God Himself Will Provide the Lamb

There is an interesting dialogue going on in the comments of my post of 12/19/07, The Heart of a Son. I want to direct you there for I have written a decent amount in those comments.

I decided to include my latest response to a question here as a post since my response was so long. Here it is:

In the comments, CCS said, “Tom B./Jeff Cavin’s question is whether Abraham could have known that he wouldn’t go through with killing Isaac. Hebrews 11:17-19 doesn’t seem to make sense if you read it with the perspective of Abraham knowing he wouldn’t be going through with it.”

I agree, for I do not think that Abraham knew that he would not have to go through with it. He wouldn’t and couldn’t know that. I do think he could have thought that or wondered whether it was a possibility; although, I do not think it was that likely that he thought that.

CCS, you said, “God could have come up with additional choices for Himself. John the Baptist said that God could raise children of Abraham from stones. He could have let Abraham kill Isaac and have Isaac remain dead and yet still produce heirs. Why not?” Of course God could have done as you say, in a certain sense. Because God had said that it was through Isaac that Abraham’s descendants should come, for God to let Isaac die never to rise again would have been the breaking of His word. God, in that sense, had to make sure Isaac lived to father children.

It had to be Isaac and no one else to give Abraham descendants. Abraham’s fall was seeking a son on his own strength with Hagar. Abraham had Ishmael with her, but God told him to send Ishmael away. Genesis 21:8-12 says: “And the child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. So she said to Abraham, ‘Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.’ And the thing was very displeasing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, ‘Be not displeased because of the lad and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your descendants be named’.”

God promised Abraham a son, and that son was Isaac. He promised that it was this son who would give Abraham many descendants. Paul talks at length about the importance of it being Isaac who gives Abraham children: “For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, the son of the free woman through promise” (Galatians 4:22-23).

An enormous amount of the Abraham story revolves around this point of his two sons.
“But what does the scripture say? ‘Cast out the slave and her son; for the son of the slave shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.’ So, brethren, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman” (Galatians 4: 30). Everyone knows that Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. Everyone seems to know that except God.

“He [God] said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you’” (Genesis 22:2). In God’s eyes, Isaac is Abraham’s only son. He is the son God promised to give Abraham when he was seventy-five and then finally did give him when he was 100. Abraham slipped up when he was eighty-five fathering Ishmael, and it is because Abraham fails this test of waiting for God to provide him the promised son that Abraham needs to be tested once again. It is because Abraham has two sons, which indicates that he did not trust in God fully, that God has to re-test him by asking him to sacrifice his only remaining son. God could have certainly given Abraham descendants through Ishmael, and He did, but Ishmael was not considered to be his son. Isaac is the only way.

CCS, you also said, “Abraham could have meant that, after he kills his son, he will come back bringing with him his son’s dead body.” From the quote from Genesis in the previous paragraph, Isaac was going to be a burnt offering. Burnt offerings are entirely consumed by fire; that is why Isaac was carrying all the wood; the wood is needed to have a burnt offering.

I still only see two good options of what God could do here: raise Isaac from the dead (and even ash heap), or stop Abraham before he sacrifices his son. The letter to the Hebrews indicates that it was the former, so I would go with that. That still does not entirely rule out the possibility that it crossed Abraham’s mind that God would stop him beforehand. Abraham did have three days to think it all over. Either way, Abraham was prepared and ready and willing to offer up the son of the promise; and he did offer him up; God only stopped him at the last moment. Here Abraham passes the test, and God swears an oath to bless Abraham:

“By myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore. And your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have obeyed my voice” (Genesis 22:16-18). All the world will be blessed because of Abraham and Isaac’s faithfulness when Jesus comes to fulfill the self offering, when God provides the lamb.

Thanks for reading and your prayers.
Copyright 2007.
All rights reserved.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much, Tony. I can't believe I momentarily forgot about the method of sacrifice-- of course he isn't going to carry back the charred remains. Sorry for that dunderhead moment. Hope you at least got a laugh out of it.

Caro Cardo.

Copyright 2007

Thanks for reading.