2. Isaac, The Sacrifice (Genesis 22:11-14)




Can You See Him Series
  • The son trudges uphill, bearing wood for his own sacrifice; his father has decided to give him up to death. What biblical event does this bring to mind? Is it Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22, or Christ’s passion in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John? The kinship between these two stories is deeper than mere coincidence. Christ is present in the story of Abraham and Isaac. In fact, He is present on every page of the Old Testament. Can You See Him?
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance - What are the central ideas of this text?
    • God is the author of faith. – Hebrews 12:2
    • God tests our faith. – II Corinthians 13:5; James 1:3; I Peter 1:6-9
    • God rewards our faith. –  Hebrews 12:1-11; I Peter 1:9; 4:12-14
  • Implications - What questions should the listener be asking?
    • What is faith and where does your faith come from?
    • In what ways does God test one’s faith? 
    • What rewards doe God provide for “passing” the tests of faith?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide 
  • Interpretation - What is the text telling/showing us?
    • Isaac was the child through whom God would fulfill His promise (Genesis 22:17). How much trust did Abraham place in God’s promise?
    • How is it that Abraham could obey God immediately and completely even though his beloved son’s death was at stake?
    • How is it that God could require Abraham to sacrifice Isaac if God abhors child sacrifice?
    • Make a list of the ways that you see Jesus in this story of Abraham and Isaac.
    • How would God have fulfilled His promise through Isaac if Abraham had actually killed him?  How did Abraham think God would fulfill His promise in that case? (hint: read Hebrews 11:17-19)
    • How was Isaac apparently obedient?
    • When we see a “picture” of Jesus in the Old Testament, it is not an exact comparison in every detail, as opposed to being a “big picture” sort of thing.  Summarize how Abraham and Isaac are a picture of Jesus in the “big picture” way.
  • Implementation - What should the listeners response be?
    • How would you respond if God asked you to offer to Him something that wasprecious to you?  
    • What is precious to you and is something you would positively not want to give up?     
    • What is the obedience that God wants from you?
    • God is the provider God.  He provided the sacrificial lamb for Abraham and Isaac. How has God provided for you and what does that do for your faith?
    • How is your faith proved?  (hint: read James 2:14-26)
    • God tested Abraham’s faith (and perhaps that of Isaac as well).  How has God tested your faith?  Did you pass the test?  Will you pass the next test?  And the next test?  And the next …? (you get the point)
    • How might we as a church, and you as an individual, use the story of Abraham and Isaac to proclaim the love of Christ and how He provides for our salvation?
Sermon Teaching Notes (as compiled by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation - What's generally going on in this area of scripture?
The Bible is one book in terms of its focus, consistency and claims in that the writings that make up the Bible all deal with God and salvation, are internally consistent, and are God’s word. And this one book is all about one person, namely Jesus, the Messiah, who is present throughout the whole of the Bible, not just the New Testament. Thus, Jesus is present throughout the Old Testament. Using various Old Testament texts and characters, this series asks the following question about the Messiah in the Old Testament: Can you see Him?

The preceding study looked at Noah, and we saw that he followed God and was a righteous man who lived in the midst of a world that was full of evil (Genesis 6:5, 12). God determined to effect His judgment on sinful man through the flood (Genesis 6:13, 17), yet save Noah and his family, not because Noah was perfect but out of His grace. So, there was death as a consequence, but salvation out of God’s righteousness as a picture of the Messiah to come, the Righteous One who gave His life as payment in full for sin. One of Noah’s sons was Shem (Genesis 5:32; 9:18), and his descendants led ultimately to Abram who was born and raised in Ur of the Chaldeans which was a sophisticated, pagan metropolitan center in Mesopotamia, southeast of present day Baghdad. (Genesis 11:31; 15:7; Nehemiah 9:7; Acts 7:2-4)

But God called him to leave the country of his origin to a land God would show him. So Abram took his wife, Sarai, and all his belongings and traveled to Haran (Genesis 11:31) where he settled before God subsequently led him to Canaan (Genesis 12:1-5). God promised to make a “great nation” out of Abram, and in Abram, “all the families of the earth” would be blessed. Abram obeyed God even though he did not know the land to which he was being sent, even though Sarai was barren, and even though he did not understand God’s plan. Years passed by before Abram saw God fulfill His covenant, even though God had affirmed the covenant in the interim (Genesis 12:7; 13:15-18; 15:1-6; 17:1-8, 19), and even though Abram sought to work things out on his own by having a child through his wife’s handmaiden (a practice in accord with the codes of the day). Indeed, God fulfilled his promise by giving Abram and Sarai a baby in their old age, namely Isaac, and in the process changed their names to Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 17:5, 15-21; 18:9-15; 21:1-7). One can imagine the supreme joy Abraham and Sarah felt upon the birth of Isaac.

Abraham believed God (Genesis 15:6) and believed God’s promises; and his belief was by faith, that being the “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1). God intended to “test” Abraham’s faith and obedience, however, and that testing involved Isaac (Genesis 22:1; Hebrews 11:17). This test was a test of Abraham’s faith in God’s promise and His provision. The test involved God telling Abraham to take his only son, Isaac, to a land away from their home and offer him as a sacrifice. Although child sacrifice was practiced in Canaan, it was a practice that God abhors (Deuteronomy 12:31; Leviticus 20:2-5). Clearly, therefore, God knew that He would not allow the offering of Isaac to be carried out. However, Abraham did not know that, and hence the test of his faith would take Abraham to the limit: would he be willing to offer his only son as a sacrifice to God in obedience to God’s direction? Genesis 22:2 tells us that Abraham obeyed God immediately by setting off early the next morning to the land to which God had directed him, with Isaac, two young men, and a donkey loaded with wood for the offering. The journey covered about 50 miles, and on the third day of travel, Abraham saw the location where he was to make the offering and stopped. So, the group had traveled for nearly three days. There is no indication as to the content of any conversation Abraham had with his son, Isaac, about what was to happen.

One would suppose that Isaac, who was likely age 15 or so (Jewish tradition puts him at age 23), understood at least that there was to be an offering of some kind, and that there would be an animal to offer when they arrived at their destination. We do know that when they arrived, Abraham told the young men to stay with the donkey while he and his son went to worship, and that they would return to them (Genesis 22:5). What faith at that point! Abraham believed that both he and Isaac would return, notwithstanding God’s command that he offer his son as the sacrifice. As the two of them set off, Isaac carried the wood, and Abraham carried the fire to be used to light the wood and a knife with which to kill the offering before placing it on the altar. That Isaac did not know he was to be the offering is apparent as he asked his father where was the lamb that would be offered (Genesis 22:6 & 7), to which Abraham replied, “God will provide for Himself the lamb.” (Genesis 22:8). But when they arrived to where the altar was to be built, and Abraham built it, there was still no lamb. Abraham arranged the wood and then tied up Isaac and placed him on the altar. Imagine Isaac’s thought at that moment. Did he share his father’s confidence in God’s provision? Was he a willing sacrifice? The Biblical text does not say; nor does the text indicate that Isaac put up any resistance which, due to his young age compared to his father’s age, one would think he could have done.

So there is the scene: the altar is built; the firewood arranged; Isaac tied up and lying on the wood on the altar. Abraham then takes his knife and prepares to kill his son (Genesis 22:10). Did Isaac cry out? Did Abraham cry out? We do not know. But what we do know is that Abraham was faithfully obedient to what God had commanded him to do. And it was then that God stopped Abraham at that very point; Abraham had passed the test of putting God first before anything, including his beloved son, Isaac. Then at that very moment, Abraham looked up and saw the ram which he took and then offered in the place of Isaac (Genesis 22:13), and he named the place “The Lord will provide.” (Genesis 22:14). God then confirmed His covenant concerning the countless descendants of Abraham that were to come through Isaac, the child of promise (Genesis 22:16-18).

So, can you see Him? Can you see Jesus in this story of Abraham and Isaac? There are a number of pictures of Jesus. There is the picture of a father offering his son as a sacrifice for sin, which is just what God the Father did with His Son (John 3:16; I Corinthians 15:3). There is the picture of Jesus as the Lamb provided as the offering for sin (John 1:29; Acts 8:32; I Peter 1:19). There is the picture of the obedient son who submits to the will of the father (Matthew 26:39; Hebrews 11:17-19). There is the picture of the son figuratively raised from death (I Corinthians 15:4; Hebrews 11:17-19). Isaac is the son of promise; Jesus is the Son of promise of a Savior. There is the picture of the death of the Son as a substitutionary atonement for sin; Jesus died in our place (John 8:51, 56; Acts 3:14-16; Romans 5:6-11; Hebrews 9:11-22).

As in the story of Noah, we see in Abraham and Isaac that our salvation from sin does not come from ourselves; there is nothing a human being can do to save himself or herself, as we are all dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1-3). Salvation comes from God Himself when He showed “the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7) and “delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sin.” (Colossians 1:13 & 14) In Christ, God's judgment has been satisfied as His was the perfect sacrifice, given “once for all” who call upon Him in faith for salvation (Hebrews 10:10-14). Praise be to God for the sacrifice He provided for our sin, and that there is no more offering necessary because the atonement has been made. Can you see Him? Yes indeed, He is there!