This passage of Scripture is one of the hardest to understand. Why would God ask Abraham to sacrifice his son? The gods of the surrounding nations may demand that, but Jehovah would find that abhorrent. So was Abraham mistaken?
God had delayed Isaac’s birth so long that both Abraham and Sarah were as good as dead when he was finally born – so why demand his life now? If Abraham did sacrifice Isaac, how on earth would all the promises be fulfilled? Isaac was the only way the promises could be realised - short of yet another miracle – and what would be the point of that? It was totally illogical. What was God up to? Or indeed, what was Abraham up to?
Then there was Isaac. He was no longer a baby or indeed a child. By now he was a grown man. Commentators suggest anywhere from a teenager to someone into their mid-30’s with a consensus around 25 – 30. The Scriptures certainly suggest a fit person who was able to carry the wood for the sacrifice.
Why was Isaac so compliant? Surely he could have told Abraham ‘where to go’? He would have been a whole lot stronger and fitter so any struggle would certainly have meant Isaac would have gone free. There is no record of any struggle, argument or disobedience – just willing acquiescence? Why?
For some reason he was being tested just as much as Abraham. Maybe God wanted to make sure that Isaac didn’t just live on a second-hand faith. He had to find out first-hand that God is a good God; One you can trust and whose promises are everlasting.
Isaac trusted both Abraham and God. He went through all the emotions associated with the fearsome demand. I’m sure he had doubts about his father, His Heavenly Father and the action they were all taking; yet he was obedient to the very end. How did he deal with the potential mistrust and hate towards Abraham? How did he deal with the utter disgust in a God who made such vitriolic demands? How did he deal with the fear of pain and finally death?
Probably in a similar way to the Son of God. Both Isaac and Jesus heard the plan and knew they were to be sacrificed –not for their sins but to satisfy a Holy God.
Both walked up the same hillside – Moriah to the place of sacrifice. Both as sheep led to the slaughter without saying a word. Their trust in their Heavenly Father must have been tremendous – their obedience without question and their submission complete.
Isaac helped build the altar, lay ‘his’ wood upon it and then allowed Abraham to tie him up and lay him on top of the altar. No shouting, scoffing, pleading or screaming – simply resigned to the point of the knife. As with the Son of God – it wasn’t the rope that kept Isaac on the altar any more than it was the nails that kept Jesus on the cross – no, it was love for Father, and surrender and obedience to the Father’s will.
However, there are differences - firstly, Isaac was ‘saved’ by a ram – pointing forward to the Lamb of God who (took) away the sin of the world and was not substituted; secondly, Jesus didn’t die for His sins but for yours and mine – and Isaac’s.
Isaac was delivered – miracles always follow obedience. The blessings poured forth on both Abraham and Isaac and eventually upon us as well. Thank God for Isaac!