September 19 Sermon Resource

Binding of Isaac

  • Main text: Genesis 21:1-3; 22:1-14
  • Accompanying text: John 1:29

What is more precious to us than our children? The story of the binding of Isaac challenges us to trust God with even the most precious parts of our life – our family. For Abraham, Isaac was not just any child, he was a miracle child – a gift from God and the promised one through whom all of God’s promises would come true (see Genesis 12:2-3; 21:1-7).

God’s command in 22:1 to sacrifice Isaac was not just an awful test for Abraham, it is also a test for us. Could God really have wanted Abraham to sacrifice Isaac? Does God really have the right to ask Abraham, or to ask us, to sacrifice the son whom we love? Yet the crux of this story, from a Christian perspective, is not that this is what God has asked of us, but that this is what our sinful lives asked of God. It is not coincidence that John the Baptist cried out upon seeing Jesus “behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 ESV). In this light, “our narrative is perhaps not about Abraham being found faithful. It is about God being found faithful” [1].

In verse 8, what must have been one of the most difficult moments for Abraham, Isaac asks where the lamb for the offering is. Abraham’s reply is that “God will provide”. Abraham’s response parallels 1 Corinthians 10:13 where the apostle Paul reminds us that God is faithful and that when God tests us, he will always provide a way of escape. Abraham’s faithfulness in shown in this moment when he somehow “knows beyond understanding that God will find a way to bring life even in this scenario of death” [2]. In the words of Hebrews 11:18 Abraham “considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back” (ESV).

It is seemingly at the last moment in the story that God intervenes. An angel of the Lord calls for Abraham urgently telling him not to “lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him” (verse 12). At this moment “we learn that it was never God’s intention to sacrifice Isaac.. and far from approving human sacrifice, God’s stopping the hand of Abraham in a culture where human sacrifice was common clearly indicates that God did not approve worship that sought to appease him with human suffering or effort” [3].

The twin themes of “testing” and “provision” are important ones for understanding the Christian life. In this narrative “Abraham acknowledges God’s right to test him, and his dependence on God to provide” [4]. God is not a cosmic vending machine whose job it is to fulfil our every wish, he is our creator God, King of Kings. In calling Jesus “Lord”, we, like Abraham, must acknowledge his sovereignty over us and his right to test us, but we must never lose sight of who God has been revealed to be in Jesus Christ: a God of grace, mercy and love. A God who provides and will never test us beyond what we can bear.

How does this Scripture testify to Jesus?

Just as God provided a substitute sacrifice for Isaac, God has provided a substitute sacrifice for our sins in Jesus. In Jesus’ death on a cross, God not only shows he will lay down his life for us, but he also experiences the grief of a Father losing his Son. The parallels between Jesus’s death and this story are stark.

“It is about 70 kilometres (45 miles) from Beersheba to Mount Moriah, if the traditional identification of Mount Moriah with the Jerusalem temple site is correct” [6]. The journey took Abraham three days. This means not only does the sacrifice takes place very near where Jesus was crucified, it also means that for three days Abraham experienced the pain of knowing his beloved son was going to die – foreshadowing Christ’s 3 days in the grave.

The story also foreshadows the hope we have in the resurrection. Death is not what God desires for us and through his Son Jesus Christ, he has given an alternative: eternal life with him. Our God is a God who provides. Praise be to his name.

Scripture resources

  • Hebrews 11:17-19
  • 1 Corinthians 10:13
  • James 1:12-17
  • Micah 6:7-8

Other GCI resources:

Footnotes and References

  1. Walter Brueggemann, Interpretation, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching: Genesis, p194
  2. Walter Brueggemann, Interpretation, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching: Genesis, p193
  3. Gospel Transformation Study Bible, Genesis 22:1-19, digital edition.
  4. Walter Brueggemann, Interpretation, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching: Genesis, p193
  5. Gospel Transformation Study Bible, Genesis 22:1-19, digital edition.
  6. David Atkinson, Bible Speak Today Old Testament Set: Genesis, Genesis 22:1-24, Digital edition.

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