Genesis 22 tells us a famous and fascinating story. It is not only talked about and proclaimed in Christian churches around the world, but it has long been a main topic of discussion for the Jewish people. The story of God’s call for Abraham to sacrifice his own son is referred to as “Aqedah,” which is the Hebrew word for “binding.” It turns out Isaac is the only living sacrifice in the Old Testament. We know there are a lot of sacrifices in the Old Testament, God had commanded his people to offer sacrifices, and prescribed exactly how it was to be done. All those sacrifices were first killed and drained of blood before they were placed on the altar. Here Isaac is laid on the altar with his hands bound for he will be offered as a living sacrifice. The whole story is profound and challenging to hear and understand.
It begins with God testing Abraham. The testing is not just about the sacrifice of his own son, that would be bad enough. No, it is also through this son of his that the messianic line was promised to come. The Covenant God had made with Abraham was focused on his son Isaac. To give him as a sacrifice would be to cut off the promises God had made. The words God says to Abraham must have torn at his heart. They are gut wrenching and terrifying to listen to. He says to him, “Take your son, your sonly son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (Genesis 22:2). And Abraham prepares to do just that. He gets up early in the morning, saddles his donkey, and wakes his son and two of his servants to have them get ready. He then chops the wood for the burnt offering and heads off to the place God told him to go.
When they arrive, he has his servants stay by the donkey and places the wood on the boy. Abraham himself carries the fire and the knife and they begin to head up the mountain. Now, Isaac must realize all this is a bit strange, but perhaps the most bizarre thing is they do not have a sacrifice with them, as far as he knows. When he asks his dad about it, he speaks words of incredible faith. Though he knows what God has called him to do, though he knows that the Messianic covenant hangs in the balance, he manages to hold firm to the promises of God. He says, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (Genesis 22:8). He goes all the way with it as well. He goes to the place and builds the altar with the wood his son carried. He binds him up and lays him on top of it. No doubt there was fear and trembling in the eyes of his son. No doubt Abraham’s mind raced and heart screamed as he took hold of the knife to kill the one he loved.
And just as he is ready to do the unthinkable, the angel of the Lord cries out, “Abraham, Abraham, do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me” (Genesis 22:12). As Abraham lifts his eyes, what does he see? Why, he sees a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. So, he unties Isaac and slaughters the ram in his place. God was faithful to His promises and Abraham was faithful in believing and confessing the Lord would indeed provide. Abraham even names that place, “The Lord will provide,” and it is a perfect reminder for us today. For perhaps the greatest challenge to our faith, the greatest testing we regularly go through day-in and day-out is to believe and have confidence the Lord will indeed provide for us. Now sure, it may not be as extreme as the binding up of our own children to offer as a sacrifice, but it can be brutally difficult none the less.
Will the Father in Heaven provide for His children? Will He provide for our body and soul? We pray for things like our daily bread, for family and friends, will God provide such things? Will He see us through the turmoil of our daily grinds? Will He provide comfort when we are scared and direction when we are confused, companionship when we are alone, food when we are hungry? There are times, of course, the answer to these types of questions is a resounding and clear, “Yes.” Yes, He provides. But there are also many times when we are not so sure. There are times when we are plagued by depression and caught up in our own thoughts and minds, when we cannot seem to find our way forward and all looks bleak. There are times when we wonder about God’s love, when we are not so sure He loves His children or perhaps, even worse, we wonder if we are even one of them.
Because far greater than the physical and even mental provision we need fulfilled by our God are the matters of our salvation. Will He provide for our salvation, for all of it? Most people will immediately say, “Yes,” but then they start to add things to it, to make little caveats along the way. Yes, He will provide, He has provided, but there are a few things you need to do. In this way His provision is not complete. Perhaps you need to pray a certain prayer or give up certain things if you want to be sure of your salvation. If you have not loved enough or studied enough or given enough then you cannot really know about your salvation. Or perhaps for you it is the other way. You know God has provided for your salvation, but you are not sure you are worthy of receiving it. You know only too well your own thoughts and desires. You know the sins which lurks within your own heart, So, you think His provision must be for others, but not you. His gifts are for those more deserving, not for you.
Like Abraham waking his son early in the morning your head is full of doubt about the promises of God. Will He keep His word? Will He remain faithful? Will He provide all you cannot do? You cannot make sense of it on your own. You cannot control the uncontrollable. You cannot tame the wild and terrifying twists and turns of life. Here your faith is everything, for your faith is rooted in things outside of yourself. It is your anchor in the storm for your faith is built not upon what you can do or what you can accomplish but built on the promises of God. Like Abraham, it is to the promises you must cling to if you are to endure the trials. Your God has made you promises, promises about His care and provision, promises about hope and life and salvation. And the heart of those promises is your Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, Saint Paul famously said, “All the promises of God find their “Yes” in Him. That is why it is through Him that we utter our Amen to God for His glory” (2 Corinthians 1:20).
The promise of your salvation has a “Yes” in Jesus. The promise of your endurance to eternal life has a “Yes” in Jesus. The promises of inclusion into all the blessings of God have a “Yes” in Jesus. For you see, as God tested Abraham in the binding of his son, as God spared his beloved son, He knew He would not spare His own son. No, He would be true to His covenant, faithful to His promise. There would be one who would come to save us from our sin and reconcile us to our Father, to declare to you promises beyond what you can see here and now.
The Lord brings Abraham and Isaac to Mount Moriah, which is later established as the Temple Mount and called Mount Zion. While the donkey was certainly capable of carrying the wood up this mountain, Abraham places the wood on his son. Isaac carries the wood of his own sacrifice, and there he was bound and ready to die. But God provided another. Another who would go out from that same temple mount, who would carry the wood of His own cross to the place established for Him to be bound and lifted-up. There the Lord provides. The living sacrifice is made by God Himself so you might know that you are forgiven. You are welcomed into His glory. You are invited into the eternal feast. All glory be to God.