Christ & Isaac

Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.
~ Hebrews 11:19

And Joseph said unto them the third day, This do, and live; for I fear God:
~ Genesis 42:18

And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.
~ Exodus 20:20

And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.
~ 1 Samuel 15:22

What man is he that feareth the LORD? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose.
~ Psalm 25:12

Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
~ James 2:21-22

And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.
~ Genesis 22:7-8

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
~ Romans 5:8

Christ and Isaac, by George Whitefield.

And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.—Genesis 22:12

I think the patriarch Abraham shines the brightest (among Old Testament saints) and differs from the others as one star differeth from another star in glory. For he shone with such distinguished luster that he was called the “Friend of God” (Jam 2:23), the “father of the faithful;” those who believe on Christ are said to be (his) sons and daughters and to be “blessed with faithful Abraham” (Gal 3:9). Many trials of his faith did God send this great and good man after He had commanded him to get out from his country and from his kindred unto a land that He should show him; but the last was the most severe of all—that of offering up his only son. By the divine assistance, I propose to make this the subject of your present meditation. And, by way of conclusion, (I propose) to draw some practical inferences from this instructive story, as God shall enable me…

What does God say to Abraham? “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of” (Gen 22:2).

Every word deserves our particular observation. Whatever he was to do, he must do it now, immediately, without conferring with flesh and blood. But what must he do? “Take now thy son.” Had God said, “Take now a firstling or choicest lamb or beast of thy flock and offer it up for a burnt-offering,” it would not have appeared so ghastly; but for God to say, “Take now thy son and offer him up for a burnt offering,” one would fancy, was enough to stagger the strongest faith. But this is not all: it must not only be a son, but “thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest” (Gen 22:2). If it must be a son and not a beast that must be offered, why will not Ishmael, the son of the bondwoman, do? No, it must be his only son, the heir of all, his Isaac (by interpretation, “laughter”). (It must be) the son of his old age in whom his soul delighted—“whom thou lovest,” says God, in whose life his own was wrapped up. This son, this only son, this Isaac, the son of his love, must be taken now, even now, without delay and be offered up by his own father for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which God would tell him…

At length, “they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood” (Gen 22:9).

And here let us pause a while, and by faith take a view of the place where the father has laid him. I doubt not but that blessed angels hovered round the altar and sang, “Glory be to God in the highest,” for giving such faith to man. Come, all ye tenderhearted parents who know what it is to look over a dying child: fancy that you saw the altar erected before you, the wood laid in order, and the beloved Isaac bound upon it; fancy that you saw the aged parent standing by weeping. (For why may we not suppose that Abraham wept, since Jesus Himself wept at the grave of Lazarus?)…I think I see the tears trickle down the patriarch Abraham’s cheeks; and out of the abundance of the heart, he cries, “Adieu, adieu, my son; the Lord gave thee to me, and the Lord calls thee away; blessed be the name of the Lord. Adieu, my Isaac, my only son, whom I love as my own soul; adieu, adieu.” I see Isaac at the same time meekly resigning himself into his heavenly Father’s hands, and praying to the most High to strengthen his earthly parent to strike the stroke. But why do I attempt to describe what either son or father felt? It is impossible. We may indeed form some faint idea of, but shall never fully comprehend it, until we go and sit down with them in the kingdom of heaven, and hear them tell the pleasing story over again. Hasten, O Lord, that blessed time! O let thy kingdom come!

And now, the fatal blow is going to be given. “And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son” (22:10). But do you not think he intended to turn his head away when he gave the blow? What is more, why may we not suppose that he sometimes drew his hand in after it was stretched out, willing to take another last farewell of his beloved Isaac, desiring to defer it a little, though resolved at last to strike home? Be that as it will, his arm is now stretched out, the knife in his hand, and he is about to put it to his dear son’s throat.

But sing, O heavens! And rejoice, O earth! Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity; for behold: just as the knife, in all probability, was near his throat, “the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham.” (The word is doubled to engage his attention; and perhaps the suddenness of the call made him draw back his hand, just as he was going to strike his son.) And Abraham said, “Here am I” (22:11).

“And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (22:12)…With what comfort may we suppose the good old man and his son went down from the mount and returned unto the young men! With what joy may we fancy he went home and related all that had passed to Sarah! And above all, with what triumph is he now exulting in the paradise of God and adoring rich, free, distinguishing, electing, everlasting love, which alone made him to differ from the rest of mankind. (That) rendered him worthy of the title that he will have so long as the sun and the moon endure: “the father of the faithful”…

But behold, I show you a mystery hidden under the sacrifice of Abraham’s only son, which, unless your hearts are hardened, must cause you to weep tears of love and plentifully too. I would willingly hope you would prevent me here, and are ready to say, “It is the love of God in giving Jesus Christ to die for our sins.” Yes! That it is. And yet, at the mentioning of this, perhaps you find your hearts not so much affected. Let this convince you that we are all fallen creatures and that we do not love God or Christ as we ought to. For if you admire Abraham offering up his Isaac, how much more ought you to praise, magnify, and adore the love of God, Who so loved the world as to give His only begotten Son, Christ Jesus our Lord, “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Joh 3:16)? May we not well cry out, “Now know we, O Lord, that you have loved us, since you have not withheld from us your Son—your only Son”? Abraham was God’s creature…and therefore under the highest obligation to surrender up his Isaac. But, oh, stupendous love! While we were His enemies, “God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Gal 4:4) that He might become a curse for us. Oh, the freeness, as well as the infinity of the love of God our Father! It is unsearchable! I am lost in contemplating it; it is past finding out.

Think, O believers, think of the love of God in giving Jesus Christ to be a propitiation for our sins. And when you hear how Abraham built an altar, laid the wood in order, bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood, think how your heavenly Father bound Jesus Christ His only Son and offered Him upon the altar of His justice! (He) laid upon (Jesus) the iniquities of us all. When you read of Abraham’s stretching forth his hand to slay his son, think, oh think how God actually suffered His Son to be slain that we might live forevermore! Do you read of Isaac carrying the wood upon his shoulders upon which he was to be offered? Let this lead you to Mount Calvary…and take a view of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, bearing and ready to sink under the weight of that cross on which He was to hang for us. Do you admire Isaac so freely consenting to die, though a creature, and therefore obliged to go when God called? Oh, do not forget to admire infinitely more the dear Lord Jesus, that promised seed, Who willingly said, “Lo, I come”—though under no obligation to do so—“to do thy will,” to obey and die for men, “O God” (Heb 10:9)!

Did you weep just now when I bid you fancy you saw the altar, the wood laid in order, and Isaac laid bound on the altar? Look by faith, behold the blessed Jesus, our all-glorious Emmanuel, not bound, but nailed on an accursed tree! See how He hangs crowned with thorns…see how the thorns pierce Him, and how the blood in purple streams trickle down His sacred temples! Hark how the God of nature groans! See how He bows His head; and at length humanity gives up the ghost!

Isaac is saved, but Jesus, the God of Isaac, dies! A ram is offered up in Isaac’s place, but Jesus has no substitute: Jesus must bleed, Jesus must die! God the Father provided this Lamb for Himself from all eternity. He must be offered in time or man must be damned forevermore.

And now, where are your tears? Shall I say, refrain your voice from weeping? No, rather let me exhort you to look to Him Whom you have pierced and mourn, as a woman mourns her firstborn; for we have been the betrayers. We have been the murderers of this Lord of glory, and shall we not bewail those sins that brought the blessed Jesus to the accursed tree? He having done so much, suffered so much for us, forgiven so much, shall we not love much? Oh! Let us love Him with all our hearts, minds, and strength; and (let us) glorify Him in our souls and bodies, for they are His.