Day 5

O Come, Perfect Substitute

Genesis 22:1-18, Romans 6:23, Luke 23:44-46, 1 John 4:7-9, 2 Corinthians 5:21

BY Guest Writer

The story of Abraham and Isaac is undoubtedly one of the hardest passages to read in Scripture. In Sunday school we sing about “Father Abraham” and his many sons, but we often sidestep this gruesome chapter. It’s uncomfortable and disturbing, bringing to light moral, ethical, and theological questions that have been debated for centuries. From Martin Luther, who praised Abraham’s “blind faith,” to Immanuel Kant, who concluded that God could not have actually asked Abraham to sacrifice his son—the list of scholars and theologians who have wrestled with this story and its meaning is long.

It is wise to approach Genesis 22 with a self-awareness of our finite understanding of God’s mysterious ways. We ought to approach it with a view of the whole of Scripture, seeing it as a single story that teaches us something about God but also as one that fits into the much larger narrative of the gospel, teaching us about sacrifice, substitution, and provision.

We can take heart in verse 1, which tells us that God set out to “test” Abraham. And Abraham rose to the occasion in faith; throughout the story, Abraham believes that God will provide (v.8).

Abraham knew he could trust God, who had promised him land (Genesis 12:1–9), an heir despite his old age and his wife’s barrenness (ch.17), and offspring more numerous than the stars (ch.15). Abraham’s faith was not blind, but it was rooted in seeing God’s faithfulness to him. And so when God said to take Isaac and bind him for sacrifice—when it seemed that by following God’s instructions, God’s other promises would be void—Abraham acted in faith, saying “the LORD will provide” (22:8).

And again, God was faithful to Abraham. He kept His original promises by sending a ram to die in Isaac’s place, allowing the lineage to continue. Abraham named the mountain they were on “The LORD Will Provide,” and Abraham lived the rest of his days in faith that God would continue to provide.

Later in Scripture, in the book of Leviticus, when God demanded sacrifices from His people, they were not tests like Abraham’s. Rather, the Levitical sacrifices were for atonement—for the covering of sin. The Israelites made those sacrifices with animals, but they were always temporary. Year after year, on the day of atonement, priests would offer the substitutionary death of animals to cover the sins of the people (Leviticus 16). Finally, God sent one perfect, final substitute: Himself. “God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9).

When we pray “O come, perfect substitute,” we cry out with faith like Abraham’s, rooted in the steadfast faithfulness of our God through the ages. The God who provided a ram for Isaac, who provided a system of animal sacrifices for His people to draw near to Him, has provided a perfect sacrifice, once and for all, for everyone who would believe in His Son, Jesus.

O come, perfect substitute, Jesus our King!

Melanie Rainer is a bookworm from birth who makes her days writing, editing and reading in Nashville, where she also joyfully serves as the editor of Kids Read Truth. She has an M.A. in Theological Studies from Covenant Seminary, spends as much time as she can in the kitchen, and can’t wait until her two daughters are old enough to read Anne of Green Gables.

Post Comments (143)

143 thoughts on "O Come, Perfect Substitute"

  1. Steph C says:

    “God will provide Himself [as the] ram”. Heard this interpretation years ago. How amazing that God would give His own perfect Son for me. And that Jesus would willingly come. He came and died to redeem me from the prison and despair of sin. He rescued me and made me His own. Oh Perfect Substitute, your love is beyond understanding. Your mercy is in fathomable. My words seem so inadequate. But thank You! I worship You today.

    1. Ciji M says:

      Love this! What great love that He rescued up before we even knew we were lost!

  2. Etta Linton says:

    The longer I walk with God, the more I experience just how trustworthy He is. In a world where “common sense” and feeling are often used as the standard measurement for whether a instruction is of God, this story makes no sense, is almost beyond our Western sensibilities. Someone would have raced to call the authorities if they had known Abraham was about to kill his son. (I would have been the first to pick up the phone.) This kind of faith is largely out of our purview. Yet there have been plenty of times God has asked me to do things that make no sense. Sometimes I have obeyed in faith. Sometimes I haven’t. But every time I obeyed, He proved worthy of my faith. And He will, again and again. Oh that I would have this kind of faith proven by my obedience.

  3. Gilda Thornton says:

    O how faithful the Lord our God is when we are faithful to Him. He will never break a promise He has made. He may delay it, but He won’t break it.

  4. Sheilah Newberry says:

    Like myself, God lost his son.
    He sacrificed his son so that we could live an eternal life.
    Lately, this has held a lot more weight than it has before, since my son is now with Jesus instead of here with me. Eternal life means that I will be able to live with my son when this life ends for me.
    How great is a God who would make this possible for me?
    Blindly trusting in God is all it took for Abraham. This story amazes me, and I can aspire to be like Abraham.
    Thank God for sending his son so that I can be with mine for eternity.

  5. Brenda RushHoyt says:


  6. Kim Black says:

    Mari V…I loved your post and have changed to a prayer that I am going to post to READ daily, thank you

    Jehovah Jireh! MY PROVIDER! Many times, when things are scarce and there are needs, I know that my God will provide. Am I scared, YES, I am.? My humanness is weak. I often remind my kids that HE is faithful even when we’re not. I am grateful to my God who continues to do amazing things in my life and my children’s life even when there are uncertainties, I will trust my God. He has brought me this far. He will carry me through. I am strong only because He is strong for me. He will provide. He will heal. He will restore. Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can. And the knowledge to know the difference. Amen

  7. Taylor Fedena says:

    Abraham’s faith never wavered (as far as we know). If it was me, I would have waited as long as possible, praying and questioning God. But Abraham rose EARLY in the morning, ready to obey God, with full assurance that God would be faithful. If we who follow God have that kind of faith, we can change our world.

  8. Heidi Jones says:

    God has reminded me of His faithfulness to me. My husband and I have prayed for a little over 4 years that we would conceive and we found out three weeks ago that we are pregnant! His timing is perfect, as we are now also taking care of a foster baby…His ways are not our ways, but He is faithful! Praising Him today!

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