God's test of Abraham foreshadowed the sacrifice of Jesus

Bible passage: Genesis 22:1-14
Prophet: Abraham
Written: As early as 1400 BC

In Genesis 22, God tests Abraham in a most profound way by telling to him to sacrifice his son Isaac on a mountain in Moriah.

Abraham takes Isaac to the top of a mountain and prepares to sacrifice him. Isaac is tied up. Abraham raises the knife, getting ready to pierce his own son. Then, an angel appears, telling Abraham to stop. Abraham stops. Isaac is spared. The test ends. Abraham proves that he so loved God that he was willing to give up his own son.

This act of faith foreshadows an event 2,000 years later when God willingly sacrifices his only son, Jesus, for atonement of sin for all who believe. The details throughout Genesis 22 foreshadow the sacrifice of Jesus, who is a descendant of Abraham, through Isaac.

Isaac himself was a miracle. Before Abraham had any children, God had promised him that he would have a child with his wife, Sarah. Abraham and Sarah already old in age, at that point, and it would have required a miracle for Sarah to have a child. And then, Abraham waited 25 years for the promise to be fulfilled. And now, in chapter 22, God, who had given Abraham the child, was now asking Abraham to sacrifice him.

As extreme as it might sound, asking Abraham to kill his own son, Abraham proved that his faith in God was also extreme. It was because of Abraham's faith that God had chosen Abraham to become the patriarch of faith. It would be the descendants of Abraham who would become the prophets and writers of the Bible, and the one through whom the Messiah himself would be born, and the one through whom the original Christian evangelists would be raised.

God spared Isaac and kept the promise found in Genesis 22:8, that God himself would provide the lamb for sacrifice. God fulfilled that promise about 2000 years ago, with his own son, Jesus:

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32, NIV)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, NIV)

Here is Genesis 22:1-14:

1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!"

"Here I am," he replied.

2 Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you."

3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, "Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you."

6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 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?"

8 Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." And the two of them went on together.

9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, "Abraham! Abraham!"

"Here I am," he replied.

12 "Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son."

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram[a] caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided."