“After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Take your son, your only 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.’ So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. Then Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.’ And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. 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 22:1-8 ESV)
This story is always a difficult one to talk about. A lot of people see Abraham as foolish—a man blinded by his faith, a child abuser, or worse. Others focus on Isaac. They imagine him as a terrified child, betrayed by the father who should have loved him. In either case, they condemn the God who allowed such a thing to happen—who commanded it, even though the whole thing stopped before the actual death.
But if we look closely, that’s not the picture that the Bible itself gives. It shows us a father and son who loved each other deeply—a father who could not bring himself to explain what was going to happen any earlier than he had to, even though it must have been obvious to everybody he was deeply upset. It shows us a son, a young man who cared enough for his father to carry the heavy load of wood that his aged father could not—and who apparently laid himself down on that altar and allowed himself to be bound instead of fighting back. After all, Abraham was well over 100 years old at that point—Isaac could have fought him off if he had chosen to try.
And the Bible shows us a God who let Abraham and Isaac off the final sacrifice—who let them both live, knowing that He Himself would not escape. As Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” God did provide that sacrifice—many years later in the same place, when God the Son hung on a cross as God the Father grieved.
Jesus is the Lamb that God provided as a substitute for Isaac, and for every human being ever born. He willingly chose to die—and rise again from the dead!—so that we would be set free from the power of death and evil. God the Father and Son worked together to do what Abraham and Isaac could not—to rescue us all, and bring us to everlasting life.
THE PRAYER: Lord, thank You for what You did for me. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
1. Do you have a hard time with this story? Why or why not?
2. Do you think Sarah, Isaac’s mother, had any idea what was going on?
3. Does it help you to think of the crucifixion as something Jesus freely chose?