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Why Did God Ask Abraham to Kill His Son, Isaac?

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Why did God ask Abraham to kill his son? Read or listen to the Introduction to A Father Offers His Son if you’ve ever wondered, “Why did God ask Abraham to sacrifice Isaac?”

I became a Christian in my early twenties. Soon after, I started reading the Bible for the first time. Like many people, I began “in the beginning” at Genesis 1:1. I read some accounts I was already familiar with: creation, the fall, Cain and Abel, and the flood. I did not struggle with much of what I read, not even the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Then everything came to a screeching halt when I read Genesis 22:1-2:

Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

I thought, “God made Abraham wait so long for this son. Why would He then make such a cruel request? I can understand God calling down fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, but how could He ask Abraham to sacrifice his own son?” As a new Christian, I did not understand. After careful studying, I realized God did not intend for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. We know that because the Angel stopped him: “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him (Genesis 22:12a).” If God did not want Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, then what did He want? The answer is twofold.

First, God asked Abraham to Kill His Son, Because He Wanted to Test Abraham

We read that in the first verse of the chapter. God’s request had never been anything but a test—not to see Abraham sacrifice Isaac, but to see whether Abraham would do it. When Abraham revealed he would obey God’s command, the Angel stopped him. Abraham passed the test, and there was no reason for it to continue.

Second, God asked Abraham to Kill His Son, Because He Wanted a Type of His Son, Jesus

God wanted to reveal what He would do with His Son two thousand years later. He wants us to understand the sacrifice He made, so He put it in human terms with Isaac as a type of Jesus. Twice the Angel of the LORD commended Abraham for not withholding his son:

  • Genesis 22:12b—(He) said, “For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”
  • Genesis 22:16—(He) said, “Because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son.”

God had no intention of Abraham sacrificing Isaac, but this account looked forward to what God had every intention of doing with Jesus. Abraham did not spare his son but was willing to deliver him up, and Romans 8:32 says, “(God) did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”

Let me make three requests for you to keep in mind as you read A Father Offers His Son

First, put yourself in Abraham’s place

First, God wants us to appreciate His love for us. So, as you read consider how hard this was for Abraham. When you put yourself in Abraham’s place, you develop some idea of how heart-wrenching it was for God. Do you have a son? What if God made this request of you? Could you offer your son to God if He asked you? Would you be as obedient as Abraham?

As you read about the sacrifice Abraham was willing to make, think on the even greater sacrifice God was willing to make and why He was willing to make it—His great love for us: “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Second, put yourself in Isaac’s place

Second, Jesus wants us to appreciate the sacrifice He made for us. So think of what it was like for Isaac. When you put yourself in Isaac’s place, you can identify with how hard it was for Jesus. What if you received the same request Isaac received? As you consider the sacrifice Isaac was willing to become, reflect on the even greater sacrifice Jesus became. In John 15:13, Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

Third, look for Jesus

Third, keep this analogy in mind so you do not “settle for scraps.” Imagine that you prepare a delicious feast for your friends, but when they arrive, they sit on the floor and eat the crumbs that fall from the table. If you read the account of Abraham and Isaac and fail to see the typology with God the Father and His Son, you are eating the crumbs. We should see Jesus in the account even more than we see Isaac. The account You have missed the wonderful feast that has been prepared for you.

Genesis 22 is not primarily about Abraham and Isaac. Yes, they are present, but you want to see the true and greater Father and Son in the story. The account is primarily about them. John 12:20-21 says:

Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”

Desiring to see Jesus should be our hearts’ cry! My desire for you as you read this book is that you see Jesus and that by seeing Him, you grow in your love and thankfulness for Him.

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