17 It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac,
18 even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.”
19 Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.
Hebrews 11:17-19 (NLT)
Welcome to the thirteenth installment on my study of faith from Hebrews 11. I hope you enjoy being god after reading the previous article. In this article, we will look in detail on an incident, which can cause you to have a negative opinion on God if you don’t see it in full context. God instructed Abraham to kill his own son. If you read the above sentence alone, you may feel like staying away from God. Those who are against Christianity will prey on this incident to their advantage.
Let us start. The first fact I would like to highlight is this incident is a one-off event. It has never been repeated. So, if someone approached you and tell you that God wants you to sacrifice your son you can throw the scum out.
The second fact is, God did not ask Abraham to sacrifice his son the moment they first met. They knew each other long before it happened. God called Abraham when he was in his native country in Genesis 12. Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 years old. Before that he was 87 years old when Ishmael was born. The age gap between Ishmael and Isaac is 13 years. So Abraham must have got to know God for decades before he was asked to sacrifice his son. This means he must have known the true meaning of this sacrifice.
Thirdly, Hebrews 11: 19 tells us Abraham did not believe Isaac will really die. He was sure that even if he drove his dagger into Isaac’s heart, God would bring him back alive. How did he know? He had known God for a long time. His faith was firmly established. He trusted God. He was not in grief when he took Isaac for the sacrifice.
So far so good but why would God choose such a sadistic way of testing the man’s faith? In order to understand his intention, we need to understand his nature. God is sovereign. Being sovereign means he can do what he wants to do. He can make any laws and promises he wants. However, God is also a person of integrity. Having integrity means after he made the laws and promises, he is obliged to obey them. God has to obey his own laws and promises because he has integrity.
“What has that got to do with the sacrifice of Isaac?”
Be patient, I will get there. When Adam sinned, God banished him permanently out from the Garden of Eden. A cherubim was sent to prevent mankind from accessing the tree of life (Genesis 3:24). What is the tree of life? It is the source of eternal life. Today Jesus is our tree of life. However, if God to sent Jesus (who is our tree of life) to have communion with men and die for our sins directly, he would have broken his own law. After all, according to God’s rules, Adam and his descendents are to be cut off from God.
So, God planned to supercede this law with another one known as the Law Of Covenant. He made a covenant with Abraham. A covenant is a contract between 2 parties where both sides are to reciprocate the deeds done to each other. It is like saying we promised to help each other and stand together no matter what happens. I will do for you whatever favor you did for me. So when God told Abraham to sacrifice his son, he was hoping that Abraham would obey because once he did, God would be obligated by the Covenant to do the same, send his Son to die for us.
Here is another clue. Let us look at Hebrews 11:17 in Young’s Literal Translation to get the literal words.
17By faith Abraham hath offered up Isaac, being tried, and the only begotten he did offer up who did receive the promises,
Notice that God called Isaac as Abraham’s “only begotten”. Isn’t that a mistake? Isaac wasn’t Abraham’s only son. Abraham had another son before that. God had purposely used the words “only begotten” because he had planned to send his only begotten Son to die for our sins. When Abraham through faith had obeyed God to sacrifice his “only begotten” son for God, he was obligating God to sacrifice his only begotten Son for us. Are you not glad that Abraham obeyed God? Otherwise, Jesus would not have come to pay for the penalty of our sins.
The difference is, when Abraham was ready to kill his son, God stopped him. When God was to kill Jesus, no one stopped him. Jesus died to pay for all our sins. Through him we have eternal life. Through him we have full access to all the blessings God wants us to have.