observe between a father and his beloved son. Abraham anticipated that this would be their last moments together, and relative strangers would pose a barrier to the intimacy Abraham yearned for with his son, Isaac. Another first; Abraham’s comment, “I and the lad will go yonder and worship,” is the first time in the Bible the word “worship” is found, the Hebrew word translated “worship” meaning “bow down.”[10] They would bow to God’s will. What did Abraham mean when he said in the final phrase, “and come again to you”? His comment is collective. He and Isaac would go and worship. He and Isaac would return? It is unlikely Abraham knew what was going to happen other than what God told him to do, to offer his son as a burnt offering, requiring his death. His faith is being stretched to the very limit.

 

6      And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.

 

There are two reasons why Isaac carried the wood and Abraham the fire and the knife: First, and most obviously, Isaac was the younger and the much stronger of the two. Only he was strong enough to carry the wood. Yet the second reason was more important. The offering must be without spot or blemish.[11] Therefore, Isaac could not be burned or cut by the fire or by the knife.

 

7      And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?

 

The first recorded words of Isaac to his father. The first recorded words of Abraham to his son. “My father.” “Here am I my son.” It is clear that Isaac, though compliant to his father’s direction, has no idea what is happening: “Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

 

8      And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.

 

He initially responds with the words, “My son.” Though the narrative provides no sense beyond a record of the words and deeds, I cannot read this passage without a very heavy heart. Abraham’s faith in God is expressed to his son: “God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering.” Insofar as Abraham knew to this point, God had already provided for Himself a lamb for a burnt offering, his son Isaac. Yet he proceeded. Did Isaac also have faith in God, or was he simply willing to follow the leadership of his father? “so they went both of them together.” I am persuaded Isaac followed his father’s leadership because he observed in some undefined way that his father’s life was the life of a man following God. You see, no father is important enough, or wise enough, or is anything enough for his son to follow in this way . . . unless his son understands that he is following a man who is in turn following God. That was the foundation for “so they went both of them together.” I want to be that kind of father.

 

9      And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.

 

What can be said at this point? Aged Abraham could not have bound strong young Isaac without his compliance. And how tenderly and lovingly he must have laid him on the wood altar, with his son looking into his eyes with tears of love and admiration. He knew how much his father loved him. He knew how difficult was his father’s task. Yet he also knew that he must always and in every instance be to his father less important to him than God. Therefore, knowing his place in his father’s life, he yielded to his father’s will. Ah, to have such a child as that is a father’s greatest blessing.

 

10    And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.

 

May I respectfully disagree with most commentators who use terms like “the deadly blow” or suggest Abraham was about to thrust the blade into his son’s heart? Not at all. He had no intention of attacking his son. The Hebrew word expressing Abraham’s intention is the same word used for the slaying of sacrifices according to the Mosaic Law, and those animals were never attacked.[12] An artery in the neck was opened without pain and the lifeblood poured out. Abraham intended to gently place one hand on his son’s head, and with the other hand holding the knife open his son’s carotid artery without inflicting any pain whatsoever. That is what is meant by Abraham stretching forth his hand with the knife to slay his son.

 

11    And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.

 

This is only the second time Abraham speaks to the LORD in our text, responding to who I think is the preincarnate Christ (frequently identified as the Angel of the LORD in the Old Testament) by saying, “Here am I.” What a relief this must have been to Abraham.

 

12    And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.

 

Abraham’s hand is withheld, Isaac’s safety is guaranteed, and God has proven both Abraham’s faith and his fear of Him, because he did not withhold the one he loved, his son, his only son. This, beloved, is Abraham’s third and most visible demonstration of faith in the scriptural record of his life. This is the faith that justified him in the sight of men.[13]

 

13    And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.

 

This is the second time in our text Abraham raises his gaze, to see the sacrifice God had provided in a thicket, a ram Abraham offered instead of his son, his only son, Isaac. The ram was a substitute for Isaac, and here we see the concept of a substitutionary sacrifice, one dying in the place of another.

 

14    And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.

 

After telling us what Abraham named the place, Jehovahjireh, Moses informs is that even in his day Moriah was known to be “the mount of the LORD” and that something of profound significance would take place there for all to see.

As promised, let me now set before you three main points:

 

First, THE TEMPTING OF ABRAHAM

 

Three very strange things take place in this tempting of Abraham by God:

First, to bring about His testing of Abraham, God issues to him a very strange command. In verses 1-2 Abraham is commanded to offer up his beloved son, Isaac, at a designated location, a place we refer to as Mount Moriah, now known to be the Temple Mount, where Solomon’s Temple would eventually be erected almost a thousand years later. It is claimed by some that this command shows Judaism and Christianity to be essentially the same as the pagan religions, since they too sacrificed their children. However, the offering of Isaac is completely different than pagan sacrifices of infants and small children. For one thing, the pagans instigated their sacrifices of children in order to appease their gods. In this case, however, Abraham’s actions to sacrifice his son were instigated by God and not Abraham. For another thing, pagans sacrificed children without regard to their children’s willingness. Implicit throughout our text, on the other hand, is the recognition that aged Abraham could not have sacrificed his mature young son without his cooperation.

Next, to show his faith in and fear of God, Abraham exhibits strange obedience to His command. We find Abraham’s almost silent compliance to God’s revealed will in verses 3-10: Where one might expect pleading with God, praying to God, persuading his son, we find instead mostly silence. Abraham’s remarks are directed to God but twice, and only in response to God’s statements to him. The only time Abraham is recorded as speaking to his son is in response to Isaac’s questioning him. As well, where one might expect delay in departing, and somehow procrastinating his undertaking the profoundly unpleasant task assigned to him, we instead read of Abraham rising early in the morning and going about his preparations efficiently and without evidence of wasted motion. There is no display of emotion recorded, on the part of either father or son; only their actions and their sparse words. Nevertheless, God is trusted by Abraham and it seems that Isaac in turn shows a willingness to comply with his father’s will and cooperate with his father’s actions, even while he is being tied up the way a sacrifice is tied up,[14] and placed on the altar of wood.

Third, we see the strange issue of this trial. First, it is an incredible thing that God would countermand His directive to sacrifice Isaac, after taking both the father and his son so far toward slaying him after binding him and laying him on the altar of wood, verses 11-12. Then there is the provision of a substitute sacrifice. How often are rams entangled in thickets? Not often, to be sure, though it does happen. But right this moment? Just after Isaac has been spared? And it had to be a perfect animal, remember, without spot or blemish. How did the ram get to where Abraham needed it, when Abraham needed it, in the right condition to qualify as a sacrifice? God provided it, as He must, and as only He can. Thus was Abraham’s faith tested and shown to be the genuine article. He really did trust God, and God really did show Himself to be worthy of Abraham’s trust.

 

Next, THE TYPOLOGY OF ABRAHAM AND ISAAC

 

You will remember from earlier that I raised the question about whether or not the great works of the Lord Jesus Christ to provide for our salvation were predicted, foreshadowed, forewarned, etc.? In other words, did God provide advance warning or notification of the stupendous thing He and His Son would do? I answered in the affirmative. Not only are there more than a hundred prophetic utterances recorded in the Old Testament about Christ’s incarnation, Christ’s words and deeds, and His death, burial and resurrection, but there is also this phenomenon called a type.

A type is a series of events or a person or a thing that bears such astonishing resemblance to New Testament gospel truth that it is recognized to be no accident, but the divine working of the providential God, the Master of history placing discreet details in His unfolding drama of redemption that we can look back on and recognize to be intentional similarities and likenesses. The type is that which is found in the Old Testament that relates to the antitype that is found in the New Testament.

Patrick Fairbairn explains that there are two things which, by general consent, are held to enter into the constitution of a type. First, it must resemble in form or in spirit its counterpart in the gospel. Second, it must be something that is obviously the intentional doing of God. That is, “The former must not only resemble the latter, but must have been designed to resemble the latter.”[15]

The typology we have in Genesis 22.1-14 is the type of Abraham the father willingly offering his willing beloved son, Isaac. Abraham is a type of God the Father. Isaac is a type of God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Obviously, a type can never be a perfect representation of that which it points to, but serves only as a God-intentioned device to further our appreciation and understanding of its fulfillment. Thus, in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, the good news that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose from the dead after three days as our substitutionary sacrifice for sins, all three Persons of the Triune Godhead were Actors to bring that astonishing miracle to fruition. This type, however, provides for us a distant glimpse of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is not referred to in this type.

Perhaps now the silence of Abraham and Isaac is better understood. Our heavenly Father sacrificed greatly when He gave His only begotten Son to die on the cross for us. And great was the love the Savior showed when He did His Father’s will. Though we are blessed to read in the Bible some of what They said to each other, for the most part what They said, as with Abraham and Isaac, is understandably private.

 

Finally, THE TRUTH TO BE EMBRACED

 

What do you think is the reason God the Father did what He did and the Son of God went through what He went through? Was it solely a demonstration of love, of trust, and of power? Or do you imagine some actual results beyond display were intended? The Bible shows two results were intended by that which this type anticipated, the death of Christ on the cross:

First, God is glorified. More so than God being glorified by Abraham’s and Isaac’s obedience at such potentially high cost, God was supremely glorified by the sacrificial death on Calvary’s cross of His Son. Oh, how very worthy the Son showed the Father to be by His willingness to become a man, to then endure unspeakable indignities, to then be made sin for us Who knew no sin, and to then suffer death for our sins.

However, that is not all. God gave His Son and His Son died a substitutionary death, the Just for the unjust, to glorify God by saving sinners. This should not be seen as a different consequence than the Father being glorified, since the Lord Jesus Christ taught His disciples that sinners being saved (branches bearing fruit according to John 15.8) brings glory to God. Thus, it should be thought significant to you and me that God intends to be glorified by sinners’ responses to the gospel message, to the death on the cross of Jesus Christ on their behalf. God intends for sinners to be saved, Jesus Christ died for sinners to be saved, and Christians are engaged in outreach efforts that result in sinners being saved.

Your response to this? How do you embrace this truth? We have been given the type so that we might better understand the antitype. The Spirit of God inspired this portion of God’s Word recording these ancient events that took place in God’s providence, in part so that we might better appreciate what God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ did when the outworking of the gospel was accomplished. Read Genesis 22.1-14 to appreciate and develop a heart for what Abraham and Isaac went through so you will better grasp what God the Father and Jesus Christ His Son did and went through when the Savior died on the cross 2,000 years ago. Then trust Christ.

 

Abraham and Isaac’s experience on Mount Moriah is a type that humanizes what God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ went through in providing for the salvation that is offered to sinners who trust Christ. By that, I mean it is a means whereby human beings can better understand the motives and actions of our God. God saw fit to give us bare facts about Abraham and Isaac, knowing full well the impact on our emotions and feelings as we came to grips with what happened to them. Understand that what God accomplished for us was infinitely greater than Abraham’s and Isaac’s experiences and perhaps you will give the gospel the consideration it deserves, will appreciate in some way the importance of it all to God and to you, and you will come to faith in my Lord Jesus Christ.



[1] Gary R. Habermas and Michael R. Licona, The Case For The Resurrection Of Jesus, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2004) and N. T. Wright, The Resurrection Of The Son Of God, (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003)

[2] Josh McDowell, The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999), pages 168-1983.

[3] See my sermon at http://www.calvaryroadbaptist.org/sermon.php?sermonDate=20141130a

[4] Genesis 15.6

[5] Nahum M. Sarna, Genesis - The JPS Torah Commentary, (Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society, 1989), page 150.

[6] Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Record, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1976), page 374.

[7] James 1.13

[8] Numbers 35.30; Deuteronomy 17.6-7; Joshua 24.22; Ruth 4.9-11; Job 10.17; Isaiah 8.2; 43.9-12; 44.8-9; Jeremiah 32.10, 12, 25, 44; Matthew 18.15-20; Luke 24.46-48; Acts 1.8; 2.32; 3.15; 5.32; 10.39; 13.31; 2 Corinthians 13.1; 1 Thessalonians 2.10; 1 Timothy 5.19; 6.12; Hebrews 10.28; 1 John 4.1; 5.7-9; Revelation 1.1; 2.2

[9] Morris, pages 374-375.

[10] Francis Brown, S. R. Driver & Charles A. Briggs, The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew And English Lexicon, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1979), page 1005.

[11] Exodus 12.5; Leviticus 1.3

[12] BDB, page 1006.

[13] James 2.21-24

[14] BDB, page 785.

[15] Patrick Fairbairn, The Typology Of Scripture: Two Volumes in One Complete and Unabridged, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House), page 46.


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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org