Each week the kids, Grandma, and I attend Community Bible Study (CBS). It’s a great Bible Study and they have them all over if you happen to be currently in the market for in-depth Bible Study (even in prison, if you happen to be reading my blog in prison — do you get to read blogs in prison?). We’re studying Genesis this year and it’s been eye-opening for me, mainly because I thought I knew all those stories — Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Abraham and Sarah, all that ick with Lot and his daughters. But there’s something about taking a great deal of time in one book of the Bible that will show you just how much you do not know about the Bible. Trust me on this.
Anyway, last week we studied Genesis 22:1-19 and I want to share our memory verse with you. But before I do that . . . a little background is in order. This is the passage of scripture that recounts God’s testing of Abraham. God tells Abraham to go to a mountain in the region of Moriah and “take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love” and sacrifice him as a burnt offering to God.
Did you catch that? God told Abraham to kill his own son.
I’ll be honest — this particular Bible story has always troubled me — when I was a child it troubled me because I put myself in Isaac’s place; and now as a mother, I put myself in Abraham’s place. But as I’ve grown spiritually over the last few years by spending more time in scripture, this passage has troubled me because it seems so inconsistent with God’s character. God is asking one of his beloved children to sacrifice another one his beloved children? Ummm, no way. Later, in Leviticus, God will specifically direct the Israelites not to sacrifice their children to Molech, a top-ranking god of the Ammonites who demanded child sacrifice. So why would God ask Abraham to even contemplate such a thing?
If you are familiar with this story, you know that Abraham gets up early the next morning and travels for three days with Isaac and an assortment of servants to Moriah. Now, imagine Abraham, who was promised this very son for 25 years and was told by no one other than God Himself that Abraham would become the father of many nations through this one child, Isaac, making this three-day journey and wondering what on earth was going to happen. But he kept putting one foot in front of the other, being obedient to what God told him to do, but still believing that God would fulfill His promise somehow even if it meant God would raise Isaac from the dead.
In the reenactment I have running in my head of this scene, Abraham is pondering these things and Isaac, noticing they have not brought an animal with them for the sacrifice, pipes up and asks, “Um, Dad? Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
“Abraham answered, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” (Gen. 22: 8)
That verse, Genesis 22:8, was our memory verse for our lesson last week. And the reason why I wanted to share it with you is because that verse reconciles God’s character to this troubling story — for me, anyway.
As you may know, the rest of the story involves Abraham and Isaac traveling to the top of the mountain, building an altar, Abraham binding Isaac to the altar and raising his knife above his head, ready to slay Isaac. And don’t forget, Isaac is not a little boy here, he’s at least in his late teens — Jewish tradition describes Isaac as a willing sacrifice, apparently because he had so much faith in his father and his father’s God. The Bible records no protest or struggle out of Isaac. He was willing to lay down his life because his father asked him to. But God stopped Abraham just in time, praised him for his obedience, and directed Abraham’s attention to the unblemished male lamb caught in the thickets. Abraham sacrificed this substitute offering and set his own son free.
Are you starting to catch my drift here? Could God have been any more explicit in showing the future Israelite nation, years hence, what to look for?
A father willing to lay down his son’s life?
A son willing to obey his father to the point of laying down his life?
A substitute sacrifice that set the child free from certain death?
It’s a stunning foreshadowing of Christ’s death.
God laid out his redemptive plan in the story of Abraham and Isaac. At certain points in the story, Isaac represents Christ’s willingness to lay down his life in obedience to his father. And later in the story, Isaac represents us being set free from the certain death that results from sin by God’s provision of the unblemished lamb, Christ.
Contrary to my initial befuddlement over this story, God’s character actually becomes so clear in this story. He was going to have to provide a way, once and for all, for his creation to be in fellowship with Him and it would require the sacrifice of His only Son, whom He loved. And He wanted to make sure the Israelites recognized it when they saw it. The Jewish people would pass this story on and on and on throughout the generations — and yet, when Christ became the substitute sacrifice, many did not recognize it and rejected what He did for them.
What I love about this verse ultimately is that it shows that God is full of plans and that He often uses us unknowingly as a piece of someone else’s story. Abraham and Sarah were probably confused about why they were only able to have one child. Well, God only has one Son, and for the Israelites to recognize Christ in Abraham’s story, only one child made sense.
Genesis 22:8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” Abraham spoke those words believing that God was not finished writing Abraham and Isaac’s story, which became the story of the Jewish nation.
He’s not finished with our story either. Doesn’t it just give you goosebumps?