As Good Friday and Easter Sunday are approaching, let’s focus our thoughts on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which were foreshadowed in the offering of Isaac in Genesis 22: 1-19. That story was set in a form of a test. After a time of silence God suddenly resumed His communication with Abraham and directed him to offer up his son as a burnt offering. Abraham did not know, however, that God was testing him.
There is something similar between the call of Abraham in Genesis 12: 1-3 and Genesis 22: 1-19. In the former Abraham was told to leave his country, relatives, and father’s house to a land that God will show him. In the latter he was told to take his son, his only son, whom he loved to a land where God will show him.
God’s command regarding Isaac was very deliberate and direct: “Take your son, your only son whom you love, Isaac.”(Gen.22: 2). Abraham’s response was prompt and unquestioning. Perhaps, he had learned over the years to obey God completely. From that point onwards (vs. 3 to 10), the pace of the narrative was painfully slow, bogged down by details. It seems that the author is hinting to us to take note of Abraham’s state of mind at that point. The reason he occupied himself in menial tasks was to take his mind off the dreadful act of sacrificing his own son to God. He did not even let his servants help with chopping wood or saddling the donkey. His actions speak of his resoluteness to obey God no matter what the cost.
This narrative has a high point when Abraham answered Isaac’s enquiry about the sacrificial lamb: “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” (Gen. 22: 8). In the deep anguish of his soul, Abraham was able to be steadfast in his faith. No wonder Abraham passed the test with flying colors. His faith was rewarded with God’s provision of a ram as a substitute for Isaac (Gen. 22: 13) and His unconditional promise of blessings, descendants and land (Gen. 22: 16-18).
What can we learn from this wonderful episode? First, we learn about the character of our God. He is sovereign, and a covenant-keeping God. In Genesis 12, God promised that through Abraham’s seed the blessings of salvation will come to Israel and all nations. This was fulfilled 2,000 years ago through Jesus Christ who died for our sins and rose again the third day. Since then, the Church has been commemorating Good Friday and Easter with thanksgiving and praise to the Lamb that was slain. Second, God intimated that He is our Provider. Our Lord Jesus was sent to be our Substitute for sins just as the ram was miraculous provided to take Isaac’s place (Jn. 1: 29; Gen. 22: 13).
Finally, we learn from Abraham’s life that our God requires a faith that is undivided and loyal. He’s a jealous God and He deserves the best from us – all our heart, soul, mind and strength. As we take the time to contemplate the coming “Passion Week,” let us renew our commitment once again to live our lives worthy of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Rev. Mark Tay