Christian’s Called to Sacrifice
Genesis 22 is we’re going to be this morning. As we’re going through this series about the Kingdom Come, what we’re doing in this series together is we’re going through the peaks of scriptures so that you can see the theme of the Bible and how it all ties together. So that when you read God’s Word, you see the beauty of what God is communicating to us.
And we’ve discussed this over and over. The theme of scripture is really about God’s redemption through his kingdom. In the beginning, God created perfectly. The King created all things and all to things to find their fulfillment in Him. Everything that exists finds this purpose for its existence in the Lord. And what we found is that man rebels against God. In that rebellion comes sin, sin destroys. And rather than destroy us in his wrath, God in his grace pursues us for relationship with him because that’s why he created you.
He gave you his spirit to connect to him and so that you may know him and delight in him for all of eternity. And so by his grace, God has given to you and extended to you an opportunity to know him. And when you read the book of Genesis, which is where we are this morning, the first 11 chapters. You remember the book of Genesis is written to Hebrew slaves under Moses. They’ve just come out of the Exodus in Egypt having lived as slaves. And they’re finding their identity. And God, in the first 11 chapters of Genesis is answering the question, how did we get here? How did humanity get here?
In Genesis 12 God puts on the brakes and starts to demonstrate for us how he’s orchestrating his divine plan for our redemption so that we can come delight in his kingdom for all of eternity. And he identifies his plan through one individual named Abraham.
Genesis 12, an important key passage of scripture we looked at two weeks ago, the first three verses. God promises through Abraham all nations will be blessed. That he would create a nation from Abraham. And in Abraham all nations would be blessed. God echoes that same promise. Genesis 12, Genesis 15, Genesis 17, and in the text that we’re in today in Genesis 22 God reiterates that promise.
And when we get to Genesis 22 this passage of scripture is powerful. The implications of what is stated here is echo throughout the rest of the Bible, especially in the gospels and the New Testament. And I want to examine this from few lenses, both theologically, ethically, apologetically, historically. This is a kind of a passage that rocks you and what’s written and it should rock you and what it means for our lives today. So I’m just going to read this section because I want you to understand the story and we’re going to talk about what this represents to us. So 14 verses. Here we go.
Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”.
See, that’s already messed up.
So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.
Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” 13 Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.”
Now what in the world that you just read? Abraham sacrificing his kid? What is this? Well, Genesis 22:1, explained it to you. It said exactly what the situation was. He says, “It came about after these things that God tested Abraham and Abraham said, here I am before the Lord.”
This idea of tested is not this thought of tempting. Meaning God doesn’t want to tempt you to sin because God himself is not evil. But rather what is saying is God tested. And when God’s talking about testing here, God’s not testing you so that he can receive any sort of answer. God knows everything you’re going to do before you do it. He’s omniscient, right? God’s not testing you for his purposes or testing Abraham for his purposes. God is testing Abraham for his own purpose, for Abraham’s purpose. This idea of testing is an intentional move of God to prove to Abraham that his faith is real.
Not that God needs to prove anything to him, but to prove to us our faith is real. And so this idea of testing is not about tricking but rather to build up. And so how big is this test? Well in verse two it tells us, “He said, take your son, your only son whom you love.” Remember how sacred this is in this moment. God tells Abraham he’s going to have child at a hundred years old, Abraham has a child. Abraham had been without children. God gives them a promise in Genesis 12 that through this child would become a nation that would bless all nations.
And now God calls him to sacrifice his only son whom he loves. He goes to the land of Moriah and he offers him there as a burnt offering. So in case we’re questioning what kind of sacrifices is this. Is this a baby dedication? You just pray over the child and say, Lord, this kid belongs to you. What kind of offering is this? And he describes it a burnt offering.
In scripture, in Greek and both Latin. This word for “burnt offering” is where we get the word Holocaust. You think in 1940s Nazi Germany Jews, we refer to that time period as the Holocaust. Where did they get the idea? It’s burnt offering. And what does a burnt offering mean? All of it. All of it consumed in dedication to God. And so he’s describing this sacrifice of Isaac. This is literally total body consumption of laying it all down for God. Every bit of this person, this child, Isaac giving over to the Lord. And in Abraham’s day your lineage was significant because your lineage was sort of the welfare system.
In Israel there were certain laws that were given in order to help provide for the poor. When people would fill up their soil and they would harvest their land there were only certain portions of the land they couldn’t fully harvest. The corners of their property they were to leave behind in case the poor needed something to eat. They were able to go to that property and gather food for themselves so they could survive. But as one got older, they were not always able to do that and they were dependent on family to provide.
That’s why if you read the book of Ruth, what makes Ruth so significant? Because Naomi, when you read the book of Ruth, Naomi’s family, her son and her children are all dead. Ruth feels for her, even though she’s a foreigner, she follows Naomi. And she provides for Naomi because she knows Naomi left unto herself without family will inevitably die. And here’s Abraham sacrificing his only child. It says in James 2:21, Abraham offered his son by faith.
This idea of testing is trusting God by giving what you have in this world because of the faith you have and what is to come in next. The idea of testing is repeatedly stated throughout scripture. A faith that’s not tested honestly can’t be trusted. It’s the determining factor as to whether or not you really believe in God. Because it’s not until your life is rocked that you really determine if you’re just following God out of convenience or because you really believe. In fact, if you read the book of Revelation, Revelation is written to seven churches. Those seven churches are described in chapter two to chapter four. Out of those seven churches, five of them have a bad report. Two of them had a good report. The only two that have a good report are churches that are enduring persecution because persecution has the tendency to erase those that only participate in the body of Christ because they simply find it convenient.
In fact, in the early church in the first 250 years of its existence, 125 of those are in our under persecution. And one of the major issues that the church internally dealt with was how to interact with Christians or people that claim to be Christians that walked away from the faith when persecution happened. Because eventually Constantine legalized Christianity. And now it became a popular movement through Constantine. And they found that as they were persecuted, a lot of their friends left and they gave up their lives. They saw friends and family destroyed. They were beaten and bruised because their faith in Jesus. Now all of a sudden Constantine legalizes Christianity and these people want to come back to the church. And the church was divided, what do you do with these people? Because when it came to the test, their faith didn’t endure some.
Psalm 139:23 says, “Search me O God. Know my ways.” Test me. James 1:2 says, “Consider it joy my brothers when you endure various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect work.”
How do I know my faith is real? What do I do in the battle? What do I do when Jesus calls me to sacrifice? Follow him when it’s convenient? Or follow him because I have faith. 1 Peter 1:6 says it like this for us, “In all of this, you greatly rejoice. Though now for a little while, while you may have had to suffer grief and all kinds of trials, these have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith. Of greater worth than gold, which perishes, even though refined by fire, may result in the praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. That’s how he describes the faith in the midst of adversity. He says it’s more precious than gold. Because everything else passes away, but what endorses what you have in Jesus.
And so the idea of testing isn’t proving to God. It’s a demonstration to ourself of the genuineness of our own faith. And in the adversity of life, where does my faith rest? And when God calls Abraham, this is exactly what he’s saying to Abraham. It is this demonstration in this test of where Abraham’s faith rests. Now, if you consider this passage both ethically, apologetically for a moment, let’s not just smooth past the idea that what God is asking of Abraham is to kill his kid. How do you deal with that in scripture? And is God going to ask you to do that? How do you defend this when you read this in the Bible? What is God doing? Is murder all of a sudden okay, as long as you do it in worship?
In Exodus, chapter 20:13, God says, “you shall not murder.” So killing is wrong. And in the book of Deuteronomy 12:31 God says, he abhors child sacrifice. Child sacrifice during the times of Moses, and I would even say dates as early as Abraham, was that a common practice that God hated, in which individuals did towards false gods. How can God ask someone to murder someone else or to kill someone else? Would God ever asked you to do what he asked Abraham to do?
Let me just say to like this, and I’ll give you an explanation as we go on, that God would not in fact ever ask anyone to do this. This is an exception for a very particular reason. Because the story of Abraham is a prophetic statement. A picture, an illustration, that should awaken our souls to the goodness of God and you’re going to see that here in a moment. But the fact that Deuteronomy 12:31 exists, the Bible telling us that people sacrifice kids and God abhors child sacrifice. What you’re gonna find in the story of Abraham, is that God really is distinguishing himself for Abraham, for the children of Israel, out of the Exodus with Moses.
As Moses is writing this passage, God is distinguishing himself from other gods. Because what you see in the story in verse 11 and verse 12 is that as Abraham goes to sacrifice his son, God calls him to stop. While the false gods that people worship during this time period may call them to sacrifice children, God is distinguishing himself here to say, “No Abraham, I don’t want you to sacrifice. In fact, I offer a substitute for the lives of others.”
While you look at the story of Abraham in itself, reality is this story is much bigger than a story about Abraham and the sacrifice. God is prophetically using this to illustrate something for us in the future. Historically, what happens here is significant for us even today. Because when you read in Genesis 22:2, look what it says. He said, “Take now your son, your only so son whom you love, Isaac. And go to the land of Moriah and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will tell you.
God had a very special place He wanted Abraham to take his son. This location is Jerusalem and this piece of land is considered one of the most important pieces of property on the planet. Today, if you were to see Israel, the Muslims conquered Jerusalem in the seventh century. And they built this golden topped building that they refer to as “The Dome of the Rock.” Because according to Muslim legend, the prophet Muhammad was transported here by God and from this place he ascended into heaven, so Islam teaches and he visited with heavenly prophets and he came before the throne of God. And so Islam built, they say this shrine. It’s not a mosque but it’s a shrine for pilgrims to visit as a sacred location where they claim Muhammad was elevated to heaven.
What’s interesting about that though is that Muslims came in and conquered this land and they built this area. And this is not to say anything slighted towards Islam, I’m just teaching their history. We love everyone as God calls us to love. But as they come in, they built this property, they claimed Mohammad ascended in this location. There is no Islamic text that tells this story, the earliest is several decades after the building of this dome. That makes sense? They claimed this about Muhammad. But the story is about Mohammad ascended from this place don’t exist until several decades after this dome is built. What some believe, rather is that because Islam came and conquered this area, to celebrate their victory, they built this dome in this location. And the reason they did this is because this plot of land is not only sacred to Islam, it’s also sacred to the Jews.
King David, during his reign, he selected the location for what would become the permanent temple. And it was in Shiloh that the tabernacle existed. But David move the tabernacle from Shiloh, which was a tent at the time to Jerusalem. And when David had to pick the location, why did he pick what he picked? Was it just arbitrary? No. David picked the same place where this shrine was built to Islam. Why? Because under the dome of the rock is the rock from Mount Moriah. Where it’s believed Abraham offered his son.
And it was during Genesis 22 that we learned some powerful illustrations of what would ultimately represent Jesus. And so David picks this location in recognition of what God says to Abraham during this section of scripture in Genesis 22 but here’s what makes it more significant. This becomes the place where Jesus presents himself on the Passover as the Lamb who comes to sacrifice himself for the sins of this world. John 1:29, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
And in the days of Abraham. God tells Abraham, go to Moriah. To a specific place that I will show you. Because this becomes a foreshadowing of everything Jesus would do on our behalf. When you theologically consider the section of scripture, and by the way, if you’re looking at this, and you’re wondering where in the world did the temple go? Well, it was destroyed in 70 AD. Never to be built again. And so you see the square that forms around where the temple used to stand there, but it’s been since destroyed.
And when you consider though the theological implications of what’s being taught in this story, we’re learning about the goodness of God and his promises. Remember Genesis 12, God tells Abraham through you, you will have a nation. And from this nation, all nations we will be blessed because there will become one who will be the redemption for all mankind, unifying us back to the kingdom and the relationship that we were called to have with God.
And so in Genesis 22:1, God calls Abraham. Genesis 22:2, he says, right now, take your son.
And in the night he calls Abraham, verse three Abraham immediately in the morning without questioning, he goes on this journey. When you get to verse seven, Isaac asks Abraham, as they’re going in this journey about sacrifice, he says, “Father, where is the sacrifice?” And Abraham’s response is, “God will provide.” And when you get to verse nine Isaac lays down his life.
Now here’s an interesting thought as you look at this passage of scripture. Because some people read this story, and you’ll see it in kids illustrations and you’ll see a picture of Isaac and he looks very young. But some debate the age of Isaac when you see this story as it unfolds. And when you get to the end of Genesis 21:34, it tells us at the end of chapter 21 that many days have passed.
So Abraham and Sarah have Isaac. Sarah is 90, Abraham is a 100. It tells us the end of chapter 21, “many days had passed.” And then all of a sudden you get to the story of chapter 22 and during this time it tells us Isaac has been weaned. So he’s at least four or five years old. He’s old enough to go on this journey with Abraham. And when you get to chapter 23, it’s the death of Sarah. Sarah dies at 127. She has Isaac at 90, she dies at 127. So Isaac most likely is anywhere between the ages of 5 and 37. Because this story is later on, it tells us at the end of Genesis 21:34 that many days have passed as Abraham lived in this land. People assume that Isaac is much older than simply a child. Perhaps he’s even in his thirties. How much more would that tie the illustration to Jesus.
And in verse 13, God does something significant here in teaching us about the sacrifice, how Abraham becomes an illustration. Verse 12, you remember Abraham raised the knife and God call him to stop, and it says, “Then Abraham raised his eyes and he looked and behold behind him, a ram caught in the thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up as a burned offering in the place of his son.” A substitute. “Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide as it said to this day in the Mount of the Lord, it will be provided.
In the Mount of the Lord, it will be provided. This is the same phrases echoed in Isaiah 2:3. The Mount of the Lord, it will be provided. A future statement. Abraham raised his eyes and when he sees this ram. This wasn’t just the place God provided for Abraham. Abraham statement is saying to us, this is going to be a place that God simply provides. You think about what Mount Moriah represents. A place in which Jesus would come. A place that Jesus would wear a crown of thorns, much like the ram caught in the thicket. Jesus caught by his crown and his life becomes a sacrifice for us.
Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. What we’re learning in this illustration in the life of Abraham is that Jesus becomes our substitute. Abraham sees God’s provision as one who provides a substitute for him. Claiming in the mountain the Lord it will be provided. That God, in the future will also provide a substitute for us.
Why? Why would Abraham offer his son? That’s a prophetic example of what Jesus would be to us. But in Hebrews 11:17 it also tells us what Abraham is thinking. It says this, “By faith. Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he had received the promises, was offering his only begotten son.” Remember in Genesis chapter 22:2? Take your son, your only son whom you love. Where else do you see that?
God uses the same phrase in reference to Jesus. Why? To tie us to the illustration of Abraham to show us that God will provide. Jesus is that substitute. How incredible it is nearly 2,000 years before Jesus steps foot on this earth that God calls the exact location that he would present himself as the sacrifice for your sins.
And he tells us echoes throughout scripture, multiple times are written. Some of the verses there, John 3:16, “God so loved this world, that he gave his only begotten son, his only begotten son. And in Hebrews, why did Abraham do this? By faith. The promises that were given to him that he offered up his only begotten son. It was an illustration of God the Father who had delivered Jesus. It was he to whom it was said, and Isaac, your descendants shall be called. He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type.
And what Abraham is saying is, look, God, promised that through me all nations would be blessed. And God only gave me one child. And if God promised me this and God is calling me to sacrifice my kid, and this is the only means by which this promise can be fulfilled, then God himself will raise him from the dead. And this becomes again, an illustration of what God would ultimately do through Jesus for you. We’re learning in this story of the goodness of God and the promises he holds for us.
So what’s the application? Well, I keep telling us throughout this story, the Bible story is about redemption through a King and his kingdom. The King and his kingdom in pursuit of you. What does that mean for us? Christians, I think sometimes often mess up the idea of living out the kingdom picture.
The Bible is built around a King and his kingdom that redeemed you from the brokenness of this world to restore peace in the Lord. And God used the story of Abraham is an illustration that we all need a substitute. But the thought carries forth, not only in the need of substitute, but the substitute has come. And the King has won. And there is victory.
Now the call for us in being set free for Jesus is saying to us, because the King substitutes and provides you yourself are able to sacrifice. When you think about this idea of kingdom in scripture, just as Abraham has been called to do this in God, so all of us are called to the cross of Christ to find him sufficient as a substitute for our lives. And we no longer have to fight to war, to find security and to rest this world on our shoulders, because the King has come and he’s fought his battle for us and he has won. And then he calls us into this kingdom. It’s interesting when you study the idea of kingdom in scripture, what does that mean for us?
Some people in the confusion of the idea of kingdom, they think it means that we can just name it and claim it because I belong to Jesus. I get whatever I want when I want. But when you study what scripture says, the calling for Christians in the New Testament isn’t about getting what you want when you want. The call for Christians is to lay down your life just as Abraham in this illustration lay down his son’s life. You think of what Jesus said in Mark 8:34, “If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself daily, take up his cross and follow me.”
Galatians 2:20, Paul says it like this, “I am crucified with Christ. Nevertheless, it’s not I who live but Christ who lives in me.” Paul says in Romans 12:1-2, “I beg you brothers, by the mercies of God that you present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God.” And Philippians 1:21, “For me to live as Christ and to die is gain.”
Because of the victory of Jesus, this is what it’s saying. You get to let go of everything in this world, and when you lay it all down for the goodness of God, look Christians, you never lose. You never lose because Jesus has won. When Abraham offered Isaac, he knew this going to the altar, that he’s not going to lose his son. Because the promise rested in his son and God would bring him from the dead because that’s the only way he could fulfill his promise. That’s why in scripture, the call to Christians is to lay down your life in sacrifice. Because in laying it down, we never lose. There’s nothing you let go of this world that you will ever regret letting behind. Because in Jesus you win everything. And the way that the gospel moves forward in this world is through sacrifice.
You think about this, because Jesus is free and Jesus laid himself down for you, it’s only because the free lay down their lives that those who are slaves can be set free. Freedom brings freedom. When those who are free give their lives for those who are bound. And so the call of the New Testament for the gospel to go forward is those who are free, now Galatians 5:1 says, “That you have been set free in Christ.” The only way freedom ever goes forward with people is for those who are truly free, when they’re able to sacrifice what they have for those who are bound in sin. It’s because of your freedom in Jesus that you’re able to lay these things down and in laying those things down, you never lose.
But when you lay those things down, other people are able to find free in Jesus, because you humble yourself in God because his promises are always true. You never lose. God’s call for us in the New Testament, when you understand the kingdom, you understand you have all you need in Christ.
I had a friend as a missionary going to a closed country, so I don’t want to mention his name. But I remember being in the car with him. He realized the Lord was leading him to this country and he was delighted to go, but he had a battle. His battle was he had young children. He was worried, what would happened to them in this closed country? I remember sitting next to him in the car and he’s telling me this story that he’s been wrestling with and he’s just holding onto the steering wheel, gripping it. Hiss knuckles are white and he’s gritting his teeth and tears running down his eyes. “What do I do?”
He went on to find out in his own heart, the best place, the safest place, though it may be to the ends of the world, it’s at the center of God’s will. And so he trusted in the Lord because in Jesus he never really lose. The church is anemic in knowing what our Kings victory means for us and the freedom that we have. That you don’t have to put it on your shoulders. And you don’t have to cling onto the things of this world. They will be burned up. But you can let go of the things of this world for the glory of the King and none of it will be lost. Not living for this world, but living for another.
Sometimes, you look at the life of Abraham, you think of Abraham didn’t believe or follow after God how different things would be. And the reality is sometimes we let good things keep us from God things. We’re afraid to trust in the promises of God. But the reality is those moments, we need a bigger God. What are you holding onto from this world that God can’t have?
We all have Mount Moriah’s in out life. Obedience to Christ is our burnt offering. It’s our Holocaust. As God calls us in the night may we immediately arise in the morning and head to our Mariah. The sacrifice was a test to show Abraham where his faith rested. And just like Abraham, we have all been called and we can all sacrifice the things of this world. Because in Jesus we have victory.