The Sacrifice of Isaac
The story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son (Genesis 22), is one that many people have questions about. The story may cause discussions about God’s intentions and His goodness. While exploring the answers, it’s important to look at the bigger picture. The Bible is not only a series of accounts and literature, but also a tapestry that makes up a larger story. Every moment points towards Jesus and God’s redemption plan to restore the relationship between Himself and humanity. Let’s take a look at how we can see the bigger story, and our own individual story inside this interaction between father and son, Abraham and Isaac.
Isaac as Jesus
Isaac is a beloved son. He has been long awaited for and is valued greatly by his father, Abraham. The two have a close relationship and Isaac seems to follow Abraham wherever Abraham asks. This has parallels between God the father, and Jesus the son. The horrifying and difficult nature of this passage isn’t to be lost. This is all about the sacrifice of a beloved and innocent son. It is supposed to seem scandalous – because this is exactly the reality of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. God himself, is willing to sacrifice his one and only son who has done nothing wrong. Exploring this scene between Abraham and Isaac helps us to understand this on a greater level. It helps to make the language of Paul, concerning the death of Jesus even more tangible : ‘He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?’ (Romans 8:32 NIV)
Isaac as humanity
The interaction between Isaac and Abraham, from verse 7, is also a beautiful picture of our interactions with God. Isaac calls: “My Father” and Abraham shows that he is immediately listening to his son. Isaac is able to enquire of Abraham, to make known that he doesn’t understand quite what is happening. And as Abraham responds, Isaac is willing to trust him. In verse 8 it says: ‘So they went both of them together.’ (NIV). This description is a reminder that the father and son were both in the situation, conversing, and trusting in the plan. God, as our father, is with us wherever we go. He is ready to listen and counsel us. And He prepares a way out… Looking at the story from another angle, we see that God provides a ram to sacrifice instead of Isaac. There is a miraculous swap, as God provides an alternative to the death of Isaac. We too have seen God provide a way out. He provided an alternative to our own death, in the sacrifice of the ‘Lamb of God’, His son Jesus.
Abraham as a Godly nation
Abraham’s role here is that of a father to Isaac – as well as that of a son, in his response to God. But there is a greater identity and role forming through the prophecies that God wants to fulfil. In Abraham’s willingness to follow God, and sacrifice that which means the most to him, God blesses him abundantly. God promises to give him generations of offspring, that outnumber even grains of sand. Through this growing family, the nations of the world will be blessed. Sounds familiar? The way that Abraham was prepared to make an unthinkable sacrifice, points to the way God too would follow through with the same sacrifice himself, in order to create a new family. To create generations of those who believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus, those who had seen God’s provision, and would bring hope to all nations. This promise to Abraham in Genesis 22 is a mere foreshadowing of the ever-growing church and the way in which they will be blessed to be a blessing.