The sacrifice of Isaac

As we approach the time of year in which we commemorate the death and resurrection of our Lord, it is fitting to look back and see how clearly God portrayed this in the event recorded in Genesis 22.

The birth of Isaac was foretold in an angel visit. His birth was miraculous, his mother was 90 and well beyond child-bearing age. Now he was of full age. Adam Clarke refers to Josephus who said Isaac was now 25, and to the Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel who states he was 36. Adam Clarke himself considers 33 to be most likely.

Abraham had been promised an innumerable posterity through this son of promise. Now God tells him to offer his son as a burnt offering. Abraham evidently believes implicitly that God’s promise will somehow yet be fulfilled, and he obeys this command.

Abraham and Isaac travel to the mountain that God had directed him to. Abraham and Isaac went alone up the mountain, Isaac carrying the wood for the sacrifice. He was not a young lad carrying a few twigs, this was a heavy load, like the cross that Jesus bore to Golgotha. The account in the Bible does not explicitly mention Isaac’s willing submission to becoming the sacrifice. Yet it is evident that it must have been so. A father who was 133 years of age could not have overpowered his 33 year old son. Thus, just as Jesus went willingly to the cross, Isaac willingly laid himself on the altar.

At this point, God stayed Abraham’s hand and Isaac was figuratively restored to life. It was the third day of their journey when Abraham and Isaac arrived at the mountain, just as Jesus was restored to life on the third day.

This event, which we consider true history, has yet another layer of allegorical meaning. Isaac represents all mankind, condemned to endless spiritual death in hell, but God provided a substitute. In this case a ram caught in the thicket who became the offering. Years later it was the Lamb of God who gave His life that we might be forgiven. As Abraham told Isaac, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:8).

“And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.” The place of the sacrifice of Isaac was the mountain upon which Jerusalem was later built, quite possibly this verse can be taken to indicate it was the precise spot upon which the cross stood centuries later.

One more thought. In 1 Peter 1:12, Peter speack of the prophecies of the Old Testament and says “which things the angels desire to look into.” Surely angels witnessed the drama of the sacrifice of Isaac, including the fallen angels. Yet the fulness of God’s plan of redemption was not revealed to them at that time.

Satan and the fallen angels could not bring themselves to believe that God would extend mercy and grace to the fallen human race. This led to their unexpected defeat by the triumph of the cross, as the apostle Paul writes in Colossians 2:13-15. “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. ”

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