The Birth & Sacrifice of Isaac
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Genesis 21:1-34, Genesis 22:1-24
Text: Genesis 21:1-34, Genesis 22:1-24
If Isaac ever wondered if he brought joy to his parents, he needed only look to the meaning of his name: “laughter.”
When I imagine them in the early days of his life—Abraham, Sarah, and bouncing baby Isaac—I see the scenes like a movie montage in my head. The boy crawls around in the yard while his parents exchange a knowing glance that says for the hundredth time, This is our promised son. He’s really here! The boy grows bigger—he’s walking now—and there is plenty of slow-motion running in the fields, lots of head-tossed-back laughter as the child lives up to his name. Then come the images of a young man, no longer a boy, following in his father’s footsteps, learning to tend the land and lead his people and listen to God.
Then the music stops and the montage ends. Because I can’t bear to romanticize the reality of what happens next.
“Abraham!” God called.
“Here I am,” Abraham answered.
“Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about” (Genesis 22:2, emphasis mine).
And Abraham went. How he got his feet to move to this command, we’ll never know. But we know he went (Genesis 22:3).
Once on the mountain, Abraham is called again, this time by his son—his only son.
“My father,” Isaac called.
“Here I am, my son,” Abraham answered.
“The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (Genesis 22:7).
(Had I even made it to the mountain with my boy, this would have been the point at which I caved, grabbing his hand and sprinting for home.)
But Abraham stayed. “God Himself will provide the lamb,” he replied (Genesis 22:8). And there he built an altar. He bound his son and he reached for the knife. That’s when the third call came.
“Abraham, Abraham!” the angel called. Abraham’s knife froze in midair.
“Here I am,” Abraham answered.
Here’s where the music in my head resumes, at the broken sigh of relief and the tears I can only assume streamed down Abraham’s face. It was true. God had indeed provided the lamb (Genesis 22:13).
Now the tears streaming down are mine, because I cannot see Isaac bound on the altar, his father poised to sacrifice his only son, without seeing our Savior nailed to a cross.
Like Isaac, Jesus did not resist, though he certainly could have. Like Abraham, the heavenly Father must have grieved at the sight of His Son—His only Son—on the altar of sacrifice. But unlike that day when Isaac was spared on Mount Moriah, a substitute was not provided. Jesus was the substitute. He took our place on the cross and took the punishment for our sins—past, present, and future—forever (Isaiah 53:5).
When the Father calls on us to pay the debt of our sin, it is Jesus who answers “Here I am,” praying in anguish from the garden, “Father, if You are willing, take this cup away from Me—nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).
As we watch the scenes of Genesis 22-23 play out in our minds today, may our hearts be moved to thanksgiving. We give thanks for Abraham, the father of our faith, who responded to the Lord’s call, even when that call took him to a place no father would choose to go. And we give thanks for Isaac, who trusted his father and his God, even to the threshold of death. Above all, we give thanks for the Lamb that God provided as the substitute for you and for me—on a different day and a different hill, for our eternal salvation.
Thanks be to God the Father for His mercy and for the unflinching love of the Son.