Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said,
“but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb
for the burnt offering, my son.”
As children, we are often taught Bible stories emphasizing the stories’ characters. Last week we looked briefly at Noah, and this week, we examine a portion of Abraham’s story. In both of these, the morality tale is about obedience to the word of God. And, of course, obedience is a result of our faith, which is significant. But these stories were given to us as examples – not so that we would be like Noah or Abraham, but to learn about our God’s character and power! In this story, God is the promise keeper and the one who provides the substitute.
The back story
You remember that God calls Abraham out of Ur, out of the blue, and promises him that he will become a father of a nation. Abraham and Sarah, although married, have no children at that time. He is already in his seventies. This is his first test. Abraham follows God and leaves his home and extended family.
Years pass and Abraham checks in with God again. He mentions Eliezer, his servant, as inheriting his estate. But God says no, that he will surely have a son. Abraham believes God, who credits him with righteousness.
When Abraham is 100 years old and Sarah 90, they have a son, Isaac. Sarah’s womb has been closed for years, having passed through menopause many years earlier. But God revives her body as if resurrecting her womb from the dead to enable her to conceive.
It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise. And so a whole nation came from this one man who was as good as dead—a nation with so many people that, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them.Hebrews 11:11-12 NLT
A final test
The scripture says, “Some time later God tested Abraham.” God instructs Abraham to sacrifice his one and only son. (Scholars do not agree on how old Isaac was. He could have been a teen or a young adult.) Abraham obeys, getting up early the next day and loading his donkey with supplies for a burnt offering. Abraham and Isaac travel for three days. When they reach the place God had told him to go, Abraham builds an altar. He binds his son and lays him on the wood on the altar. And just as he is about to slay his son, God stops him. God provides a substitute, a ram caught in the thicket nearby.
In this story, the focus is on the promise and provision of God.
The promise of a redeemer
God had promised a redeemer, one who would crush the head of the serpent. Through Abraham, God promised to continue His redemptive plan. He promised to build a nation, to be their God, and to give them land. God planned to bless all the families of the earth through Abraham’s family, through the nation Abraham was fathering. If Isaac had died, Abraham would not have had a successor. God is the promise keeper.
The provision of a substitute
God also provides a substitute. For Isaac, it was the ram. Later, when God gave the law recorded in Leviticus, there were two goats on the annual Day of Atonement. The high priest sacrificed the one goat as a sin offering. The other goat, the scapegoat, would carry the people’s sins far away. The high priest would lay both hands on the head of the live goat, confessing over it all of Israel’s sins. The goat bore the nation’s sins and was led outside to the wilderness, carrying all of those sins to a remote place. For us today, scripture teaches us that Jesus is our substitute. He was the lamb that was slain and the One who bore our sins, removing our transgressions from us as far as the east is from the west.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.Isaiah 53:6, 11b NLT
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.
And because of his experience,
my righteous servant will make it possible
for many to be counted righteous,
for he will bear all their sins.
We can trust God, who keeps His promises, and who has already provided us a redeemer, the One who died for us.
For God made Christ, who never sinned,2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT
to be the offering for our sin,
so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
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