Sermon #4 in the series, “66 in 52: A Yearlong Journey through the Bible”
James Jackson, Glynwood Baptist Church, Prattville, AL
January 22, 2023
Good morning! Please open your Bibles to Genesis 22. We are going to be looking at one of the most well- known stories in the entire Old Testament. This is where God tells Abraham to take his son Isaac and offer him as a burnt offering on the mountain God will show him.
We are going to get into the story in a moment, but before we do, I’d like you to look at the chapter heading for Genesis 22 in your Bible. You may not have one; Not every Bible does. They weren’t part of the original text, so the chapter headings represent what a group of editors determined was the most important them of that section.
So if your Bible has chapter headings, what does yours say this chapter is about? If you look at the six most popular translations—ESV, CSB, NASB, NIV, NKJV, and NLT, they are split exactly in half. Three of them emphasize Abraham being tested, and three of them emphasize Isaac being sacrificed.
This morning, I want to talk about both facets of the story. We will look at the testing of Abraham and the lessons we can learn from that, and then we will look at Isaac’s sacrifice, and how it points to Christ. I’m going to use what might be a new word for some of you: typology. Biblical typology or “a type” is a person or thing in the Old Testament that foreshadows a person or thing in the New Testament.
So keep your Bibles open to Genesis 22, as we look at both the test of Abraham and the type of Christ—how the almost-sacrifice of Isaac pointed to the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus. Let’s pray together, and we will get started.
I will be honest with you. The story of Abraham offering Isaac as a sacrifice is both horrifying and terrifying. It’s horrifying because you have to ask the question, would God ever tell anyone to sacrifice their child to Him? And the answer is no. Nowhere in the Bible does God approve of or demand child sacrifice.
There was a god worshiped by the Ammonites called Molech. He was represented as having the head of an ox and the body of a man. Idols to Molech were hollow bronze statues that had an opening at the base in which you could build a fire. Molech was worshiped by sacrificing children in the fire.
Over and over in the book of Leviticus, worship of Molech is 100% condemned. Leviticus 18:1 says,
21 You shall not give any of your children to offer them[a] to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.
Even with the warnings, the people of Israel still sacrificed to Molech. Hundreds of years after Moses, King Solomon himself built an altar for Molech (1 Kings 11:7), and King Ahaz of Israel and King Menasseh of Judah even sacrificed their own children to Molech.
God, speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, gave this as one of the reasons God allowed Judah to be captured and exiled to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC:
35 They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.
Now, we know all of this from God’s word. It is crystal clear in Scripture that God considers every human life to be sacred.
And because today is the day Southern Baptists have designated as Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, I have to say it again: God calls the sacrifice of children an abomination. A detestable practice.
But it’s a practice that hundreds of thousands of people still engage in today. In 2020, the estimated number of abortions performed in the United States was between 600,000 and 900,000. We are still sacrificing our children today. It may not be to a bronze idol. It may be the altar of convenience—that this isn’t a good time in your life for you to have a baby. Or the altar of your reputation—what would people say? Or maybe you have children but you don’t spend any time with them. You are sacrificing them on the altar of your own career. Or your own leisure pursuits. This isn’t just moms. Dads, we do it too.
We know God’s heart on the matter. But keep in mind that Abraham lived before the Bible was written down. At this point in history, Abraham is still learning about God’s character. He doesn’t know yet that God would never ask this of him. So it is a real test.
Verse 1: “After these things, God tested Abraham. And he said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 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.”
God finds four different ways to emphasize Isaac.
- He’s your son. We are reminded of this twelve times in these fifteen verses.
- He’s your only son. The only son born to you and Sarah.
- He’s Isaac. This is repeated five times in this passage. The name means laughter, or he laughs. I told you to name him Isaac (which means laughter), because when I first told you you were going to have a son when you were a hundred and your bride was ninety, what else could you do but laugh? (Gen. 17:19)
- He’s the one you love. You waited for decades hoping I would bless you with a son, and I finally did. And what’s more, I told you that through the covenant I made with you would be established through Isaac. (Genesis 19:21).
So think about how Abraham must’ve felt… He couldn’t open up the Bible and read how this story ends. He had waited his whole life for this promised Son, and now God’s telling him to take him up on the mountain and offer him as a sacrifice.
So the question is… How is Abraham going to respond?
Genesis 22 doesn’t tell us what Abraham thought during all of this. But the New Testament writer of Hebrews, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, does.
The author of Hebrews wrote,
17 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, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. (Hebrews 11:17-18)
Isn’t it interesting that Hebrews doesn’t say, “By faith Abraham believed that God would stop him before he could kill Isaac”? or, “By faith, Abraham knew that God was just kidding”?
No, by faith Abraham believed that God could do something that up to that point in history, He had never done before. God was able to raise the dead. Faith is the assurance of what is hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Heb 11:1).
So back to Genesis 22. Verse 4 tells us that on the third day (isn’t it amazing how many things in Scripture happen “on the third day?”
On the third day, they get to the place God showed them. They leave the servants behind. Abraham tells them that he and Isaac are going to go up and worship, and that he and Isaac will come back to them. Do you see his faith?
Father and son walk up the mountain together. Verse 6: The Father took the wood for the offering and laid it on the Son.… Isaac carries the wood up the mount, and as they are going Isaac says,
“Hey dad, you’ve got the knife, and the fire, and I’ve got the wood… but where’s the lamb?” Look at Abraham’s response: “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.”
And here is what happened next. Follow along in your copy of God’s Word:
9 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. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 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.”
13 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. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”;[b] as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”[c]
So Abraham passes the test with flying colors. Now before we move on, let me talk about the part that terrifies us the most: would we pass this test? Could we sacrifice what we love the most to the God who loves us best?
Probably not a single one of us could say without hesitation that we would. But I want you go back and notice the first three words of this chapter:
“After these things.” I want you to notice that God didn’t give this test to Abraham until Abraham was well over a hundred years old. “After these things” meant, after a lifetime of faithfully following God.
Charles Spurgeon wrote, the Lord knows how to educate us up to such a point that we can endure, in years to come, what we could not endure today.
If you’ve been reading the Bible through with us this year, have you noticed in our reading so far that God gives the toughest tests to the oldest saints? Abraham was between 100 and 140 at this point (based on Sarah’s age in 23:1). Noah was six hundred when the flood came (Genesis 7:6). We don’t know how old Job was when God tested him, but he was old enough to have seven adult sons and daughters (Job 1:2), and to have Elihu call him old (Job 32:6). These men had demonstrated a lifetime of trust and obedience before they faced these tests.
So don’t be discouraged if you can’t imagine yourself having this kind of faith. You aren’t 140 yet! Philippians 1:6 promises that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ.
So that’s the “test” part. Those translations that make “Abraham tested” the point of the story encourage us to consider what we would do in the same situation.
But what if the main point of the story isn’t to give us an example of faith? What if the point of the story is what the story points to?
Question: How many of you have been to Buc’ees? Right. Six Flags over Tacky. Enough gas pumps to replenish the strategic petroleum reserves.
Second question: how many of you know that Auburn is getting a Buc’Ees? Everyone knows. Why? Because for the last year, we haven’t been able to go south on I-85 without seeing signs that one is coming.
The first clue was one that said “Coming Soon”. Then, Beavers at Work. Tick tock says another. One that just said “2023.”
All of these are signs in the present that point to a future reality. And that’s what a type is. Remember our definition: a type is a person or thing in the Old Testament that foreshadows a person or thing in the New Testament. And this story was one elaborate coming soon sign. It was an event in Abraham’s present that pointed toward a future reality.
Let’s look at the signs:
First, there’s the fact that Isaac carried the wood for his own sacrifice up the mountain. Here’s your sign and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha (John 19:17)
How about where this took place? In verse 2, God tells Abraham to take his son Isaac and go to the land of Moriah and offer Isaac up as a burnt offering. When Isaac asked his father where the lamb was for the sacrifice, Abraham told him that God Himself would provide the lamb. Here is an artist’s rendering of what Mount Moriah looked like in Abraham’s day.
Here’s what Mount Moriah looked like in Jesus’ day. 2nd Chronicles 3:1 tells us that this is the site where Solomon built his temple. 2000 years after Abraham, outside the walls of a city that didn’t exist in Abraham’s day, Jesus Christ would be crucified within sight of that same Temple. On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.
Next, think about the fact that Isaac was a willing sacrifice. We don’t know how old he is at this point. Renaissance paintings always picture him as a boy. We know he was old enough to carry the wood, and he was perceptive enough to ask where the lamb was for the burnt offering. And the Hebrew for boy in verse 5 could also be translated “young man.” So he was at least a teenager.
Some people say that he couldn’t be a teenager, because if he was, it wouldn’t have been a sacrifice.
We don’t know. But it stands to reason that If he was strong enough to carry the wood up the mountain, he was certainly strong enough to resist an old man well past the age of one hundred. Rabbinic tradition says that he was 37 years old. How did they get that oddly specific number? Well, in the very next chapter of Genesis, Genesis 33:1, Sarah dies at the age of 127. She was 90 when Isaac was born. That’s how they got to age 37.
So it is at least possible that Isaac was in his mid thirties when he was offered as a sacrifice.
This was the only painting I found that showed Isaac as an adult. You see the ropes on his wrists. You see the knife at Abraham’s side. You can’t tell from the picture whether this was before or after God stopped Abraham. Is the expression on Abraham’s face grief or relief? What about Isaac? Has he given up or given himself over? The artist has left it up to us to interpret it. I see this as Abraham and Isaac saying what they think will be their final goodbyes to one another.
Centuries later, another Son, also in His mid thirties, would say His goodbyes to His heavenly father. “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” And having said that, He breathed His last (Luke 23:46)
One more: After Abraham passed his test, God said to him in verse 12 “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 verse 13 says that 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.
Now some people will point out that the text says that God provided a ram for Abraham and they’ll say, “Abraham was wrong… in verse 8 he said God would provide a lamb, but here in verse 13 it’s a ram.”
Abraham wasn’t wrong… God did provide a Lamb:
Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.
He submits to his father’s will. He trusts his dad. And God provides the offering.
This is what theologians call “Substitutionary Atonement.” God demands justice for the sins of man against Him. But no man could ever pay for all the sins of the world, let alone his own sins.
And just as God provided a ram for Abraham to sacrifice instead of his son, God gave us His son to be the Lamb for the sacrifice.
God took his Son, his only Son, Jesus, whom He loved, to be the substitute who would atone for our sins.
What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul!
 The CDC says there were 620,327 abortions nationally in 2020 in the District of Columbia and 47 states, a 1.5% decrease from 629,898 in 2019. Guttmacher’s national total for 2020 was 930,160, a 1.5% increase from 916,460 in 2019. (pewresearch.org)