How could anyone ever doubt Abraham’s love for God after he offered up his only son to him? Here’s a more pertinent question: How can we ever doubt God’s love for us when He gave His only Son for us (John 3:16)?
Genesis 22:1-19 tells the moving account of God asking Abraham to offer his only son Isaac as a sacrifice. Abraham had waited decades for this miracle child. When my Bible study discussed this scene, several called it a cruel test. Since God is never sadistic, we know God had good reasons for this test. I believe one of those was to give us a picture of what His great love for us would cost Him.
Abraham's Call and a Promise
Abraham’s walk with God began when God found him living in a pagan land and called him to leave his home and family to go to the place God would show him.
“The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you’” (Genesis 12:1-3).
God promised to bless Abraham and to make his name great. He promised to bless the whole world through his descendants. “God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land, even though at that time Abraham had no child” (Acts 7:5).
But there was a problem. Sarah was barren. All of God’s promises hung on Abraham producing an heir, and, after decades of waiting, there was still no son.
Sarah decided to help God’s plan along. She convinced Abraham to follow the custom of the day and to sleep with her maidservant. After all, God had promised Abraham an heir, He hadn’t mentioned Sarah. Hagar became pregnant. Wonderful, they’d be one big happy family. Not.
Ishmael was not the son God had promised. And trouble began the moment Hagar discovered she was pregnant. More than a decade later, when Abraham was one hundred years old, Sarah gave birth to a son, the promised heir. They named him Isaac which aptly means, “he laughs.” Imagine the joy this miracle child brought to Abraham and Sarah.
However, trouble escalated with Ishmael, and God had Abraham send teenaged Ishmael and his mother away. This pained Abraham. Isaac became Abraham’s only son and heir to God’s promise.
After decades of walking with God, Abraham’s small faith grew through each high and low. He learned to trust God with his dreams and with his disappointments, with his gains and with his losses, with his successes and with his flops. In each stage, God proved faithful and Abraham’s faith took roots. And when his faith was firmly rooted in the Lord, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you’” (Genesis 22:2).
As God describes Isaac to Abraham, I hear Him describe His only Son, Jesus. This story, like no other, gives us a glimpse into what it cost the father heart of God to sacrifice His only Son for us. Let’s explore some of the parallels between these two fathers and sons.
Notable Parallels between Isaac/Jesus and Abraham/God the Father
This story of sacrifice parallels Jesus in many ways—only for Jesus there was no ram in the thicket to take His place. He is the Lamb of God. As you read some of the parallels, don’t miss the emotions these fathers and sons must have felt.
Jesus said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). I wonder if it was this event where Abraham saw Jesus.
Both Were Dearly Loved Only Sons
Notice how both sons were deeply loved by their fathers.
Isaac: “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:2).
Jesus: “And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy’” (Matthew 3:17).
Both sons would be delivered on the third day.
Isaac: “On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, ‘Stay here… We will come back to you’” (Genesis 22:4-5).
Jesus: “He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Matthew 16:21).
Wood for the Sacrifice
Both sons carried the wood on which they would be sacrificed.
Isaac: “Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac” (Genesis 22:6).
Jesus: “Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull” (John 19:17).
Father and Son Working Together
Both fathers never left their sons’ sides.
Isaac: “As the two of them went on together” (Genesis 22:6).
Jesus: “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19).
Where Is the Lamb?
Both sons understood the need for a sacrificial lamb.
Isaac: “Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, ‘Father? . . . The fire and wood are here, . . . but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’” (Genesis 22:7).
Jesus: “‘Abba, Father,’ he cried out, ‘everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine’” (Mark 14:36).
God Would Provide the Lamb
God provided a ram as a substitute for Isaac. Jesus is God’s lamb who as our substitute died to take away our sin.
Isaac: “God himself will provide the lamb … Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns” (Genesis 22:8, 13).
Jesus: “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29).
Thorns encircled the head of both sacrifices.
Isaac: The ram’s head was caught in a thicket of thorns (Genesis 22:13).
Jesus: Jesus wore a crown of thorns (Matt. 27:29).
The Lord Will Provide
Abraham offering his beloved son humanizes the story of God offering His only Son and reveals how much God loves Jesus—and us. A cruel test? God stopped Abraham from sacrificing Isaac, but He watched Jesus die on the cross.
Isaac: The ram was sacrificed on Mount Moriah instead of Isaac (Genesis 22:2, 9). “So 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’” (Genesis 22:14).
Jesus: God provided His Son. “But now, once for all time, he [Christ] has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice” (Hebrews 9:26).
He Loves You Intensely
After reading this story, no one can doubt Abraham’s devotion to God. When you question God’s care for you, remember
- As Abraham so loved God that he gave his only son, God so loved you that He gave His only Son (John 3:16).
- As Isaac trusted his father and climbed onto the altar, so Jesus trusted His Father and stayed on the cross (John 10:17–18).
If we can’t doubt Abraham’s devotion to God, then how can we question our heavenly Father’s love for us? Jesus knew there would be times we’d ask, “Lord, how much do You love me?” So He stretched out His arms on the cross and answered, “This much!”
Has something caused you to question God’s love for you? Bring that to Him now. Choose to believe He will work your losses and mistakes together for your good and His glory. Receive His love.
Adapted from Little Faith, Big God by Debbie W. Wilson.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/gordonimages
Drawing from her walk with Christ, and decades as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy the fruitful and satisfying lives found only in God’s grace. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, releases February 2020. She and her husband Larry founded and run Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. She is an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Debbie enjoys a good mystery, dark chocolate, and the antics of her two standard poodles. Refresh your faith with free resources at debbieWwilson.com.