It’s fascinating to think about the conversations that Isaac would have had with his father growing up. Abraham would have told his son all about God’s promises and God’s faithfulness in generations gone by. He would have told Isaac about God our Creator, about Adam and Eve in the Garden, about the Fall, and about God’s grace. Isaac would have leaned in to hear the story of Cain and Abel, and of Noah and the flood. When Abraham got to the story of the tower of Babel, Isaac would have known that the next story was where their family came in to the picture.
Can you imagine Isaac listening to his father tell him how God spoke to him and told him to move their family from Ur to their current home, a journey of about 1100 miles? And they traveled that distance on foot! God had promised to give Abraham land and descendants, blessings in this promised land.
Sadly, Abraham and his wife Sarah had been unable to have children, until very late in life — Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90 — they were blessed with the birth of their son, Isaac. Imagine Isaac’s smile when he heard his name. He knew that he was prayed for and loved by his parents, and loved by God.
Now imagine the emotions that Abraham must have felt when he heard God’s voice, telling him to travel to a mountain to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Shock. Disbelief. Confusion. Fear. These would have been some of the emotions that Abraham felt. Yet, in the midst of those emotions, he trusted God. And even though he had never seen a resurrection, the Bible tells us that Abraham trusted God so much that he believed God could bring his son back from the dead (see Hebrews 11:17-19). But even if that were to happen, that would not erase the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual pain that he and Isaac were about to endure.
Abraham, Isaac, and a few of their servants set off on a journey. They gathered the wood for the burnt offering and all of the other supplies they would need, and set off with a donkey toward the mountain. On the third day, Abraham sensed from the Lord that they were at the place: Mt Moriah.
1 After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he answered. 2 “Take your son,” He said, “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.” 3 So Abraham got up early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took with him two of his young men and his son Isaac. He split wood for a burnt offering and set out to go to the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go over there to worship; then we’ll come back to you.” 6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac. In his hand he took the fire and the sacrificial knife, and the two of them walked on together.
Abraham put the wood on his son, Isaac, foreshadowing of the wooden cross being placed upon the shoulders of our Savior. Abraham boldly believed that both he and Isaac would return to the place where the servants waited. The mountain they ascended — Mt Moriah — is known by a different name in the New Testament — Mt Calvary.
As far as Isaac could tell, he was carrying the wood so that his father who was more than 100 years old would not have to carry it. His father was carrying a knife and the fire. He was carrying the wood. Only one thing was missing.
Isaac asked his father, “Where is the animal for the sacrifice?” Isaac knew that it was their custom to sacrifice an animal as the substitute for their sin. The animal would die in their place. So on this day, Isaac wondered where was the animal? Certainly their family did not have a herd of animals waiting at this location? Isaac could have never known what was about to happen next.
7 Then Isaac spoke to his father Abraham and said, “My father.” And he replied, “Here I am, my son.” Isaac said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8 Abraham answered, “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” Then the two of them walked on together.
9 When they arrived at the place that God had told him about, Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood. He bound his son Isaac and placed him on the altar on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son.
11 But the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” He replied, “Here I am.” 12 Then He said, “Do not lay a hand on the boy or do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your only son from Me.”
13 Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught in the thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it as a burnt offering in place of his son. 14 And Abraham named that place The LORD Will Provide, so today it is said: “It will be provided on the LORD’s mountain.”
Abraham declared by faith that the Lord Himself would provide the sacrifice. Then, he bound his son. Isaac laid down on the altar. Isaac willingly submitted to his father’s will, because had he not done so certainly he could have overpowered his elderly father. What emotions and tears must have gripped Abraham and Isaac in that moment. Abraham raised his knife to slay his son, but God intervened. God told him to stop and Abraham obeyed.
Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by his horns in a thicket. This points us to the crown of thorns that would one day be worn by our Savior. The ram died in Isaac’s place just like Jesus died in our place. Can you imagine how Isaac and Abraham must have felt as Isaac got up — ALIVE! — off of that altar. God provided!
Through Isaac, God had promised that He would bless Abraham, his family, and all nations. God reminded Abraham of that promise on this day. Can you imagine the celebration that Abraham and Isaac must have had when they returned from that mountain?
15 Then the Angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16 and said, “By Myself I have sworn,” ⌊this is⌋ the LORD’s declaration: “Because you have done this thing and have not withheld your only son, 17 I will indeed bless you and make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your offspring will possess the gates of their enemies. 18 And all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring because you have obeyed My command.”
And God continues to bless people of the earth to this day, through the descendants of Abraham and Isaac. Some of their descendants are biological descendants, the children of Israel. Some of us have been adopted into Abraham’s family, through a personal relationship with the most important descendant ever born in the line of Abraham — Jesus of Nazareth, the Savior of the world.
As spiritual descendants of Abraham, it is our job today to tell the world that they can be forgiven of their sin, given a new life, and guaranteed eternal life with God in heaven. They can have these blessings if they simply put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. That’s ultimately what the story of Abraham and Isaac is all about.
And don’t miss this aspect of the story: when God calls us to sacrifice something, He always provides for our every need, and His blessings always follow.
One last thing: I have written more about Abraham and Isaac. One fascinating study is to find the 30+ similarities of the story of Abraham and Isaac on Mt Moriah with God the Father and Jesus on Mt Calvary. Here are the links to those posts: