Abraham’s faith manifested itself in obedience. He was willing to do whatever God asked him, no matter how difficult. Fortunately, sacrificing Isaac was never God’s actual plan. Rather, both Abraham and Isaac were able to be spared because God truly did provide the lamb for the once-for-all sacrifice: Jesus Christ.
This chapter is certainly the greatest trial that Abraham ever faced. His twenty-five-year wait, his war against kings to rescue Lot, his walk of faith to Canaan were nothing compared to the difficulty of trusting the LORD in this task. However, by this, we learn that Abraham truly was a man of faith. He did not understand why God commanded him to do this or what God was going to teach him through this. But still he trusted that God would be enough for Him. Abraham understood that God had given him Isaac; therefore, God also had the right to take Isaac back.
Sacrifice Your Son // Verses 1-2
God now delivered to Abraham his biggest challenge thus far. Indeed, this command was the greatest test of faith that the man of faith would ever have to endure. It is, in many ways, the climax of his entire life. Abraham waited twenty-five years for God to give him a son, and now God was commanding Abraham to give Isaac back. God was probing to see whether Abraham valued God or Isaac more.
Before we get too far into whether God was just in asking Abraham to do something so unthinkable as sacrificing his own son (we will get to that), notice that this chapter begins by telling us that this was all a test. Too many people find the suspense in this chapter to be whether Isaac is going to be sacrificed or not, but that is not the intended tension. Because we know that this is a test, we should assume that God will not allow any permanent harm to come to Isaac. Instead, the tension of the chapter is upon Abraham’s obedience. Will obey the LORD or not? Is he willing to give up his long-awaited son at the command of God? The point of this chapter is upon Abraham’s obedience, not the actual sacrifice of Isaac.
Of course, one of the biggest questions to ask of this chapter is whether God was cruel to ask Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. First, we must note, as mentioned above, that God never intended to actually kill Isaac; rather, the entire scenario was a test of Abraham’s faith. Still, why would a good God demand something so unthinkable? God will tell Abraham later in the chapter that the test was to see whether Abraham essentially loved Isaac more than he did God. Is God such a megalomaniac that He cannot endure the possibility of Abraham loving someone or something else more than Him? The short answer is no. God is not a megalomaniac, but He does demand to have preeminence in our lives.
In order to understand how those two statements complement one another, we must first understand the nature of God. As the omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent Creator of everything, God is far more valuable than anyone or anything in existence. In fact, because God created all things, we can state that God is more valuable than everything combined. Therefore, if God desires to love us by giving us what is best for us, He must give us Himself. For God to give us anything other than Himself, He would be giving us lesser things. This gives great insight to Jesus’ statement, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37). Loving anything or anyone more than God is a disservice to God, others, and ourselves. We are shortchanging ourselves from the most valuable thing in existence. Thus, God is not a megalomaniac to demand that we love Him more than anything; rather, He is showing great love to us! True joy, contentment, and love can only come from God; thus, He loves us greatly when He strips away things that we love more than Him.
Abraham’s Obedience // Verses 3-10
Notice Abraham’s response to God’s command: he obeys. Surely Abraham went through countless questions in his mind, but we find none of them in the text. He simply obeys. This truly is a wondrous display of faith in God. Though he did not know why or for what purpose God was doing this, Abraham trusted that God knew better than he did. That said I believe there are two reasons that Abraham likely trusted God through obedience.