The Ultimate Sacrifice

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. 10Then 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 caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”

Genesis 22:9-14

Sacrifice of Isaac, by Caravaggio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Sacrifice of Isaac, by Caravaggio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The death of a loved one can be a truly painful experience.  If that loved one is a child, it can be devastating.  Children are not supposed to die.  Children are supposed to outlive their parents.  I can’t imagine what it must be like to lose a child.  I’m sure that many parents who find themselves in this dreadful position must feel wracked with guilt.  Surely I could have done something? they’ll think.  What if?

In this passage from Genesis, we find Abraham facing the possibility of losing Isaac, his own son.  What makes matters worse, however, is that he is facing the prospect of killing his dearly beloved son himself, because God has asked him to give Isaac as a sacrifice.  Abraham has complete confidence that God will resurrect his son; after all, God had previously promised him that his son would be his heir (Genesis 15:4) and that he would be a great nation (Genesis 12:2).  Facing the ghastly prospect of killing his son, Abraham knows that God will ultimately save Isaac.

God does indeed spare Isaac.  As Abraham was about to kill his son, an angel intervened and ordered him to stop.  God had seen the level of Abraham’s faith.  God instead provided a ram for Abraham to sacrifice.

For me, this clearly foreshadows the events on Calvary many years later.  Just as God provided Abraham with a substitute to sacrifice – a ram instead of his own son, he also provided his own son, Jesus, to die on the cross as a substitute for humanity.  Similarly, just as Abraham was willing to offer up his own son, God too was willing to do the same, and offered Jesus as a sacrifice for all humankind.

Since Jesus death on the cross was the “once for all” sacrifice for all humanity (Hebrews 10:10), we won’t be called on to sacrifice our children for God.  We are nevertheless called to make sacrifices.  We’re called to give up our entire lives for God, to trust in him, and to have complete faith that he will look after his people.

Reflect today on whether you have the faith of Abraham.  Are you willing to give up everything to follow Jesus, or are you a half-hearted follower of Christ?

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