Sacrifice At Its Highest Point
“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.” Heb 11:17-19
It is important for God’s elect in the Gospel of God’s Righteousness which constitutes Jesus’ baptism, death and resurrection to know what is sacrifice at its highest point. Abraham came to the place where he gave back to God what was always God’s in the first place. Abraham’s faith teaches us to hold lightly what we value greatly.
Elects ought to know that it is the kindness of God that led Abraham to Moriah to offer Isaac. Likewise, it is God’s kindness that leads us back to the place of sacrifice where we yield up to Him our dreams, our desires, our plans, our hopes, the things we own, our loved ones and finally we give to God the life He gave us in the beginning.
It is God’s kindness that is on display in this story.
No wonder in Hebrews 11:17-19, the writer focusses on three aspects of Abraham’s amazing faith where sacrifice is demonstrated at its highest point.
- Sacrifice At The Highest – Test vs 17
In reality, this story presents several problems. How could a loving God ask Abraham to sacrifice his only son? Some critics have dismissed the story on the grounds that it presents a grotesque caricature of the God of the Bible. It would have been enough if God had simply said ‘take your son’. Instead, God qualified that phrase in three ways. ‘Your Only Son’ – not forgetting Ishmael was also his son but meaning that Isaac was the promised son. Isaac – the son for whom Abraham and Sarah had waited for 25 years. ‘Whom You Love’ – which might seem as if God was mocking him but these words were to reassure Abraham that God knew what He was asking. By saying it this way, Abraham would know that God understood what it would cost him to obey. This is what God told Abraham to do, sacrifice your Isaac by killing him and burning his body as an offering to God. At that point, the man of faith only had two options. Either you obey or you don’t. If you stop to argue, that in itself is a form of disobedience. If you try to talk God out of it, that too is disobedience. If you offer an alternate plan, that is also disobedience.
- Sacrifice At The Highest – Trust vs 18
At this point, the writer wants us to think about what was at stake. We naturally focus on the unimaginable sorrow of losing a child. Nothing in all the world seem more trying than for parents to bury their children. In this case, God told Abraham to offer his own son. Abraham was fully prepared to do it, so prepared. In fact, Heb 11:17 actually says that Abraham ‘offered’ Isaac as a sacrifice, meaning that when he laid his son on the altar and raise his knife, Abraham fully intended to put him to death. Naturally our minds focus on that aspect because it is so poignant and personal. In Gen 12:1-3, God had said that He would bring forth a nation from Isaac’s descendant. Here we are faced with what seems to be enormous contradiction. God commanded Abraham to offer Isaac while having promised to bring forth offspring through Isaac. The promise and the command seem to flatly contradict each other. Abraham did not know how God would do it. He just knew God would do it somehow. Herein lies a lesson for all of us. When God makes a promise, it is folly and disbelief to wonder how He will keep His word. Faith does not reckon with ‘how’. Faith believes and leaves the ‘how’ in the hands of God. There are times in life when our only job is to take the next step. We aren’t called to figure out the big picture or to explain where it will lead. This is the true life of faith.
- Sacrifice At The Highest – Triumph vs 19
In this verse, we learn something that is only hinted at in Gen 22. Twice in that chapter Abraham intimates that he expects that somehow, some way, God was going to work things out so that Isaac would live. Gen 22:5 Abraham believed that he and his son would somehow return together. The writer of Hebrews tells us why Abraham could talk like that. Abraham believed that God could raise the dead. Gen 22:7-8 Abraham reasoned from what he knew about God to what he knew about the situation. Abraham offered his son, the Father offered His Son. Isaac carried the wood, Jesus carried the cross. Isaac was laid on the altar, Jesus was nailed to the cross. Abraham was willing to put his son to death, the Father willed that His Son should die. The ram was offered in the place of Isaac, Christ was offered in the place of sinners. Abraham received his son back ‘figuratively’, Jesus literally rose from the dead.
What are we suppose to take away from this true story? In summary, God is saying, ‘I asked for your most precious possession and you gave it to me.’