Abraham and Sacrifice
The Bible is full of stories of incredible sacrifice, and the discipline of sacrifice is better learned through observation and practice. The men and women of the Bible serve as our mentors and guides as we learn how to sacrifice.
Read or listen to Genesis 22:1-19.
After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he answered.
“Take your son,” he said, “your only son Isaac, whom you love, go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”
So Abraham got up early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took with him two of his young men and his son Isaac. He split wood for a burnt offering and set out to go to the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go over there to worship; then we’ll come back to you.” Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac. In his hand he took the fire and the knife, and the two of them walked on together.
Then Isaac spoke to his father Abraham and said, “My father.”
And he replied, “Here I am, my son.”
Isaac said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” Then the two of them walked on together.
When they arrived at the place that God had told him about, Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood. He bound his son Isaac and placed him on the altar on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son.
But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!”
He replied, “Here I am.”
Then he said, “Do not lay a hand on the boy or do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your only son from me.” Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught in the thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it as a burnt offering in place of his son. And Abraham named that place The Lord Will Provide, so today it is said, “It will be provided on the Lord’s mountain.”
Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn,” this is the Lord’s declaration: “Because you have done this thing and have not withheld your only son, I will indeed bless you and make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your offspring will possess the city gates of their enemies. And all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring because you have obeyed my command.”
Abraham went back to his young men, and they got up and went together to Beer-sheba. And Abraham settled in Beer-sheba.
The written Scripture is CSB, however, the audio Scripture is ESV.
Read the blog below. What is one thing you learned about sacrifice?
Testing the Limits of Love
by Andrew Campbell
Finals week. Just typing those two words still ties a small knot in my stomach. As a college and graduate student, nothing dampened my Christmas spirit quite like the looming dread of all those tests before the break. Can you relate?
Maybe you’re one of those people who loves taking tests. You took the SAT three times just for fun. You see an exam as an “opportunity.” I may not understand you, but I sure do admire you.
Whether your anxiety spikes at the thought of another finals week, or you live for the next hurdle to clear, I am confident of this: none of us would be prepared for the kind of stress test that God administers in Genesis 22.
Abraham’s Unthinkable Test
Abraham left behind everything he knew in obedience to God’s call. He trusted that God would follow through on his promises to give Abraham a name and a family, and to bless all peoples through his family.
And in Genesis 21, it all comes together! God gives Abraham and Sarah a son named Isaac, through whom the promised blessings would become reality. It’s really happening! God was doing what he said he would do, just as Abraham believed he would.
But then God throws an unthinkable curveball, and we’re told explicitly that it’s a test. In Genesis 22:2, God speaks to Abraham: “Take your son…your one and only son Isaac, whom you love, go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on the mountains I will tell you about.”
That sentence cuts against every sensibility in my being. The thought of child sacrifice makes my skin crawl, even if we’ll come to see that it was never God’s plan for Abraham to actually go through with it. Other cultures did that for their “gods.” But not Yahweh.
Still, the command strikes me as wildly unfair, to put it mildly. How could God demand this from Abraham and Sarah?
Most shocking, as far as the plot goes, is that God’s command to offer Isaac as a sacrifice stands directly in the way of the covenant promises to Abraham. Or so it seems. The blessing of a family as numerous as the stars depends on this child.
God’s Timely Provision
But Abraham continues to trust God, and sets out with his son. Along the way to Moriah, Isaac asks his father a gut-wrenching question: “Where is the lamb that will be offered as a sacrifice?”
Can you even imagine? As a father, I would have come completely undone in that moment.
But how does Abraham respond? God himself will provide, he declares. Literally, God himself will see to it. Abraham trusts that God will supply what is needed.
And that’s exactly how the narrative unfolds. At the climax of the story, just as Abraham raises the knife to sacrifice his beloved son, God intervenes with a nearby ram to be offered in Isaac’s place. Because of his willing obedience, Abraham passes the test with the highest of marks.
Abraham proves that his faith in God extends beyond his desire for the blessings of the covenant promises. Abraham doesn’t just obey God in order to get the gifts of God. He lives in a posture of loving, reverential commitment that holds nothing back from God’s providential care.
God tested the limits of Abraham’s devotion to him, and nothing is withheld. He puts it all on the line in obedience. Abraham was willing to sacrifice that which was most precious to him, and God gives it right back.
How Will We Respond?
This Advent, as we practice the difficult task of waiting on God, I encourage you to join me in reflecting on Abraham’s selfless, sacrificial posture with a few diagnostic questions:
Where might God be testing the order of your loves?
What gifts from God might be more dear to your heart than God himself?
What costly or difficult step of obedience might help you see God’s providential care more clearly?
The path of obedience often leads to the most challenging tests of devotion we’ll ever face. Sometimes God places our most cherished gifts on the altar, uncovering the allegiances of our hearts.
But if we’ll offer up our loves as a sacrifice of faithful devotion, we’ll experience the Lord as Jehovah Jireh, the One who provides. Along with Abraham, we can declare that our God will see to the details of our lives, even when all hope seems lost.
Jesus Came For You
Because in fact, Jehovah Jireh has already met our deepest needs and fulfills our truest desires in the person and work of Jesus Christ. He is the Promised One who came to be the perfect sacrifice for sin once and for all.
God gave his one and only Son to die in our place, so that by faith we could inherit all the promises of God in Jesus.
What incredible news this Advent! We don’t have to ask, “where is the lamb that will be offered as a sacrifice?” Jesus was born to die so that you and I might live.
God, please guide me in ways to weave sacrifice into my life.