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Confidence In Times of Testing

Genesis 22:1-14.

The Sacrifice of Isaac

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “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 on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.

On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” And 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 they went both of them together. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. 

When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 

11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 

13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

What is the greatest time of testing you ever had in your life? 

In today’s passage we will see what happened when God gave Abraham and Isaac a test that they never could have imagined God would give them. 


First, let’s look at the structure of this text. 

(V.1) “God tested Abraham.”

  • Testing is when God brings a situation whereby the believer must make hard choices that could harm him or her, or simply test our obedience and love. Temptation is when we see something or are offered something that is a violation of God’s will, character, or law (morals). Temptations are designed to make us fail. Testing is designed to strengthen and prove our character.

Here’s one example. God tested Job by allowing Satan to destroy everything he had. But Job’s wife tempted him to curse God.

(V.2) “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.”

A little background: Abraham loved his son dearly. He was a child of promise. Scripture recognizes this when it says, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love…” Thus, when God spoke to Abraham about sacrificing his son, Abraham probably had great turmoil. Yet, he obeyed because Abraham already had a promise from God that he would build a nation from Isaac. Faced with a promise and a sacrifice, Abraham deduced that God would raise Isaac from the dead.

  • Moriah was located where the temple of the Lord would eventually be built. Today that site is home to the Dome of the Rock, an Islamic mosque.

(V.2) “Burnt offering.”

  • An offering that was completely consumed by fire except for the blood which was sprinkled on the altar. A burnt offering was a sin offering, usually of a bull or a lamb.

(V.3) “So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey…”

It’s likely that Abraham rode the donkey while the young men and Isaac walked. Abraham probably rode the donkey because of his advanced age. He might not have been strong enough to walk the three-day journey. This make’s Isaac’s sacrifice more poignant. Isaac could have easily resisted his father, but instead he obeyed him and let his father prepare him for sacrifice.

(V.3) “went to the place of which God had told him.”

  • This is one of those repeated phrases. This is an important statement because the way we worship God is as important as the worship itself. If Abraham had made his offering somewhere else, it would have violated God’s command and become sin. We also must worship in the way in which God commands. We don’t incorporate other styles of worship from outside the church.

(V.4) “On the third day.”

Travel time was three days. At any point in those three days Abraham could have turned back. But he did not. Each day he knew he was planning to kill his son, yet each day he continued forward. 

(V.4) “Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey.”

The young men stayed with the donkey. SPECULATION: Abraham had them remain because they could have stopped him from making a sacrifice. Abraham was bent on obeying God, no matter what.

(V.5) “I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”

  • Abraham expected his son to return with him. “He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back” (Hebrews 11:19). 

(V.6) “Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son.”

  • Isaac carried the wood just as Jesus carried his cross.

(V.6) “And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. 

(V.8) “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering.”

  • The structure of this passage points right to the middle, the entire point that the passage is making about Abraham who answers his son’s question by saying God will provide the lamb. Isaac may have wondered if he was to be sacrificed because the surrounding nations sometimes offered their children as burnt offerings. He might have suspected, but Abraham’s answer may have comforted him.

(V.6&8) “So they went both of them together.”

This repeated statement encloses the center of our passage. Here is the whole point of the passage. God will provide a lamb. So Abraham and Isaac went forward, together, to the sacrifice. 

(V.9) “bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar.”

As stated earlier, Abraham was probably not that strong. For him to lay his son on the altar Isaac would have had to cooperate. This is significant because most scholars say that Isaac was somewhere between the ages of 18 and 33. This signifies that Isaac could have easily resisted his father. But he didn’t. He had to cooperate with his father in his own sacrifice.

This is also a picture of the coming Jesus. Jesus went willingly to the cross. He never denied the charges against him. He went with the authorities to his crucifixion. 

(V.10) “Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son.”

The word used here for “slaughter” was normally used to denote the killing of an animal. Abraham was about to kill his son in the manner in which animals are slaughtered, usually by slitting the neck. Other passages also use this term about Jesus:

  • “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; 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). Like Jesus, Christians are also expected to have this kind of trial in our lives. “Yet for your sake, we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered” (Psalm 44:22).

(V.11) “Abraham Abraham!”

In verse 1 God calls Abraham’s name once. But in verse 11 he calls out twice. Probably because Abraham is only a moment away from killing his son. He’s right there, at the second it’s going to happen, and God calls out urgently for him to stop.

(V.1&11) “Here I am.”

At the beginning of our passage and at the end. This is the third time Abraham answers, “Here I am.” First, in response to God’s call. Second in response to his son’s question. And third in response to God’s call not to harm the boy. Each response to God is followed by obedience. 

(V.12) “Now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”

God uses the phrase, “Now I know…” Does this imply that God doesn’t know something or that he had to discover something? 

  • The term, “Know” in this passage can be taken as a knowing by “experience.” God knows all things intellectually, but he also experiences them as time progresses. God experienced Abraham’s faithfulness; thus, he knows it. The same is true when the scripture says a man “Knows” a woman. The man knows what intimacy his, but when he experiences it, it is said that he, “knows” his wife.

(V.13) “Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.”

God did not tell Abraham to offer a sacrifice of the ram instead of his son. But he provided a ram so Abraham deduced that he must sacrifice it. The ram replaced Isaac, just as Jesus replaced the ram in ritual sacrifices.

(V.4&13) “Abraham lifted up his eyes.”

Verse 13 is a reversal of verse 4. 

(V.14) “The Lord will provide.”

Here is the crux of our passage. It is not Abraham who provided the sacrifice, it was the Lord who provided the ram. So too, the Lord provided the sacrifice of Christ for us. Because of that sacrifice we can live out verses 6 and 8, “So they went both of them together.”


What have we learned?

  1. There is a difference between trials and temptations
  2. God sometimes asks his people to do hard things.
  3. Obedience brings blessing, just as Abraham was blessed by God’s provision of the ram.
  4. The sacrifice of Isaac was a foreshadowing of the coming of Christ.

Look at the three “Here I am” statements:

  • V.1 is a response of obedience
  • V.7 is in the process of obedience, and
  • V.11 is the conclusion or reward of obedience (V.15-19)

The author’s Big Idea:

  • God provides through obedience.

Had Abraham not obeyed the call, no ram would have been provided. Provision happens through obedience.

There are some things that people say God will never test us with. They say he won’t give you something you can’t handle. Or they say he won’t test you beyond your limits. But today’s passage tells us quite plainly, those things are not true.

There is one passage that would seem to contradict this principle. It’s in I Corinthians.

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (I Corinthians 10:13).

This statement is not about testing; it’s about temptation. In today’s passage what Abraham experienced was not a temptation, it was a test. In fact, there are things in the Christian life that are beyond us without the help of the Holy Spirit. 

God’s greatest provision was in providing Jesus as the sacrifice for our sins. The sacrifice of Isaac foreshadows this. 

Remember how God commanded Abraham. He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love…” God was asking Abraham to sacrifice the thing most important to him in the world: his son. 


How has God provided for you? We usually think of material provision. But God also provides through relationships: relationship with him, and relationship with others.

God provided for Abraham’s need for a sacrifice through his relationship of obedience. So, this is our point of application.

  • Obedience brings provision.

What is the Lord calling you to do in obedience? 

What is the Lord calling you to sacrifice? 

Tom Terry is head of Global Broadcast Strategy for JESUS Film Project and serves as General Manager of The Better FM, an online radio station for Asia. Tom is also the author of several books, including Bible studies and "Like An Eagle," his biography about living in Mongolia for ten years.
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