As we mature as Christians and go back to read Bible stories told to us as children, we glean a whole different meaning or interpretation that we did as baby Christians. I’m sitting on day reading my Bible and was actually taking turns reading passages to a friend when we came upon the story of Abraham and Isaac. What it read blew my mind and has stayed with me. I actually shared it with my mom over Thanksgiving week when we went to visit her, my Stepdad, Sister and Brother-in-law. Hopefully, I can do this justice in explaining to you what I gleaned after reading it.
After Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate from the Tree of Life, a veil was put between us and God. This meant that we no longer had direct access to him. Over time, God continued to do what he could to bring us back to him. People continued to do what they wanted, as were disobedient. Fast forward to Abraham and Sarah, God promised them they would have a son. Rather than waiting on God’s timing, they stepped out on their own to do what they thought God wanted. This was when Ishmael was born to Sarah’s handmaiden Hagar. He was not the son that God intended to bring about the promised things that God told Abraham about in their talks. Abraham eventually will have to sacrifice Ishmael too when Sarah demands that he and Hagar be sent away. Sarah wanted nothing to do with Abraham’s other son, Ishmael. So, she commanded Abraham, “Drive out that slave and her son! No son of that slave is going to share the inheritance with my son Isaac” (Genesis 21:10)! It’s ironic that Sarah asks for this, considering it was her idea for Abraham to sleep with “that slave girl” (see Genesis 16:2). God reassured Abraham, “Do not be distressed about the boy or about your slave woman. Obey Sarah, no matter what she asks of you; for it is through Isaac that descendants will bear your name. As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, since he too is your offspring” (Genesis 21:12-13). At this point Abraham has learned to trust God. He knows God’s word is true, and so he knows Ishmael will live, and Isaac will be the father of his descendants. So, he does as he was told, and sends Hagar and Ishmael away. Fast forward to Genesis 22:2, the Bible reads, “then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” I bolded “your only son” for a reason. Why? This is when it hit me. Let’s recall the verse John 3:16-For God so loved the world that he gave “his only son”, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life”. Gave implies the sacrifice of Jesus dying for our sins. Abraham trusted God and I really think he knew that God was NOT going to make him actually go through with actually killing his son. God was testing him to see if he would be obedient. Abraham listened and took Isaac and 2 others to do what God had instructed him to do. Here’s why I believe this; in verse 5 it says: “He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” Huh? So, was Abraham stepping out in faith to say that he knew God would not make him do such a thing? Then Isaac starts asking questions and this was when it hit me hard what was actually being portrayed in this story. Verse 6-8: “Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.” Read that again, GOD HIMSELF WILL PROVIDE THE LAMB FOR THE BURNT OFFERING. What? Mind blown right? Burnt offerings are mentioned throughout the Bible, even prior to this incident with Abraham and Isaac. When the veil was put up by Adam and Eve’s sin, we had to make offerings to atone for our sins. The killing of an animal as a sacrifice for sin reminded an individual that the consequences of sin are “deadly.” On the other hand, the innocent animal who died in the place of the person who sinned also served as a symbol of what would occur when the sinless Savior would come to earth and have His blood shed for us, saving us from sin. Leviticus 1 gives instructions for a burnt offering. The priests made this offering twice a day. Individuals could also make a burnt offering to show their devotion and commitment to God. Many of the instructions concerning the burnt offering are the same as for other offerings explained in Leviticus. The biggest difference between the burnt offering and other offerings is that to make a burnt offering the entire animal was burned on the altar, symbolizing total commitment or surrender to God. The story continues in Verse 9: “When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied.12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram[a] caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. I’m going to wrap this up with one more insight that hopefully you won’t think is farfetched. We are all considered sheep. Jesus is the Shepard. A ram is a male sheep that actually guards the flock against predators. The Ram became the major symbol of sacrifice in the Bible for atonement of sins.
I hope you enjoyed this breakdown of a classic story. God has always wanted us to rely on him, be obedient to him and from the beginning he knew he was going to send his only son as a sacrifice for our sins. Thank you, Lord, for sending your only son to die for us.
Photo by Trace Hudson: https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-photo-of-ram-2538412/