A Word for Today | Hebrews 11:17-19
Genesis 22 reveals how God tested Abraham with the greatest trial imaginable: “God 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’” (Gen. 22:2). This was a trial of Abraham’s devotion to the Lord, asking him to sacrifice what Abraham held most dear, his son Isaac. It was further a trial of Abraham’s spiritual understanding. We see this in Hebrews 11:17-18: “He who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’” The Lord was asking Abraham to offer something that the Lord himself had guaranteed by a covenant promise, his precious son, Isaac. Therefore, what God really was testing was Abraham’s knowledge of God and trust in him. Consider the horror involved in this command. Abraham was to strike his own son dead – “his one and only son.” Genesis 22:3 reminds us also of Abraham’s deep love for this son: “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love.” The mere thought of taking this son’s life must have been terrible for Abraham, so his faith required trust in God.
Abraham passed the test: “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice” (Heb. 11:17). The Genesis account tells more, including Abraham and Isaac traveling to Mt. Moriah, carrying the wood and fire up the hill, Abraham laying his son on the altar and plunging the knife down toward his chest. In this way, Abraham showed that faith kneels before God in humble submission. Like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Abraham prayed in effect, “Your will, not mine, be done.” But as we consider Abraham’s thinking, we also note that faith gains understanding through God’s Word. Abraham was able to obey because he reasoned through the relationship between God’s promise and God’s command. God commanded him to sacrifice what God had promised to him: therefore, Abraham’s faith knew that obedience would not cost him what God had promised. Hebrews 11:19 explains: “He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead” (Heb. 11:19). Genesis 22:5 tells us that when Abraham arrived at the place of sacrifice he said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” Notice what he said: “We will come back.” Abraham’s faith realized that God would raise his son.
The great question about this episode is how God could command Abraham to offer his son. The answer is that the Lord was providing a picture of what He would do to redeem us from sin. The parallels are strong: both Isaac and Jesus were only-begotten sons; both carried the wood for their execution on their backs; both were to die by the will of their father. The difference is that God did not permit Abraham to go ahead with the slaying of his son. The angel said: “Now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me” (Gen. 22:12). But God did permit His only Son to die when He was offered for us. Here is the final lesson of faith from Abraham’s life: faith obeys because it trusts God’s grace. Looking to the cross where God offered the death of Jesus for us, we say to Him in adoration: “Now we know that you love us, seeing you have not withheld your Son, your only Son whom you love, from us.”
In Christ’s Love,