Our commemoration today is for the great patriarch Abraham, and we read a devotion adapted from Courageous Fathers of the Bible.
God promised to make Abraham the father of many nations and to bless all peoples of the world through his offspring. Yet in Genesis 22, we see God ask Abraham to sacrifice his promised and beloved son. In this account, we see not only a display of Abraham’s faithfulness but also God’s mercy in sparing Isaac. Most gloriously, we see a foreshadowing of Jesus, how He would become the sacrifice, and how it is only His blood that makes us righteous before God.
The Lord made a spectacular promise to Abraham (who was technically still just Abram) about his being the father of “a great nation” (Genesis 12:2). But to be the father of a great nation, one needed a son, or at the very least, a child of some kind. And in this regard, Abraham was sorely lacking. Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was barren.
Abraham waited a full ten years for the incredible promise to come true. But, the waiting got the best of him, and with his Sarah’s help he hatched a plan to help God keep His promise (Genesis 16:1–4). Sarah’s compliant maid Hagar supplied the womb, and Abraham became the father of Ishmael.
Thirteen years passed before God let Abraham know that He did not need help with the plan. By this time, Abraham had probably become quite comfortable with the way things were moving forward—in spite of the domestic strife between Hagar and the envious Sarah. So, when God reiterated the promise of a great nation, Abraham assumed that it was already in full gear, through Ishmael. The response was unambiguous: “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac” (Genesis 17:19). A year later, the impossible promise was reality.
And so we come, at last, to the real heart of the Abraham story—the disconcerting, unsettling story of Genesis 22. You know it. “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” (Genesis 22:2). No ambiguity here. None. And this time, Abraham offers no hesitation, and no attempt to redirect the plan.
The writer to the Hebrews exults in the faith of Abraham (Hebrews 11:17–19). Abraham will follow the plan—all the way. If it is God’s plan to make a great nation of Abraham, and if God is determined to build this nation through Isaac, and if that same God has now commanded the destruction of this promised son, the linchpin of the whole plan, well, then, God will simply have to raise the slaughtered Isaac from the dead!
What we see on Mount Moriah is a hint of what will happen in that place centuries later: the Son brutally slaughtered for the sake of the plan. And then, the surprise outcome—suddenly, impossibly—God intervenes and life is the last word after all. No, it is not child abuse. It is the Creator going beyond the limits of human reason or imagination to redeem all of His children. It is the Son so thoroughly trusting His Father that He follows the Father’s will all the way—even into and through death and hell itself. It is the Father doing all that is necessary to accomplish the plan—this time with no last-minute substitution of a ram. This time, the Lamb pays the full price and makes the sacrifice. And this time, the resurrection is not figurative; Jesus does not come within a breath of death. This time, He truly, literally dies. And from the depth of death itself, He comes back, gloriously alive.
Lord God, heavenly Father, You promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, You led him to the land of Canaan, and You sealed Your covenant with him by the shedding of blood. May we see in Jesus, the Seed of Abraham, the promise of the new covenant of Your Holy Church, sealed with Jesus’ blood on the cross and given to us now in the cup of the new testament; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Devotional reading is adapted from Courageous Fathers of the Bible, pages 27–31 © 2011 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Prayer is from Treasury of Daily Prayer, page 797 © 2008 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.