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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Genesis 22

 

 


Verses 1-24

THE TRIAL OF ABRAHAM'S FAITH

The time comes when God gives to Abraham one of the most sever trials of faith possible. When He calls his name, Abraham is fully alert and responsive, "Here I am." Surely he would not be really prepared for the message God gave him, that he must take his on, of whom God says, "your only son Isaac whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burn offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you." Who can measure what a shock this would be to a father who greatly loves his son?

Yet on Abraham's part we read of no protest or no hesitation as to obeying the word of God. He rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey and split the wood for a burnt offering. Taking two of his servants with him as well as Isaac, he began the long journey of three days. We can well imagine what thoughts would fill his heart. Why would God so miraculously give him a son, only to ask him to give him up again? What was God's purpose in asking of such a sacrifice? But he had learned through much experience that God was to be fully trusted in everything, whether or not Abraham understood what God was doing. This simplicity of faith is beautiful. Hebrews 11:17-19 shows us that at this time Abraham considered that if Isaac died, God would raise him up again, because God had promised that Isaac would be a father.

However, God had reasons for this engrossing occasion far higher than Abraham could possibly know at the time, for it beautifully illustrates the wonder of the greatest sacrifice that could be possible, the sacrifice that God the Father was made in giving His own Son, to bear what Isaac could never bear the overwhelming burden of suffering for sins that were not His own, but ours. This three day journey reminds us that God too had plenty to time to fully consider the tremendous sacrifice of giving His Son.

In making the great sacrifice of his son, it was no sudden spur of the moment feeling of devotion that moved Abraham, but deliberate, well considered obedience to the word of God. So our great God, knowing fully all that was to be involved in the sacrifice of His own Son, calmly, deliberately counseled this great event in the past, and carried it out with sublime, unwavering decision.

Abraham left the young men behind while he and Isaac proceeded to the mountain to worship. This was to be a matter strictly between the father and his son. Yet he tells his servants that he and the lad would worship and come back to them. Though God had told him to offer Isaac, he had no doubt he would return with Isaac, since he counted that God was able to raise him from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19).

Isaac carried the wood for the burnt offering, and Abraham took both the means of lighting a fire and a knife. In Isaac we are reminded of the Lord Jesus bearing His cross before His actual sacrifice took place. In verse 6 and verse 8 we are told, "they went both of them together." How much more wonderful to think of God the Father and His well beloved Son going together to the cross of Calvary. For the sacrifice of the Father was just as great as that of the Son. The Son gave Himself: the Father gave His only begotten Son.

The words of Isaac and of Abraham in verses 7 and 8 indicate a lovely relationship of respect and trust toward one another. When Isaac questions as to where the lamb for a burnt offering was, Abraham did not yet tell him he was to be the sacrifice, but that God would provide a lamb. This was indeed a prophecy that Abraham himself did not realize the significance of. Only God would provide the lamb who could be as satisfactory offering to take away sins.

At God's appointed place Abraham built an altar, arranged the wood on the altar, then bound Isaac, laying him on the wood. We read of no resistance on Isaac's part, yet of course terror must have gripped his heart, and we know that Abraham's heart must have been affected to its depths. But Isaac's evident submission reminds us of the more marvelous submission of the Lord Jesus when He was hung on the cross of Calvary. "He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth" (Isaiah 53:7).

Then Abraham took the knife, being prepared to fully carry out what God had told him, in actually killing his beloved son (v.10). At this crucial moment he was interrupted by the urgent voice of the angel of God calling him by name. How great must have been his relief, and that of Isaac too, when he is told to do nothing to the lad. Then it is made clear to him that this was "only a test," the trial of his faith, which is "much more precious than of gold that perishes" (1 Peter 1:7). The reality of Abraham's faith had been proven, and the trial must end before Isaac is actually sacrificed. Yet this historical record is inscribed in the word of God for eternity, not only as a commendation of genuine, unquestioning faith, but as a striking picture of the Father sacrificing His Son.

But also the Lord has a substitute for Isaac ready at that very spot. He cause Abraham to look behind him, where a ram was caught in a thicket by his horns (v.13). How a domesticated animal came to be there we do not know, except that God led it there. At least Abraham recognized it as an acceptable offering and offered it to God as a burnt offering instead of his son. Isaac would surely be thankful for such a substitute, just as believers today thank God for the Lord Jesus and His great substitutionary work at Calvary for our sakes.

Appropriately, Abraham named that place "Jehovah Jireh," meaning "the Lord will provide." Added to this we are told it is "the mount of the Lord." Later Mount Sinai and Mount Horeb are called "the mount of God" and "the mount of the Lord," for the expression speaks of the height from which God deals with mankind. But this mountain, speaking of the grace of God in the gift of His Son, is the first mentioned, for it is nearest to God's heart. The law must take a lower place.

Following this the angel of the Lord (that is, the Lord Jesus Himself) called to Abraham the second time from heaven. Actually, He confirms the promise He had made before to Abraham (vs.17-18), and yet tells him that He will bring this promise to pass because Abraham had obeyed His voice in this matter. One might ask, if Abraham had not obeyed, would the promise be ineffective? The answer is simply that God's promise can never fail, and that He knew beforehand that Abraham would obey Him; in fact it was His own sovereign work in Abraham's heart that caused this act of willing obedience. In other words, God's promise was vitally bound up with the faith He had given to Abraham.

Then Abraham, Isaac and the young men returned to Beersheba, where he was living. This is "the well of the oath," therefore speaking of living in the calm confidence of the faithfulness of God's sworn promise.

NATIONS BLESSED FOLLOWING THE SACRIFICE

Though Abraham had left his former house, yet his brother Nahor is not forgotten. When God blesses Israel He does not forget Gentiles. After Abraham's experience as to the virtual offering of Isaac, he is told that Nahor has had children. This reminds us that the offering of Christ was not for the nation Israel only, "but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad" (John 11:51-52). But the special reason for verses 20-23 is to bring Rebecca to our attention (v.23). She was to be the bride for Isaac, as a type of the Church united to Christ following His wondrous sacrifice. The names of these descendants of Nahor will surely have some significance in illustrating God's work among Gentiles as a result of the sacrifice of His beloved Son.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Genesis 22:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/genesis-22.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, December 1st, 2020
the First Week of Advent
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