The Lamb God Provided

Genesis 22:1-14

A significant portion of Genesis tells the story of Abraham’s life and the outworking of his faith in God. The Old Testament (OT) names him 237 times and the New Testament (NT) 74 times, for a total of 311 times in Scripture, for an average of 5 times per book in the Bible. No other Bible characters are named more than Abraham except David, Judah, and Moses, and only Moses is named more times in the NT than any other.

Why is Abraham so significant? He is significant because he is not only the father of all Jewish people, but there is a sense in which he is also the father of all who follow the one true God by faith, and that includes anyone today who is a true follower of Christ.

Paul teaches that Abraham is the father of “all them that believe” (Rom 4:11-16). He also teaches that those who follow Christ must “walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham” (Rom 4:11-16). Are you walking as Abraham walked? Are you following God as Abraham followed God? Are you living out your faith as Abraham did?

To compare our faith to Abraham’s faith and to compare our life to his, we need to be familiar with his life story, which we can trace out in Genesis. Though a little is said before and some more is said afterwards, the primary activity of Abraham’s life is recorded for us in Gen 12-22.

Here is a summary of his story:

  • God called Abraham to leave his homeland and family and follow him to a distant land.
  • God promised to bless Abraham greatly and to create from him a new nation.
  • Abraham and Sarah departed when he was 75 yrs. old.
  • God promised to give Abraham a son, which didn’t happen until Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90 yrs. old.

Throughout Abraham’s life, God tested his faith in various ways. These tests did not create Abraham’s faith but they demonstrated whether Abraham’s faith in God was genuine. Jam 2:20 tells us that “faith without works is dead.” To explain what this means, James refers back to a climactic moment in Abraham’s life when God declared Abraham’s faith to be indisputably genuine and exemplary to all who would follow in his footsteps.

“Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?” (Jam 2:21)

From God’s perspective, this moment in Abraham’s life demonstrated once and for all that his faith in God was genuine. Heb 11:17 makes the same point. This moment is recorded for us by Moses in Gen 22:1-14, so let’s take a look at this passage together. As we do, we must ask, “Do I also have genuine faith in God?”

Genuine faith holds nothing back from God.

Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” (Gen 22:1)

Though Abraham had already experienced multiple significant challenges in following God, he now faced a climactic test in which God would demonstrate once and for all that Abraham’s faith was both genuine and exemplary. If his faith were not genuine, then his faith would not be worthy of imitating or following.

Scholars, rabbis, and students of Scripture call this passage the akedah (“binding”) and view it as a central passage in Scripture.

Abraham answered God by saying, “Here I am.” He would later answer both his son, Isaac (Gen 22:7) and the angel of the Lord (Gen 22:11) the same way. This answer indicates an alert, attentive, and receptive response. It means he was paying attention, ready to obey, and prepared to act however necessary and however God desired.

Then He said, “Take now 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.” (Gen 22:2)

Now implies certainty, immediacy, and urgency. Son implies a family connection, your implies a personal connection, and “whom you love” implies a deep affection. The way Moses wrote these words emphasizes the intensely intimate and personal nature of God’s command. God was not asking Abraham to show his allegiance by offering just any sort of sacrifice, he was asking Abraham to offer that thing – or in this case, that person – whom he cherished most dearly.

In the next two verses, we see that Abraham responded to these instructions from God by doing exactly what had God told him to do. He did not delay or hesitate, neither did he question God. He stepped immediately into action. Would you have done the same?

And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.” (Gen 22:5)

Notice how Abraham describes what he was about to do as worship. True worship costs something, and in this case it would somehow cost him his son – at least, he was willing for that to happen. Are you?

At the base of the mountain, upon which he would offer the required sacrifice, Abraham made a surprising statement. He said, “We will come back to you.”

This can only mean one of two things about what Abraham expected to happen: (a) God would prevent the sacrifice from happening or (b) God would resurrect Isaac from the dead. The NT book of Hebrews makes this same observation when it says that Abraham concluded “that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead” (Heb 11:19).

In the next two verses (Gen 22:6-7), Abraham and Isaac hiked to the mountain summit. On the way, Isaac asked his father, “Where is the lamb for a burn offering?” Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering” (Gen 22:8).

With this statement, Abraham exhibited complete faith and trust in the character of God – that God would not ask him to do anything against his nature. He also exhibited complete faith in the promises of God – that God would provide a nation through the descendants of Isaac, who had not yet married or fathered any children of his own.

In the next two verses (Gen 22:9-10), Abraham prepared the sacrificial altar, even to the point of binding his son and laying him on the altar. Then, at the last possible second, the angel of the Lord (who is probably the preincarnate Christ himself) intervened. “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me” (Gen 22:11-12)

I say this was probably the preincarnate Christ himself because we know this “angel of the Lord” was speaking about God the Father, but at the end of the statement he shifts from speaking about “him” to “me,” indicating that he was also God. So, the angel of the Lord was not God the Father but was also God.

What’s remarkable about this statement is that it is this dialogue, this comment, which gives us the purpose for this story. This story gives us God’s full affirmation that Abraham’s faith was both genuine and exemplary for all to see.

The statement, “now I know,” is normally spoken in Scripture by people who witness a miracle or a fulfillment of prophecy which demonstrates the power and truthfulness of God, saying something like, “now I know that there is a God in Israel,” or, “now I know that God is able to save by many or by few,” and so on. There are numerous examples.

This instance in Gen 22:12, however, is unique because it portrays God as declaring something outstanding about a man instead – which is the other way around. Not only had Abraham left his extended family behind and believed God to provide him a son at 100 yrs. old, he had immediately and completely offered his son back to God without hesitation. By doing so, he demonstrated complete, unqualified, and unquestioning faith in God’s nature and his promises.

By doing so, he even demonstrated that his faith was superior to that of the unbelieving pagans around him, of which he himself had once been. You see, pagan people did offer their children as sacrifices to their false gods. As awful and terrible as this was, it did demonstrate a significant degree of commitment and seriousness about their faith. Sadly, however, they had placed their faith in the wrong gods.

By demonstrating that his faith was no less committed, Abraham also provided God with an opportunity to provide a clear demonstration of his good character and faithfulness to his promises because in the end, he rescued Abraham from doing what he had said for him to do. He provided a ram for Abraham to offer instead of his son (Gen 22:12).

And Abraham called the name of the place, The-LORD-Will-Provide [Jehovah Jireh]; as it is said to this day, “In the Mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” (Gen 22:14)

Before we allow this passage to shift our attention to Christ himself, we must first make a direct application to our own lives today and doing so should bring us to the teaching of Christ himself, which he spoke to all who would follow him by faith.

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26-27)

You see, what Christ taught here was not some new variety of extreme, hardcore, or radical discipleship, a new level of faith which was unique for a chosen few apostles in his day. This was the same sort of call that he has made to everyone in history who has considered following the one true God and his chosen Savior and King, Jesus Christ.

  • Genuine faith does not merely pray a prayer and hope for God to bring them safely to heaven.
  • Genuine faith does not insist on a comfortable and easy life.
  • Genuine faith does not question God’s commands or withdraw from the tests of life that God brings our way.
  • Genuine faith follows God by obeying his commands and persevering through every trial, resting completely in the character and promises of God.
  • Genuine faith believes that no matter how difficult the present circumstances may seem, God will provide whatever we need to overcome, to persevere, and to triumph in the end. He will never behave unjustly, he will always prove to be good, and he will always do what he has promised to do.
  • Genuine faith perseveres in following Christ when all of these truths about God feel or seem to be uncertain.

Commentator Allen P. Ross, in his excellent commentary, Creation and Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis, says this:

“If anyone is inclined to be a true worshiper of the Lord, it will involve the willingness to sacrifice whatever is dearest and most treasured, even if such should be considered a gift from God.”

Is there anything in your life to which you are so attached and of which you are so protective that you would choose that person or that thing over following Christ? Genuine faith says ‘no’ and behaves accordingly when potential conflicts of interest arise.

Read Luke 9:57-62, then Luke 14:16-24. From this teaching of Christ, we also see Christ calling for the same kind of faith which Abraham himself displayed on Mount Moriah.

“Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?” (Jam 2:21)

But what about you? What persons or things in this life are holding you back from truly following Christ? Do you also have genuine faith in God, or is your “faith” contingent and qualified, preserving and protecting certain people, priorities, and pleasures from God’s reach. Such faith is in “word only” and will not prove true through the tests of life.

Having made this application from Abraham’s example of genuine faith, let us now consider how God responds when we follow him with all of our heart.

God holds nothing back from genuine faith.

Well-known missionary to Africa, David Livingstone, once addressed the students of Cambridge, in which he concluded, “I never made a sacrifice.” This is a stunning admission once you learn about all of the suffering that he had personally endured.

Hudson Taylor, well-known missionary to China, said the same thing. About this, his son, Howard, and daughter-in-law, Geraldine, wrote this:

“I never made a sacrifice,” said Hudson Taylor in later years, looking back over a life in which that element was certainly not lacking. But what he said was true, for the compensations were so real and lasting that he came to see that giving up is inevitably receiving, when one is dealing heart to heart with God.

How can these man say this? They can say this because they – like Abraham – had learned to embrace what Christ himself had taught:

He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matt 10:37-39)

How is this possible? Because the God who commands our complete allegiance, our full surrender, and our total sacrifice is the God who – in the end – requires no sacrifice which compares to the sacrifice he himself has made for us.

In Gen 22:8, Abraham believed that “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” In Gen 22:14, we find that “the Lord will provide” and “in the mount of the Lord is shall be provided.” These statements, along with so many other details in this passage, allude forward to something that God himself would do for us – sacrificing his one and only Son to die for us on the cross for the guilt of our sins.

You see, throughout this entire story, we feel the difficult and pain of Abraham, feeling as though God was being somehow unjust and disingenuous, when in the end, God intervened and provided a lamb instead of Isaac. This was a test and nothing more, though a painful one to be sure.

Even so, God had every right to test Abraham in this way because he himself would eventually do the very thing that he had only tested Abraham with. We should feel the difficult and pain of God as he himself would give his own son to die for us. In fact, it seems that Christ himself – the angel of the Lord – spoke to Abraham on the mountain, he himself who would die for our sins for real.

Let’s observe some of the details in this story which should cause us to think about Christ:

  • Isaac was Abraham’s only beloved son. Christ is the Father’s only beloved Son.
  • Isaac would be offered on a mountain in Moriah. Christ would be offered on a mountain in Moriah, possibly the same mountain (2 Chron 3:1).
  • A donkey accompanied Christ on his journey to Jerusalem. A donkey accompanied Isaac on his journey to the mountain.
  • Three days are mentioned as the length of the trip to the mountain. Christ spent three days in the grave.
  • Abraham assured his servants that Isaac would come back to them. Christ assured his servants that he would come back to them.
  • Isaac carried the wood upon which he would be bound. Christ carried the wooden cross upon which he would be crucified.
  • Isaac willingly accepted being bound and did not resist. Christ willingly accepted his suffering and did not resist.
  • Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son. God the Father turned his back on his Son.

This is where the analogy breaks down because though God rescued Abraham from actually sacrificing his son (he made no sacrifice), no one rescued the Father from sacrificing his Son on the cross for our sins.

When we consider the great sacrifice of Christ for us, we can only say, “I have made no sacrifice.” Like Abraham, we may feel as though God is requiring too much from us – even if it feels like he is taking away from us our own children. Yet is even this too much? Can even this be called a sacrifice when we consider what Christ said about this to his disciples and esp. what he himself did for us in the end?

Those who truly surrender all to Christ not only demonstrate the genuineness of their faith, but they come to understand the true value and greatness of the sacrifice of Christ. But those who cling tightly to those persons and things which they value to highly to surrender for Christ risk not only losing those things or relationships in the end but demonstrating that they never had genuine faith at all.

In closing, let us consider the lyrics to the song Lord, Send Me Anywhere, by inspired by David Livingstone and written by Frank Garlock:

Verse 1
O Lord, since Thou hast died
To give Thyself for me,
No sacrifice could be too great
For me to make for Thee.

Lord, send me anywhere, Only go with me;
Lay any burden on me, Only sustain me.
Sever any tie, Save the tie that binds me to Thy heart—
Lord Jesus, my King, I consecrate my life, Lord, to Thee.

Verse 2
I only have one life,
And that will soon be past;
I want my life to count for Christ,
What’s done for Him will last.

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