It is obvious that there is one theme that runs throughout Abraham’s life. Faith. He is not always found faithful, but God is constantly challenging him and his faith can be seen growing with each victory that exists among the failures. Here though, God presents him with his greatest challenge.
First, note that Abraham might have had feet of clay when it came to faith opportunities earlier in life, but after being delivered and blessed by God many times, his faith has grown and is ready to be proven by fire. He tried to solve his problem of being heirless on his own when he and wife agreed that he would bear a son with Hagar, but after God rebuked him and then delivered Isaac to him through Sarah in their old age, it would appear that Abraham is on a totally different level of faith.
You would think that after waiting so long nothing could be more important to him than his son. However, something was more important – his faith. He believed that Isaac was truly a gift from God. He believed that God had some greater purpose for him than simply being an heir to provision. He would be an heir to a promise.
It would seem that Abraham’s decision to sacrifice Isaac was on such a level of faith that it is seemingly too far out of reach for us to grasp any hope of our faith ever being that deep. However we can’t miss the point Abraham’s faith as displayed here: he knew very little about what was about to happen. In fact, he may have even questioned whether or not he would be able to go through with it. Who knows how long he held that knife, tears streaming down his face, trembling at the weight of the challenge that was set before him.
Abraham didn’t know how he was going to perform, and that is the point. He knew only that he could trust in God, if not himself.
And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. – Genesis 22:7-8
God will provide. What if we don’t have the strength? God will provide. What if we get lost and don’t know what to do? God will provide. What if we can’t provide? God will provide.
I can’t imagine the number of questions that must have raced through Abraham’s mind as he marched his only son up that mountain. What I can imagine, is that only God knew what it would be like. In fact, this moment in the Bible was to set the stage for the day when God would march his own son up Calvary’s hill, not as one to be saved, but as one who would be the sacrificial lamb for all mankind.
Interestingly Abraham places the wood on Isaac’s back. The element of wood symbolizes humanity or man. Isaac bore this symbolic material up the hill to the place of sacrifice. Isaiah 53 paints a similar picture of the Messiah…
“Surely he took up our pain, and bore our suffering…he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” – Isaiah 53:4,12
Christ bore our sin upon his back. Isaac is the picture of Christ marching up the hill, and then the picture of man upon the altar, when a substitute is found, or better yet provided so that neither Isaac, nor anyone else who believes in his name should ever perish, but rather have everlasting life. Thank you father, for providing for my freedom with the blood of your son.