Understanding Genesis 22: Obedient 'til Death
Read the entire chapter 22 of Genesis on your own. You can read a variety of versions, from contemporary English to literal translations. You can download bible apps, websites (blueletterbible.org or biblegateway.com) or buy one from your local bookstore. I will use King James Version because some of the nuances are missing from other translations. When you read the chapter, don’t just read it—study it with questions and try to make sense of it.
Facing a Trial
And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. Genesis 22:1
The word “tempt” in Hebrew is nacah, which also means to test, prove or a put on trial. Now God knows everything, and everyone’s heart, so what is the point of testing Abraham? If God knows the end result, who doesn’t? Abraham, Isaac, heavenly hosts, Lucifer and us.
"And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;" Acts 15:8 "Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:" Isaiah 46:10
So it is with us today, God doesn’t need to test us, but our life are full of moments that we can choose to endure faithfully to God, or surrender to despair and faithlessness. Whether it is the co-worker who bothers us, or the car accident that hurts us, our faith should gives us strength to endure these trials.
"Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." James 1:12-15
The greek word for “temptation” used in James is not the same as the Hebrew word used in Genesis. Peirazo is enticement to sin, which is not what God was doing here.
Bad things will happen to us, but don’t think that God is the cause of these situations. We must be faithful and trusting that He will deliver us, just like He delivered Isaac.
Obeying God's Instructions
And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. Gensis 22:2
Whether God came to Abraham in a dream, or in a vision, Abraham is shocked that God is asking him to sacrifice Isaac. God does not require human sacrifice like the pagan gods. "Thou shalt not do so unto the LORD thy God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods." Deuteronomy 12:30
Abraham must have spent all night questioning God’s request, questioning his sanity, but as he looks at the night sky full of stars, he remembers God’s promise that his descendants would come from Isaac (And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. Genesis 17:19), and he departs for Mount Moriah, the next morning.
And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. Genesis 22:3,4
Three days Abraham journeyed to the mountain. This was a drawn out torment that wouldn’t let him sleep or rest. He couldn’t even share the burden on his mind, by telling Isaac or his servants.
And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. Genesis 22:7,8
This is such a beautiful and profound moment in Abraham’s faithful walk. After three days of reasoning and praying, and hoping that God had made a mistake, they come to the foot of the mountain. When his son asks him for the lamb, Abraham replies that, “God will provide the lamb.”
Did Abraham respond with these words, because God provided Isaac? Or was he still hoping that God would intervene? Abraham obeys to the end, hoping for God’s intervention and still has faith that his God is not thirsting for blood.
Passing the Test
And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. Genesis 22:9
Everyone looks at this story and remarks on what a faithful man Abraham was. But Isaac was also a faithful servant. At this time, he was a young man, not a child. He had grown up a rich man’s son, had anything he desired, loving parents, house full of servants to do his bidding, and he learned from his father in working the livestock and managing their large household.
Abraham and Sarah must have told him about their journey out of Ur, their encounter with the angels, and God’s promise of his miracle birth. He must see his aging parents; their joy in having him, and the blessings that God has unfolded in their lives.
Isaac grows up sharing in his father’s faith, and when his father tells him of this last act of faith, Isaac willingly surrenders. He was physically stronger than his father, who was over 100 years old. Isaac could have defied God and his father, and ran back down the mountain. He could reject God and defend himself against his murderous father. But instead, he willingly surrenders his hands to be bound, and lies atop of the firewood. God’s “tempting” of Abraham, reveals Isaac’s amazing faith to the world.
God Provide the Ram
And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, 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. Genesis 22:10-12
Did Abraham wait an hour, hoping that God would intervene? Did Abraham delay the killing of his son, torturing both himself and Isaac, with “will he, won’t he?” No matter, because in the end, Abraham lifted up his arm and would have killed Isaac. But thank God, He is not a bloodthirsty chimera. God has no need for death or a human sacrifice. God reminds Abraham of His goodness, by providing a ram, and Abraham gladly sacrifices the ram in place of his son.
“For now I know…” God had always known, but now, Abraham knew that he would be obedient to God even if it meant losing his son. Now Isaac knew, that he would be obedient and faithful to God, giving up his life. Now the heavenly hosts and Lucifer knew that Abraham and Isaac were faithful sons of God.
And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. James 2:23
Abraham is called righteous because he believed in God, had faith in God’s goodness and obeyed God’s command. But the reason why he is called “the Friend of God” is because now Abraham had an inkling of what God would feel when Jesus died.
Since the creation of Lucifer, God knew that Lucifer would sin and take a third of the angels with him. Since the creation of Earth, God knew that Adam and Eve would sin and slowly destroy everything He had created. And the only reason God continued with creating Lucifer and Adam and Eve and us, is because He is the creator of life. And knowing the end from the beginning, Jesus comes up with a contingent plan.
Jesus volunteers to save us. As much as you want to protect someone, you can’t leave him or her in a box. There comes a time, when you have to set them free, let them make their own mistakes. No matter how much you want them to live within the walls of your rules, protection, ideals, etc., they are free-thinking independent beings, and must be allowed to live their life.
In the same way, God cannot un-create us. He created us to shower us with His love. He gave us LIFE, and life abundantly. "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." John 10:10 We can choose to live for our selfish pleasure, or we can live a life for God and others. Jesus lived a human life for God and us, so He could die for us. He died so we could face God with faith and not guilt.
The ram was a symbol of Jesus. The sacrifices that Abel, Abraham and the Israelites performed were not solely to atone for their sins, but to remind them of their Messiah. Remind them of Jesus and how their sins caused Jesus to surrender to death, and how death is not part of God’s plan.
For three days that Jesus was in the tomb, the separation from God was a torment for the Heavenly Father. Three Beings who had never been parted, was now separated because of our sins; and now Abraham would know some of the torment the Heavenly Father would feel, when Jesus died. As Abraham returned home, how much he had to talk with God about the future Messiah and the sacrifice He would make.
God Blesses the World
And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. Genesis 22:18
This promise was not only about Isaac, but also about Jesus. About Abraham’s line of descendants eventually birthing the Messiah and a redeemer for us. "Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." Galatians 3:7,14
We can have that blessing of love and life, which God promised. Whatever situation you’re currently facing, you have a God who loves you. He died for you. He wants you to know that He sees you walking for 3 days, 3 months, 3 years with a burden that He will help you overcome.
You need to just surrender them and believe.
- Understanding Genesis 23: A Blessing to Others
A Bible study of Genesis 23.