And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.” ~ Genesis 22:8
Our text is taken from a conversation between Abraham and Isaac. As a test of Abraham’s faith, God had asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. As Abraham and Isaac approached the place the sacrifice was to be made, Isaac, unaware of God’s request, asked his father where was the sacrifice that would be offered.
“…And [Isaac] said, ‘Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’” ~ Genesis 22:7b
This account is one of the most well-known and discussed passages in the Bible. It concludes when God tells Abraham not to sacrifice Isaac and commends Abraham for his faith. Significantly, the occasion foreshadows the crucifixion of Jesus several centuries later.
However, for this study, we want to focus on Abraham’s response to Isaac’s question, because it demonstrates the twin foundations for real faith: Obedience and Attitude. If we are going to live by faith, as God’s word says (Habakkuk 2:4, Romans 1:17, 2 Corinthians 5:7, Galatians 3:11, Hebrews 10:38), then these foundations must be appropriated into our everyday walk with God.
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.”
~ Hebrews 11:6
The most arresting feature of the account is Abraham’s unquestioning obedience. How many of us, if asked by God to sacrifice a child, would respond in obedience without even a question? Yet that is exactly what Abraham did, and it is what was required of him and is required of us.
Because God is.
If God exists, then, as the creator of the universe, He must be obeyed. God is not omniscient some of the time. And we are never omniscient at any time. Consequently, the only permissible response to God’s commands is obedience.
What argument could we present to God to demonstrate that His command is unwise or unjust or untimely?
“…so they went both of them together.” ~ Genesis 22:8b
Our text shows that Abraham wisely focused on obeying God rather than on understanding or challenging God’s command. Because God is sovereign and Abraham is not.
Consider the following passage:
“…Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” ~ 1 Samuel 15:22-23a
Obedience is more important than anything we do suffer or sacrifice for God. And disobedience/rebellion is as bad as being a witch, i.e., a devil worshipper. In other words, if you are going to disobey God you might as well serve the devil!
Indeed, even stubbornness, even being unwilling to obey, equates to loving sin and worshipping idols instead of God.
In short, disobedience is evidence that God is not God to us. Clearly, God is not our God if we don’t obey Him.
Jesus put it this way:
“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” ~ Matthew 7:22-23
It’s not what we do for God that matters. What matters is what we do for God in obedience to Him. All works outside of God’s will are not just pointless, but also evil.
Abraham spent no time questioning or challenging God’s commands, and neither should we. Like Abraham, our energy must be directed to obeying God.
We cannot exercise faith in God without obeying Him. Obedience to God is then fundamental to faith in God. And one cannot exist without the other. To live a life of faith is to obey whatever we know to be God’s will for us. Even when we don’t understand.
We can gain insight into Abraham’s thinking by carefully examining his answer to Isaac. First, notice that Abraham used the future tense in his answer.
And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide…” ~ Genesis 22:8a
But God had already identified Isaac as the sacrifice. Hence, Abraham’s use of the future tense suggests that he believed/hoped God would provide a substitute for Isaac.
We also see that notion expressed in the next words:
And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb.” ~ Genesis 22:8a
Abraham anticipated/hoped/believed that God would work things out so that the sacrifice would end up being a lamb instead of his son, Isaac.
Why did Abraham believe that? What gave Abraham hope?
Abraham knew God. Abraham had walked with God and knew that God was just, that God loved him. Abraham also trusted God’s previous promises. God had promised Abraham descendants through Isaac. And God keeps His promises. Clearly, God would work everything out.
Abraham could not see God’s plan, but he had seen/experienced God’s love and God’s faithfulness. Abraham knew God was good, so there was no reason to fear.
To have faith in God we must believe that He is good that He loves us and has our best interest at heart. Otherwise, when the storms come we will jump ship, not believing that Captain Jesus loves us enough and is powerful enough to bring us safely to harbor.
But God’s Word tells us:
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” ~ Romans 8:28
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,  Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ~ Romans 8:38-39
Therefore, Abraham’s hope was well founded. And if we believe God is good, as Abraham did, then we will be able to put our faith/trust in Him regardless of our circumstances.
Abraham’s answer to Isaac contains another compelling insight.
“…God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering…” ~ Genesis 22:8
God provides His own sacrifice!
Every offering originates from God. We can offer nothing that God hasn’t already provided. Therefore, sacrifices were never about the offering, they were about the heart, the attitude, the mindset, of the offerer.
God was testing Abraham, not Isaac: It wasn’t sacrificing Isaac that mattered, it was whether Abraham would show up. Was he willing to obey God in the ultimate test of faith?
When God calls on us, will we show up? Or will we be missing in action? Our responses to God reveal to us, and everyone watching, what we think of Him. Our responses will reveal if He really is our God. Our responses will reveal whether we believe He is good, fair, just, and worthy of our love.
Finally, the geographical area where the Abraham had built the altar for Isaac is where Jerusalem was eventually established and where Jesus was later crucified. God’s replacement for Isaac was not the “ram caught in [the] thicket” (Genesis 22:13).
As Abraham had prophesied, God would “provide himself a lamb” and that Lamb was to be Jesus. God will never ask us to do more for Him than He will do for us.