Abraham, Abraham
Based on Series of Sermons on the Repetition of Name and Titles
preached in PCC Worship Services, Apr 2013 to Feb 2014
Part 2 of 3

In the previous article, we considered the first part of the story of Abraham and the sacrifice of Isaac. In verses 1-9 of Genesis 22, we saw the preparation for sacrifice. We now look at the second part in verses 10-14, where we have the sacrifice itself.

The Sacrifice itself
 (vv. 10-14)

Verse 10, “And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.” Abraham was willing to go all the way in his obedience to the LORD, but the LORD prevented him from doing so.

Verse 11, “And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.” The angel of the LORD lovingly repeats his name. “Abraham, Abraham.” This is a repetition of love and affection and closeness, but it is also a repetition that underscores the urgency and importance of the matter.

The angel of the LORD called out lovingly but also urgently, to Abraham, saying, “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.”

Now, this angel of the LORD is no ordinary angel but the pre-incarnate Christ Himself. He is a divine person as indicated by the words, “thou hast not withheld thy son…from me.” He was the one who commanded Abraham to travel to mount Moriah to sacrifice his only son there. And now on Mount Moriah, He Himself withdraws His command at the most crucial moment just before Isaac is killed.

Right from the beginning, it was never the Lord’s intention that Isaac be killed and sacrificed. This was always going to be a test of Abraham’s faith and obedience. Abraham did not know it until now. The angel of the Lord commanded Abraham not to lay a hand on the boy or do anything to harm him. Abraham could put down the weapon and set his son free and return to their home in peace.

“Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.” To fear God is very closely related to obeying God’s commands. Abraham had a very great and healthy fear of God in his heart and that led him to obey God in a matter that literally involved life and death.

So the test was now over. The vindication and demonstration of Abraham’s faith was complete. James puts it this way in James 2:21-22, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?” Abraham had a true and justifying faith, as opposed to a mere hypocritical profession of faith, and that true faith was clearly manifested in his works.

The angel of the Lord said, “for now I know that thou fearest God…” not because He didn’t know beforehand what was in Abraham’s heart or that He wasn’t sure what the outcome of this test would be. Rather, He means that Abraham’s fear of God and his faith in God has been clearly shown to all, and the LORD is now giving His approval of it.

But although the test of Abraham’s faith was over, Abraham’s work for that day was not. Remember he had earlier told his two servants that they were going to worship the Lord. Well, there is no acceptable worship to the Lord without a sacrifice involving the shedding of blood. Cain tried to do that and was rejected. Sinners can only worship God acceptably on the basis of a bloody sacrifice.

The question of course is what would Abraham sacrifice to God instead of Isaac? They had brought with them no clean animal for sacrifice. We are told in verse 13 that in God’s providence, Abraham was led to look up and to see a ram behind him, whose horns were caught in a bush. We are not told when the ram got stuck there, but we have no doubt that it was providentially provided for by the Lord at just the right time. Earlier on, when Isaac asked about the lamb for the burnt offering, Abraham assured him that God would provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering.

Well the LORD did provide them an animal for sacrifice that day but He provided a ram and not a lamb, and the reason He did that was to show that the time for the lamb of God to come into this world has not yet arrive. Someday, that lamb would come, but for now, the LORD provided a ram instead. When Abraham saw it, he immediately went over and took it, and offered it up as a burnt offering in place of his son.

This whole concept of substitution and of a substitutionary atonement is clearly and beautifully illustrated here in this passage. The ram died as a substitute for Isaac. Isaac could live because the ram died in his place, and because Isaac could live, Jacob could be born and Israel could eventually become a nation and so on and so on.

In verse 14, we read that Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen. The word ‘seen’ is the Hebrew word “ra’ah” which can also be translated provide. The word ‘Jireh’ is really a form of the verb ra’ah – to see or to provide.

Indeed, just as the LORD had provided a ram for sacrifice instead of Isaac that day on the mount, so the LORD will someday provide a lamb as the perfect sacrifice for the sin of the world.

The question which Isaac asked was a good one, “Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” It was only finally answered almost two thousand years later, when one day, a man from Galilee came to the river Jordan to be baptized by a prophet named John the Baptist. When John saw Him coming to him, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”

The next day, John was standing with two of his disciples when this man walked by, and John said to them, “Behold the Lamb of God!”

Isaac’s question was fully answered and Abraham’s prophecy was finally fulfilled.

“My father…Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

“My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering.”

“And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he (that is John) saith, Behold the Lamb of God!”

This passage in Genesis wonderfully points us to the great love of God the Father and the wonderful sacrifice of God the Son on our behalf.  

The God who hates child sacrifice and who stopped Abraham at the crucial moment from offering his only beloved son is also the God who spared not his only begotten Son, but delivered Him up for us all.

Just when Abraham took up the knife to deliver the fatal blow, the angel of the LORD, who is Christ Himself, called out to him from heaven and commanded him not to lay his hand upon Isaac or to do him any harm. Isaac lived. A ram was killed in his place.

And like Isaac, we live because another died in our place. Thank God for His infinite and unsearchable love for us in the Lord Jesus Christ! .

… to be continued

Ps Linus Chua