Episode #21 Why did God Command Abraham to SACRIFICE His Son Isaac?!
Today marks three straight weeks of doing DAILY episodes of the Bible Reading Podcast. I’ve literally been podcasting off and on since early 2005, and have never tackled a daily podcast. It is an interesting experience, to be sure. Each episode takes around 2.5 hours from start to finish. This includes:
1. Reading over the day’s Scriptures earlier in the day, and considering which chapter should be the focus chapter, and what Bible question should we tackle.
2. Actually writing the episode out in manuscript form (as a blog post) and doing some research in commentaries and in books of Godly teachers and writers. I primarily use Logos for this step, because I’ve heavily invested in it over the years, and can quickly find relevant to the passage information from people like Charles Spurgeon, John Piper, David Platt, Jonathan Edwards, C.S. Lewis, Hudson Taylor, George Muller, Martyn Lloyd Jones and hundreds of others. Logos is incredibly helpful for this type of research!
3. Using the unpublished blog post as a rough draft, I record the show on Audacity – a free, powerful and somewhat complicated audio editor and recorder.
4. After recording the show, I go through the recording and edit it. I need to remove every cough and sniffle and loud intake of breath – every time I pause to take a drink, or my chair creeks to loudly AND, worst of all, every time I misspeak or get something out of order and have to restart. That means I get to look at 25-40 minutes worth of audio waveforms, as depicted in the screenshot below:
5. After editing the show in Audacity, I export it as a large .Wav file, and then upload it to Auphonic, which is an audio editor. Auphonic polishes up the audio and makes it sound a little better. That process usually takes about 20 minutes. After that, I download the completed audio file as a 96KBPS .mp3 file and go to the final step.
6. The final step is to upload the completed mp3 to this WordPress site, and insert it into my blog post via a plugin made by my podcast host Libsyn. I have to manually fill in all of the details by hand (name of the show, subtitle, show number, show season, description, etc., and also insert a picture for the artwork. When this process is complete, I then press the publish button, and choose what time I want the episode to go live. (I usually post it at 3:30 AM Pacific Standard time so that those on the East coast can have it in their podcast app by 6:30 AM.
And that is, more or less, how you make a podcast! WAKE UP! It’s time to get to the meat of the show, and here is our main Bible question of the day: Why did God ask Abraham to sacrifice his only son?!
As the beginning of an answer to this difficult question, I’d like to start in the New Testament – at the very end of the Gospel of Luke. In that passage, Jesus has been crucified and has risen from the dead, but most of His disciples and followers aren’t aware. Two of them, Cleopas and an another unnamed man are walking down the Emmaus road when Jesus encounters them, and asks them what they are debating about. I’ll pick up in Luke 24 for the rest of the story:
So they said to him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet powerful in action and speech before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him. 21 But we were hoping that he was the one who was about to redeem Israel. Besides all this, it’s the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women from our group astounded us. They arrived early at the tomb, 23 and when they didn’t find his body, they came and reported that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they didn’t see him.”25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!26 Wasn’t it necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted for them the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures.Luke 24:19-27
So – this is our big clue #1 – That the Old Testament Scriptures point to Jesus. This passage in particular is a foreshadowing of the ministry of Jesus. Consider all of the parallels between Isaac’s almost sacrifice and Jesus’ actual sacrifice (Courtesy of Gotquestions.org):
The Old Testament story of Abraham is the basis of the New Testament teaching of the atonement, the sacrificial offering of the Lord Jesus on the cross for the sin of mankind. Jesus said, many centuries later, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). The following are some of the parallels between the two biblical accounts:
• “Take your son, your only son, Isaac” (v. 2); “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” (John 3:16).https://www.gotquestions.org/Abraham-Isaac.html
• “Go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there…” (v. 2); it is believed that this area is where the city of Jerusalem was built many years later, where Jesus was crucified outside its city walls (Hebrews 13:12).
• “Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering” (v. 2); “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3).
• “Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac” (v. 6); Jesus, “carrying his own cross. . .” (John 19:17).
• “But where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (v. 7); John said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
• Isaac, the son, acted in obedience to his father in becoming the sacrifice (v. 9); Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).
Do you see there the parallels between Isaac and Jesus? Picture young Isaac trudging up the hill, heading towards the sacrifice with a heavy weight of wood strapped to his back and weighing him down. And then hundreds of years later, Jesus, the only begotten son of God, trudging up a hill in a similar area (maybe the same hill!) with the wood of the cross strapped to His back – heading to His own sacrifice. In both cases, the father is leading the son to his death, and in both cases, the son obediently follows.
Would Abraham have followed through with this, and actually killed his son? It certainly appears so…but do recall that Abraham confidently told his servant at the bottom of the mountain that he AND Isaac would return. Recall also that Abraham, in faith, told Isaac that GOD would HIMSELF provide the sacrifice. I don’t believe Abraham was deceiving Isaac – I believe he was trusting in God to spare Isaac OR EVEN RAISE HIM FROM THE DEAD! (” He considered God to be able even to raise someone from the dead ” Hebrews 11:19)
So – the almost-sacrifice of Isaac is a picture to us of the very real sacrifice of Jesus. Our astonishment (and even offense) at the seeming audacity of God to grant Abraham a child, and then shortly after demand his sacrifice, shows to us the worth of Isaac, and the worth of a child, and the depth of a father’s love. We, those of us who are parents at least, can sympathize with Abraham on a deep level and began to fathom the cost of giving up a child. And that is precisely the point. That Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac showed Abraham’s level of trust in God – it showed his deepest feelings towards God. Likewise, God’s willingness to sacrifice His one and only begotten son shows us the depth of feelings that He has towards His people.
The beautiful exchange that happens atop Mount Moriah – when the ram is substituted for the beloved Isaac, looks forward to an even MORE BEAUTIFUL exchange that will happen in the future when WE are the one’s scheduled to be sacrificed on the cross for OUR sins (and deservedly so!) but God rescues us through His son at the last minute, and HE is sacrificed in OUR place. HE is the sacrificial ram that saves the life of us in the same way the ram caught in the thicket gave his life for the life of Isaac. Allow me to close with some excellent thoughts on this episode from Glen Scrivener, writing on the Gospel Coalition website:
So the whole episode concludes: “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” (Gen. 22:14). Notice the future tense. God will provide. What will he provide? The Lamb of God, the Offspring of Abraham, the Beloved Son, the Hope of the World. One day, on that very mountain, God would provide the ultimate atonement. And many knew it. For centuries afterward they would point to that hill and say: “The true sacrifice is coming, and that’s where he’ll be provided.” God didn’t ask Abraham to go through with the sacrifice. But one dark Friday, God would provide. The beloved Son of the Father would walk willingly up that hill, carrying the wood on his back. And there he would be slain to save and bless the world. If we attempt to read the Bible primarily as a rulebook, it crumbles between our fingers. With such a mindset, Genesis 22 is a scandal and a barrier to faith. Yet when Scripture is read as intended, we see it as a testimony to Christ. Suddenly we realize that all the Bible, and all believers in every age, are fixed on the one truth that towers above all others: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/abrahams-sacrifice-genesis-22/