That is what happened in Genesis 22. God approached Abraham and asked him to give him the child of the promise – the promise that went unfulfilled for 25 years, before God finally made it happen. God dared to ask, “give me back your miracle baby. Sacrifice to me the child who I promised would become a mighty nation that would eventually include the One who was going to redeem the world.” In Genesis 22, God comes to Abraham and says, “I want you to give him back to me.”
Just let the gravity of that settle in for a minute.
Just think about this. Abraham gets a promise from God when he is 75 and Sarah, his wife, is already past childbearing age. “You’re going to have a child. You’re going to be the father of a great nation.” And they laugh! After about 10 years, he and Sarah get impatient and try to manufacture the promise with another woman. And God says, “Good try, but I said that the child of the promise would come from Sarah, remember?” And they laugh again! Because now, not only is she past normal childbearing age, but her womb is closed! She is physically unable to give birth. And then, 15 years later, Isaac is born. Now, God comes to Abraham and says, “I want you to sacrifice him to me.” You have got to be kidding me!!
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.” (Genesis 22:2)
At this point, there was NOTHING more precious on this earth to Abraham than Isaac. He had waited a long time for this boy. Cristi and I think we waited a long time, but Abraham waited much longer. But God was more precious to Abraham at this point than anything on this earth. And 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.” (Genesis 22:3) It took them 3 days to get to the place God told him to go. (Genesis 22:4) Speaking as a dad, I can tell you that Abraham was holding back tears when Isaac was around, and was completely unable to hold them back in every private moment he could steal. And Abraham was asking a lot of silent questions to God. And they all started with, “Why?”
But check out the faith of Abraham exhibited in verse 5:
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.” (Genesis 22:5)
Abraham makes a point of telling the men who were traveling with them that they would both come back from worshipping. Hebrews 11 tells us that Abraham was convinced that, if he did sacrifice Isaac, that God would raise him from the dead.
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and 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.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. (Hebrews 11:17-19)
This is before God has actually done that particular miracle, demonstrating that Abraham is finally becoming worthy of the reputation God is giving him as a man of faith. As this passage in Hebrews says, Isaac did figuratively come back from the dead. Because in Abraham’s mind, Isaac was dead when he put him on the altar.
Can you imagine the moment when Isaac, who had no doubt seen an animal sacrifice before, asked this question?
And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here am I, 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 22:7-8)
God stayed Abraham’s hand only after it was absolutely clear that he had already given Isaac to Him in his heart.
When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” (Genesis 22:9-14)
A lot of people will look at a passage like this and say things that aren’t very well thought-through like, “I would never worship a God that would ask one of his people to kill his son.” But you must grasp this. Make no mistake, God does want everything. God especially wants that which is most precious to you. The first of the 10 commandments is, “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3) Whatever is ultimate in our life takes the place of God. And what is ultimate for us is self. All God was asking for was His rightful place in Abraham’s life. He needed Abraham to demonstrate to Him (and to himself) that the long-awaited promised child was not going to become ultimate and higher in priority than the God of the promise.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
You will never find a lot of company on this road, by the way. That’s exactly the point that Jesus makes in this verse. Could you be on this narrow road, even if it meant that most of your friends and family decided not to take that path? Or would you just answer, as I have heard some say, “No, I’d rather be in hell for eternity with friends and family than in heaven with Jesus.” That is the question you must ask yourself, because it is the question that Jesus is asking of you. If Jesus was all you had, would He be enough?
And this is the very question that God asked of Abraham in Genesis 22: Are you willing to give me that which is most precious to you, so that you can receive me? God wanted Abraham to answer the question, “Is God enough?” At some point each of us will need to answer this question. To choose not to answer it is to answer “no.”
Don’t miss that God provided a sacrifice in place of Isaac. In the New Testament, the Lamb of God (Jesus) is put on a cross and sacrificed in your place and my place.
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)