Our Genesis Sunday School class covered chapter 22 yesterday, the narrative where God tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Here is the outline.
This story is chock full of challenging, fascinating, and inspiring things. First, the fact that God would even ask for a human sacrifice should make us ask a few questions, and as I noted in the class, it ought to teach us that the foundation of all animal sacrifices actually was a human sacrifice. In His kindness, God allowed animal-substitutes for a while, but ultimately He would sacrifice His own son to fulfill the demands of cosmic righteousness.
It’s also worth noting that the New Testament gives us some insight on to Abraham’s thought-process at this time. I’m sure this was a great trial, but we do know that Abraham reasoned about God’s plan and concluded that God would resurrect Isaac. He had faith that God would work it all out:
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said,“In Isaac your seed shall be called,” concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense. (Hebrews 11:17-19)
A final thing worth knowing is that Isaac was a young man at the time of this event. He was strong enough to carry heavy wood, and he was aware enough to realize that something strange was going on. Josephus, writing in the 1st century, claimed that Isaac was 25. We don’t know exactly, but he was at least a teenager, and so that means he willingly cooperated with Abraham in this test. He could have fought him off or ran away, but instead he agreed to go to what looked like a sacrificial death. When you combine this with the other imagery– the mountain, wood on his back, a substitutionary lamb– we cannot help but see Jesus and the Cross writ large over this chapter of Genesis.