Genesis22:1 to 23:20
You remember that in those times of which we are telling, when men worshiped God, they built an altar of earth or of stone, and laid an offering upon it, as a gift to God. The offering was generally a sheep, or a goat, or a young ox, some animal that was used for food. Such an offering was called "a sacrifice."
But the people who worshiped idols often did what seems to us very strange and terrible. They thought it would please their gods, if they would offer as a sacrifice the most precious living things that were their own; and they would take their own little children and kill them upon their altars as offerings to the gos of wood and stone, that were not real gods, but only images.
God wanted to show Abraham, and all his descendants, that he was not pleased with such offerings as those of living people, killed on the altars. And God chose a way to teach Abraham, so that he and his children after him would never forget it. Then at the same time he wished to see how faithful and obedient Abraham would be to his commands; how fully Abraham would trust in god, or as we should say, how great was Abraham's faith in God.
So God gave to Abraham a command which he did not mean to have obeyed, though this he did not tell to Abraham. He said, "Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love so greatly, and go to the land of Moriah. There, on a mountain that I will show you, offer him for a burnt offering to me."
Though this command filled Abraham's heart with pain, yet he would not be as surprised to receive it as a father would in our day. For such offerings were very common among all those people in the land where Abraham lived.
Abraham never for one moment doubted or disobeyed God's word. He knew that Isaac was the child whom God had promised, and that God had promised, too, that Isaac would have children, and that those coming from Isaac would be a great nation. He did not see how God could keep his promise with regard to Isaac if Isaac was to be killed an an offering, unless God would raise him up from the dead afterward.
But Abraham undertook at once to obey God's command. He took two young men with him, and a donkey laden with wood for the fire. He went toward the mountain in the north, Isaac his son walking by his side.
For two days they walked, sleeping under the trees at night in the open country. On the third day, Abraham saw the mountain far away. As they drew near to the mountain, Abraham said to the young men, "Stay here with the donkey while I go up to the mountain with Isaac to worship. When we have worshiped, we will come back to you."
For Abraham believed that in some way God would bring Isaac back to life. He took the wood from the donkey, and placed it on Isaac, and the two walked up the mountain together. As they were walking Isaac said, "Father, here is the wood, but where is the lamb for the offering?"
Abraham answered, "My son, God will provide himself the lamb."
They came to the place on the top of the mountain. There Abraham built an altar of stones and earth heaped up, and on it he placed the wood. Then he tied the hands of Isaac, and laid him on the wood on the altar.
Abraham lifted up his hand, holding a knife to kill his son. A moment longer, and Isaac would be slain by his own father's hand. But just at that moment, the angel of the Lord out of heaven called to Abraham, and said, "Abraham! Abraham!"
Abraham answered, "Here I am, Lord."
The angel of the Lord said, "Do not lay your hand upon your son. Do no harm to him. Now I know that you love God more than you love your only son, and that you are obedient to God, since you are ready to give up your son, your only son, to God."
What a relief and a joy these words from heaven brought to the heart of Abraham! How glad he was to know that it was not God's will for him to kill his son!
Then Abraham looked around, and there in the thicket was a ram caught by his horns. Abraham took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in place of his son. So Abraham's words came true, when he said that God would provide for himself a lamb. The place where this altar was built Abraham named Jehovah-jireh, words meaning, in the language that Abraham spoke, "The Lord will provide."
This offering, which seems so strange, did much good. It showed to Abraham, and to Isaac also, that Isaac belonged to God, for to God he had been offered. And in Isaac, all those who would come from him, his descendants, had been given to God.
Then it showed to Abraham, and to all the people after him, that God did not wish children or men killed as offerings for worship. While all the people around offered such sacrifices, the Israelites, who came from Abraham and from Isaac, never offered them, but offered oxen and sheep and goats instead.
It looked onward to a time when, just as Abraham gave his son as an offering, God would give his Son Jesus Christ to die for the sins of the world. All this was taught in this act of worship on Mount Moriah.
Some think that on the very place where this offering was given, the altar in the temple many years afterward stood on Mount Moriah. At this time Abraham was living at a place called Beersheba, on the border of the desert, south of the land of Canaan. From Beersheba he took this journey to Mount Moriah, and to Beersheba he came again after the offering on the mountain.
Beersheba was the home of Abraham during most of his later years. After a time, Sarah, the wife of Abraham and the mother of Isaac, died, being one hundred and twenty years old.
Abraham bought from the people of Hebron a cave, called the cave of Machpelah. There he buried Sarah his wife.
1. What was the name of Abraham's son?
2. Why did Abraham take Isaac to the mountain?
3. What was God's purpose in this?
Color images courtesy of http://sweetpublishing.com under the Creative Commons Attribution - Share Alike License.