Hebrews 11:17-19 - By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; 18it was he to whom it was said, "In Isaac your descendants shall be called." 19He considered that God is able to raise men even from the dead; from which he also received him back as a type. Read Genesis 22.
In Genesis 22 we have one of the greatest stories of faith and obedience in the Bible. Incredibly, God asked Abraham to "take with you your only son--yes, Isaac whom you love so much--and go to the land of Moriah and sacrifice him there as a burnt offering..." (v2). It's difficult to even imagine the emotions of shock and grief which must have filled the heart of Abraham! God was asking him to give up his son--the very son that God had promised to him and his wife Sarah years before. It would have been one thing for Abraham to give up Isaac if he knew the reason why, but it was quite another matter to give up the child of promise for no good reason--in fact, for no apparent reason at all! Not only that, God asked Abraham himself to put his beloved son to death! Why would God ask such a thing? Does the Lord enjoy building up a person's hopes and dreams only to dash them to pieces? But Abraham obeyed God! He did not argue or hesitate. In Genesis 22:3 we read that "the next morning Abraham got up early, chopped wood for the fire upon the altar, saddled his donkey, took with him Isaac...and started off to the place where God had called him to go." Abraham's distress during that long journey to Mount Moriah, presumably his last journey and final hours with his son, was an experience which most of us cannot fully imagine or comprehend. What unimaginable emotional pain Abraham must have experienced as he sharpened the knife for the sacrifice and collected the wood for the fire that would consume the body of the son he loved so deeply. Yes, Abraham obeyed God, even though he did not completely understand what the Lord was doing. As he traveled to Mount Moriah his thoughts must have ranged from dread at the thought of what he must accomplish there, to hope that somehow God would deliver Isaac back to him--alive! Because he had walked with God for many years, Abraham knew that God always keeps His promises, and God had promised that Abraham's descendants would come through Isaac. Although raisings from the dead were as yet unknown in human history, Abraham reasoned that the Lord was even able to raise men from the dead (Hebrews 11:19). Therefore, if Isaac was to be sacrificed, God would have to raise him from the dead. Yet another line of reasoning may have led Abraham to the thought that he expressed to Isaac in Genesis 22:8, that God would "provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering." In any case, Abraham knew that "the Judge of all the earth would do right" (Genesis 18:25). When the father and son parted from their servants Abraham said, "We will worship and return to you" from Mount Moriah. Abraham would obey the Lord and leave the solutions up to God. What a demonstration of faith, and what a model of faith for us to follow! We frequently fall so far short of complete obedience. Most of us exhibit only partial obedience in matters far less demanding than the test which Abraham faced! God is looking for complete obedience, even when He doesn't give us complete understanding of all the "why's" in our circumstances. How much Abraham understood of this picture or the full implications of his test of faith we do not know. In fact, some of the aspects of Abraham's test even we may not know. Is it not possible, for example, that behind the scenes we have in Abraham's case something like the testing of Job? As the curtain is drawn aside in the early chapters of the book of Job, we see that God was not only testing Job's faith but was also using him as "exhibit A" in His case against Satan. Perhaps at another time God also mentioned His servant Abraham to Satan. Satan may have responded that Abraham was faithful because God had been so good to him. Perhaps Satan told God that hewas able to gain followers without rewarding them and even get people to sacrifice their own children! Were the followers of the Lord as committed to their God as the pagans were to their satanic gods? The scenario above, of course, is only speculation. However, we do know that Abraham's great faith would have been obvious to Satan and the world of demonic spirits. We also know that Satan would not have hesitated to taunt God in this way, just as he did in Job's situation. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why God chose to test Abraham's faith in this manner. At least this is one logical answer worth mentioning to the critic who questions the goodness of a God who would request Abraham to sacrifice his own child. It's helpful for us to remember that when God tests our faith there may be more going on behind the scenes than we realize. We too may be one of God's "Exhibit A's" before the rulers and powers of wickedness in heavenly places! (See Eph. 6:12.) The joy that Abraham experienced after this test of his faith was over must have been overwhelming. What a joyous "reunion" with his beloved son Isaac. What a wonderful time of fellowship with Isaac on the trip back home! Besides going over the incredible experience on Mount Moriah, they must have talked about past father-son times as well as plans for the future. What a difference from the mood of the trip to Mount Moriah! The whole return trip was a time of rejoicing. It was as though Isaac, the beloved son, had been dead, but was now reunited with his father Abraham through "resurrection!" In fact, Hebrews 11:19 informs us that Abraham received Isaac back as a "type" or picture of Christ, who was received back from the dead by resurrection. So we see that a primary reason for the kind of test Abraham endured was to provide picture truth for God's people. In Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac we probably have one of the clearest types of the coming sacrifice and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. A broad, simple definition of a type is "an Old Testament person, place, event or other item which illustrates New Testament truth in some way." Let's look a little more closely at this familiar type from Genesis 22. In Abraham we have a picture of God the Father who was willing to sacrifice His only begotten Son for our sins. "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all..." (Romans 8:32). The heartache that Abraham experienced as he and Isaac journeyed toward Mount Moriah gives us only a small glimpse of the heartache of God as He walked with His perfect Son to a mountain called Calvary. The depth of God's love for us is shown supremely in the heaviness of heart of a God who was still willing to give His beloved Son in sacrifice for us--with no strings attached. What a startling picture of God's great love for sinners! In Isaac we see our Lord Jesus as the perfect Son, completely obedient to the Father's will. The fact thatIsaac, who was at least a strong teenager at the time, allowed Abraham to bind him and put him on the altar enhances the picture of the willingness of Christ to go to the cross for us. The type, of course, falls short of the perfect obedience of the Son of God. Isaac asked, " Father, the fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" Abraham responded, "God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." Isaac was unaware of what lay ahead as "the two of them walked on together" on toward Mount Moriah. (See Genesis 22:7-8.) But our Lord was fully aware of what lay ahead as He walked together with the Father toward Calvary. And yet "He resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51). This was no spur-of-the-moment burst of emotional love. Never has there been such a determined love than that which was demonstrated in our Lord's steadfast walk to that cross which He knew lay before Him. He knew that there He would be painfully crucified and suffer the awful judgment of God for our sins. In Isaac we catch, in picture form, a small glimpse of the perfect Son submissive to the known will of the Father. We might have missed the fact that Christ's resurrection is part of the picture if it were not for the divine commentary given to us in Hebrews 11. In this connection it should be remembered that two extremes must always be avoided when studying the types of Old Testament Scripture. One extreme would be to completely miss the obvious broad brush strokes that God has sovereignly arranged in history and recorded by inspiration. Not to see Mount Moriah as picturing Calvary, for example, would qualify as being blind to the obvious verbal picture before us. (Mount Moriah, by the way, may have been the very mountain in Jerusalem where our Lord was crucified!) On the other hand, it is always possible to read too much into a type. This is the other extreme we must avoid. For example, the wood for the sacrifice that Abraham gave Isaac to carry may, or may not, be a picture of the cross which Christ carried to His place of crucifixion. To say that the thicket in which the ram was caught is a picture of the crown of thorns is probably reading far too much into this type. However, we know we're on safe ground when we see the resurrection in this picture, because Hebrews 11:19 explicitly states that Abraham received Isaac back from the dead "as a type." The joy of reunion that Abraham and Isaac must have experienced after the "sacrifice" was over is certainly part of the picture God intends us to see. In the very next chapter of Hebrews we read that "for the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2). What was the joy before Him? Certainly a part of that joy was His return to heaven. Imagine the joy of reunion shared by God the Father and God the Son as the Lord Jesus was received back from the dead through resurrection! That intimate joy of communion between the Father and the Son, who is now triumphantly seated on the right hand of the throne of God, is eternal and will never be interrupted--and all because of the finished sacrifice that took place at Mount Calvary! The joy of being "received back through resurrection" certainly has its practical application for us today. Because of Christ's resurrection, we have the joy of knowing we are identified positionally with Him in that resurrection--right now! (See Romans 6:4-11.) We also know that one day we will enter the eternal joy of the Lord when we are "received back through resurrection" into heaven. (See Matthew 25:21,23.) Think of the joy of reunion that some Christians, who have been tested like Abraham, will experience as they are reunited with their loved ones who were taken from them in death for reasons they still don't completely understand. Imagine the unsurpassed joy we will all experience (see Jude 24) as we are made immortal and "received back through resurrection" to enter heaven and be with our resurrected Lord forever!