The story of Abraham and Isaac is found in the book of Genesis, chapter 22, verses one through 19. It’s a gut-wrenching story of faith, trust, loyalty and the ultimate sacrifice.
Abraham and his wife Sarah had prayed and waited for a son for many years – and chapter 22 opens with God telling Abraham to take Isaac, the son he had been promised and had been waiting for, to the top of a mountain and offer him as a burnt offering.
God asks Abraham to kill and burn his one and only son, and really, without any explanation from God as to why or a purpose for the offering.
2 And he said, 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.
What’s interesting is that Abraham did not argue with God. He did not question why he was being asked to do this life-changing sacrifice or ask what he would receive in return.
Abraham exhibited complete and blind obedience. He did not say a single word to God – he simply woke up the next morning, and did what God had asked of him.
He packed up two of his young men, his son Isaac and wood for the offering, and went on his way to the land of Moriah. He climbed a mountain and traveled for three days, all to sacrifice his only son.
It’s also important to note, Abraham gave Isaac the wood he had cleaved to carry up the mountain, while he himself carried a knife and fire. Isaac carried the wood he is meant to burn upon, all the way up the mountain to his unexpected death.
6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.
The reader should consider this part of the story as parallelism – a parallel between Isaac and Jesus Christ, as well as a parallel between God and Abraham.
Abraham was willing to sacrifice his only son for his people, and as a demonstration of his faith in God; God sacrificed His only son to save all of us from our sins.
Jesus Christ was forced to carry a wooden cross up to His own sacrifice; Isaac carries the wood, meant to burn his own flesh, up to the top of the mountain.
This parallelism not only shows the astonishing act of faith by Abraham here, but that Abraham is so faithful and loyal to God, he is in fact Christ-like himself.
11 And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.
By verse 11, you have read, “Here am I,” three times. First, when God approached Abraham in verse 2, and called for Abraham to sacrifice his only son.
Secondly, we read “Here am I,” again, when Isaac calls out to his father to ask him why they didn’t bring a sheep with them for the sacrifice.
And thirdly, here in verse 11, when God calls out to Abraham from heaven, and stops him from killing Isaac. Abraham says, “Here am I,” three times.
Not only does this repetition here bring a breath-taking unity to the chapter on its own, but there is some deeper meaning in it as well. The number three pictures completeness.
This meaning of the number comes from the fact it is the first of four spiritually perfect numerals (the others being seven, 10 and 12).
Abraham saying, “Here am I,” three times is purposefully crafted into the piece to represent completeness. Abraham had passed God’s test and completed his journey to blessing his seed and ‘all of the nations of the earth’ (22:18, KJV).
The term “rose up,” is also seen through out the story three times as well. This is especially captivating once the reader notices this, because it almost brings us back to the parallelism or similarities between the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the almost sacrifice of Isaac.
When God comes to the the top of the mountain to stop Abraham from killing his only son, we are enriched and immersed in the rich language. God speaks eloquently, kindly and proudly to Abraham.
17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore.
It also may be important to note, that there is the useful literary technique of a “foreshadow” in the story of Abraham and Isaac.
While traveling up the mountain, Isaac asked his father why they did not bring a lamb for their burnt offering with them, which Abraham responds, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering” (22:8, KJV).
Then, in verse 13, that is exactly what God did. Abraham had no way of knowing that would happen, and was probably even lying to Isaac to ensure his son would follow him up the mountain without too many questions.
Then, God does the almost humorous task of making what Abraham had told his son true. God sends a ram to them for their offering, almost as if to say – ‘because I can.’ This notion also re-instates the revolving claim in the Bible that God ‘provides.’