Abraham, Isaac, and Us (Genesis 22)
Reneged Promise? (verses 1-8)
Abraham and Sarah had settled into life with their son Isaac when Abraham heard the words, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you” (v. 2). God was testing Abraham (v. 1). God never incites people to do wrong, since temptations come from Satan and self, and never from God (James 1:13-15). But he does test us to prove the sincerity of our faith. This test given to Abraham was severe. Isaac had been anticipated for 25 years—all of the promises of God to Abraham hinged on him. However, it seemed now as if God’s commands were contradicting His own promises. Yet, as Thomas Watson puts it: “God is to be trusted when His providences seem to run contrary to His promises.”
Abraham is quick to obey, rising early to carry out the command God had given him (v. 3). He took seriously the ongoing expectations of God with regard to obedient living. God’s promises to Abraham are expressions of His remarkable grace, but they are also presented in the context of his obedience. For Abraham, it is obedience, fueled by faith (Hebrews 11:17ff), that serves as his assurance of God’s promises.
- One of the most common reasons for people lacking assurance is their lack of obedience. They often say that if they felt more assurance, they would obey more. But in actuality, if you obey more, you will feel more assurance. Salvation rests on His grace alone, but it comes with the expectation of us seeking to live in a way that conforms to His commands. If you struggle with the assurance of belonging to Christ, are you committed to walking in obedience to Him today?
Ram Provided (verses 9-14)
The tension is heightened as Abraham continues to follow through with what God had commanded him. Several times in verses 9-10 we read the word “and,” describing the careful steps Abraham took in obedience to God. They came to the place he was told, he built, he arranged, he bound, he laid, he stretched, and he took the knife to slay his only son. Then, there is a glorious conjunction: “But the angel of the Lord…” The Lord stops Abraham with both solemnity and urgency, and acknowledges Abraham’s godly fear. As the omniscient God, He knew all along the kind of faith that was in Abraham, but he gave this trial to Abraham for his own sake. It was for Abraham’s own assurance, his own confidence, and his own faith.
The Lord provided a ram for Abraham, but Jesus tells us that in Him, Abraham saw an even greater provision (John 8:56). Abraham rejoiced to see the day when not only a ram was provided to save his son Isaac, but when the Son of God would be slain to save the world from their sin (John 1:29).
- Like in Abraham’s case, when the Lord causes us to go through trials, it is for our own sake (James 1:2-4). He uses trials to strengthen our faith, increase our assurance, and further purify us. What trials are you going through? How does the account of Abraham change your perspective on those trials? What reasons do we have to be joyful even in the midst of testing?
Reiterated Promise (verses 15-19)
In an emphatic affirmation of the promise, the angel of the Lord again calls to Abraham from heaven and assures him of the things that have been spoken to him. God invokes the oath on His own being, driving home the gravity of the promise: “By Myself I have sworn” (v. 16). Not only that, but an additional promise is made that “your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies” (v. 17). In other words, Abraham and his seed will rule their enemies, every aspect of them.
Rebekah Provided (verses 20-24)
It seems that these verses introduce a completely different topic. However, in reality, they show that God is not just orchestrating everything for Abraham and His people, but that He is the sovereign One who rules and reigns over the entire world. The seed has been delivered, but a wife is needed to perpetuate the seed. God is accomplishing His good pleasure through it all. When compared to Ishmael’s line, Isaac’s seems unimpressive, fragile and flimsy: one covenant child vs. twelve in the non-covenant line; one miracle child vs. massive fertility. But we must realize that God does not need the majority—He does not require our strength or ingenuity. Even when we are weak and insignificant, God will provide!
- Isaac was a type with regard to the resurrection of Christ, and yet, as a picture, he was also a representation of us. We need a substitute, just as Isaac did. The knife of God’s wrath is stretched out against us. Oh, how we need a ram to intervene! How we need Christ! What God prevented Abraham from doing, He Himself did: “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). Are you trusting in this substitute? Have you escaped the knife of God’s wrath by taking refuge in the Son He provided?