Abraham’s faith isn’t only manifest in his believing God for an heir. The time came when Isaac was born and then grew up, and then God tested Abraham. God said, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains I will tell thee of” (Gen. 22:2). We know from this account that Abraham did just that. But how could he ever do it? However, it turned out that at the last second, when he had raised his knife to slay his only son, the Lord cries out from heaven, saying, ‘Abraham, Abraham. . . . Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (v.12). At that moment Abraham caught sight of a ram caught in a thicket by his horns, which he offered up in place of his son. Let’s check out some divine analysis about this from the Book of Hebrews:
“By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure” (Heb. 11:17-19).
This Scripture answers the question, How could Abraham have ever offered up his special son of promise? Answer: He did it ‘by faith’, faith that God would not contradict himself but would even raise Isaac up from the dead. What kind of faith is this? It’s the same kind that was first inspired in him by God about his son in Gen. 15:6, whereby God justified him. It’s the kind of faith where God is both the object of his faith and the source of his faith, where believing God is a renunciation of human effort to make the promise happen.
Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah–jireh or in Hebrew יְהוָה יִרְאֶה “as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord He shall be seen” (Gen. 22:14). ‘He shall be seen’ is a prophecy of Christ on the Cross, God’s only Son who was also offered up on a mountain in the land of Moriah, or as it came to be called in the First Century, Golgotha and Calvary. Astoundingly, this prophetic word was directly fulfilled by Jesus.
The term ‘seed’ (Hebrew singular noun זַרְעַךָ ‘your seed’) which God referred to in blessing Abraham (Gen. 32:17-18) contains a plural element, ‘as the stars and as the sand’, and a singular element, to one Seed in particular by which ‘all nations would be blessed,’ who is Jesus. He is the foremost and quintessential essence of the ‘Seed of Abraham” which the OT anticipates.
Let’s examine this OT anticipation some more. There is a very heavy side to this. Try a slang term for a moment: ‘the blues.’ Everyone gets the blues sometimes. When God put this test on Abraham he gave him a heavy case of the blues. It turns out He gave himself a case of the blues too. Think about it. In Gen. 22:7 while Abraham and his son are walking to the offering spot, Isaac asks, ‘Dad, we’ve got the fire and the wood: where’s the lamb?’ His father answers: “Son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering” (v. 8). That answer turned out to hold a double meaning, not just that Abraham would find a ram to be Isaac’s substitute. This veiled statement held a haunting tattle-tale prelude to a coming prophetic hurricane that would grip and hold in suspense the entire OT and Heaven itself, until the Lamb of God hung on the Cross. That ‘God will provide himself a lamb’ for was a horrific prophetic word that predicted that in the future, and on this ground, this whole theater would be revisited by another Father and Son. This is so deep a mystery; can be fathomed at all?
We should also understand that this account of the offering up of Isaac in Gen. 22 carries a parabolic value for us as well. It is as a parable which dramatically ‘throws alongside’ and depicts the emotion, the cost, and the horror of the sacrifice between the Father and the Son, and which really did occur at the Cross. Paul summarized it in Romans 8:32: “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” This Father actually ‘spared not his own Son’. And the anguish of the Cross sets forth an awesome development: “How shall he not with Him also freely give us all things?” As God always does, this question is an appeal for faith with no strings attached, as the Lord did when he in showed Abraham the stars, and as he did when he went on oath with the promise of blessing and multiplying. And Paul drags us right into line with all this blessing of Abraham when he concludes: “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29). I find all this so heart rending as the Sign of the Cross grips us, generating a new faith like Abraham’s.
The Scriptures call us to be “followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:12). This passage is commentary on our account in Gen. 22:16-18, about what happened when Abraham’s daggered hand was stayed as God stopped him. It goes on to say,
“For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise” (Heb. 6:13-15).
So as ‘followers’ of this kind of an example, God also expects we can walk in this kind of faith. Is this too hard? Compared to what? Living in unbelief? We all know what the wages of sin pays (Rom. 6:23). So, we can’t afford to let ourselves be “slothful” and still think we can walk by faith (Heb. 6:12). Should this be easy? No, it will take your best. And faith brings out the best in us. But note: God is ‘pleased’ with faith like this (Heb. 11:6), “and is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” God was so honored and impressed with Abraham’s faith that he went on the doc and went on oath, swearing with upraised right hand, to bless and multiply Abraham’s seed. Would that be you? Like Abraham, have faith for nothing less.