Today we commemorate Isaac by reading about when his father, Abraham, trusted and followed God’s command to sacrifice him. God substituting a ram for Isaac foreshadowed Him sacrificing His own Son on the cross to bear our sins in our place. Our devotional reading is from Fusion: Resurrections.
Often, people feel bad for Isaac because he appears to be coerced into laying down his life. Luther, however, estimates that Isaac was around twenty years of age when his father led him to his sacrifice. Other theologians have speculated that Isaac was anywhere from twenty-five to thirty-seven. The point to be made is that this was not some young child, totally helpless and dependent upon his father, who was being lured away to his death. Rather, with Abraham at around one hundred twenty years of age, and his son a young man, Isaac probably could have ended this excursion at any point with brute strength and youth alone. Yet, “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7; Acts 8:32). It is Isaac who lays down his life of his own accord, for he alone has “authority to lay it down” (John 10:18). The faithfulness of Abraham is matched by the faithfulness of his son, Isaac. But what was the driving force behind Abraham’s faithfulness, and Isaac’s for that matter? What would allow a father to sacrifice his son? What would allow a son to be bound to an altar and burned to ashes? What would allow a person to obey the will of God, even unto death? . . .
Being faithful unto death is completely dependent upon whether or not a person has hope. If there is no hope, there is no faithfulness. Abraham and Isaac can be faithful only on account of the hope they possess. This hope is very concrete and clearly seen by the instruction Abraham gave to the two young men who accompanied them on the journey to Moriah. Abraham said to them, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you” (Genesis 22:5). Catch that? Not “I will come again to you,” but “I and the boy will . . . come again to you.”
Abraham’s hope cannot be seen as unwillingness to sacrifice his own son. As far as Abraham was concerned, there was no backing out. But there was hope! Not hope that God would provide an animal, since Isaac was that lamb. Rather, his hope was that God was faithful and would not lie. Isaac was the promised child of Abraham and Sarah. He was conceived by God in the womb of one who should not have been pregnant. He was the child through whom God’s everlasting covenant would be established (Genesis 17:19). He was a key link to the Messiah to come, Jesus Christ. Therefore, Abraham was firmly convinced that God, who said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named” (Genesis 21:12), would not lie, nor void His promise. Therefore, though Isaac be killed, God would raise him from the dead, so as to not break His promise. . . . This is true hope. This is true faith. Abraham believed God. He believed his son could not be killed forever. He believed he would bear offspring and remain the child of the covenant. Thus Abraham could make that long walk to his son’s death. He believed in the resurrection!
O God, since You promised faithful Abraham that he would be the father of a great multitude, You provided a substitute for his son, Isaac. In the fullness of time, You sent Your Son, the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world, to lay down His life that we might live as faithful children of Abraham. Grant to all people a living trust in Your mercy; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Devotional reading and prayer are from Fusion: Resurrections, pages 11–12, 15 © 2007 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.