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. Ciji M says:

    Each time Abraham was called, he answered, “Here I am.” What a lesson.

  2. Angie says:

    Day 5 of this Advent journey starts with the story of Abraham asked to sacrifice the promised son Isaac; the holder of Abraham’s heart we believe, certainly one he loves…and yet, not the holder of his heart. When he was tested, the holder of his heart proved to be Jehovah Jireh, his provider, his Lord, and his God.

    God calls…
    Here I am, we answer.
    You want… the beat of my heart?
    …Step forward…obey.

    I told someone just last week that if we lay down something the Lord asks for, He might give it back BUT, we cannot lay it down with that thought. When we lay it down, we surrender it-hands empty-except for what really matters, obedience, faith, trust.

    In my experience, when he asks for the “beat of my heart,” I am holding something too close, with closed hands. Prying those hands open is painful, heart wrenchingly so and necessary, though I didn’t realize it. Praise God He does.

    Abraham calls it worship – and it is. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom. 6:23 Forgiveness of sin and an eternal love-life that is only possible because my Lord, Jesus, breathed his last on a cross to give us life through him. The One who knew NO sin became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God.

    Thank you Jesus.

    1. Dawn LoveyKonicki says:

      Thank you for this! I needed to hear this

  3. Jamalja . says:

    This really helped me to think about faithfulness

  4. Dorothy says:

    Hannah that is beautiful, I plan on writing it down and keeping it near by.

  5. Dorothy says:

    Georgia you are so right about family and faith. When my oldest son died had I not had the faith and Christian upbringing that I had I wouldn’t have made I through it. As my father told my older brother “she will make because her faith runs deep”. Now my other son and my niece and nephew have wavered in their faith and I think it is in part because they were young when my older son die and they “don’t understand why God let him die”. At least that is what I understand.

  6. Jennifer Anapol says:

    This has always been a confusing story for me. I still don’t fully understand why God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, but I do know that God can be trusted and that he is good.

  7. Aiyana Berryhill says:

    Sometimes our faith is tested and God wants to see how well we will do. Could you give up something that God blesses you with if He asked? A friendship? A relationship? A job? Abraham prayed fervently for a son then God blessed him with one just to ask Him to sacrifice him. Abraham’s obedience sealed the blessings of hi descendants. Whose blessings might be attached to our own obedience to God? This was a beautiful reminder to stay prayerful, grateful, and obedient.

  8. Julia says:

    One thing I’ve learned recently is that Isaac was most likely not the young boy depicted in the stories many of us saw as children. Many scholars agree that, at the time Abraham took Isaac to be sacrificed, Isaac was most likely in his late teens or twenties. To me, this speaks about Isaac’s faith in God’s provision as well as Abraham’s. If he was indeed this age, he could have easily fought back and potentially overpowered his Father. This information has made the story all the more meaningful for me. Isaac’s submission to His father’s will and trust in God’s provision certainly speaks of the coming of the “Perfect Sustitute.”

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