In our last post on Abram we saw that Abram’s faith was directly in Christ. This post we are going to take a look in a bit more depth at the exact nature of that faith.
Genesis chapter 22 is interesting, because in it Abram (now Abraham) is often presented as a slightly crazy Father who blindly agrees to kill his son in a fit of rather ‘interesting’ parenting. And so in Sunday school and from the pulpit, we are exhorted to have faith like Abram. That is, a faith in God that is unwavering- even in adversity. Hence the fact that if you preach Christ from the passage it is claimed you are mistaken and that the passage is actually about ‘faith’, whatever that means and not about Jesus.
Now I understand that the passage is about faith. But I don’t think its the sort of faith that is often meant by those who make such statements.
Firstly, Hebrews explains to us that the reason Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son was because he knew that the promise was going to be delivered through Isaac and therefore God would have to raise him back to life. Not because he was a sandwich short of a picnic!
‘By faith, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.’ Hebrews 11:17-19
Abraham knew this was not about a random act of violence to his son. It is when we are released from seeing the passage in this way that we see the primary burden of the text is to teach Abraham about the substitutionary work of Jesus on the cross.
Let’s look at the facts, there is a son- an only son, verse 2- who will be sacrificed and approaches his death with wood upon his back, verse 9, which will be the wood upon which he is sacrificed. Surely this is a lesson in substitutionary atonement. Which would explain why Abraham says to Isaac in verse 8: ‘God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” Verse 8. He is looking to the Lord to provide the sacrifice and knows Isaac is not it.
Consider then, that they are left with the promise in verse 14 that ‘The LORD will provide’ and they clearly grasp the point of this so deeply that they name the mountain after this fact ‘and to this day it is said “On this mountain of the LORD it will be provided.’
This is not simply a meaning that is retrospectively awarded by New Testament readers as some would contend. This is what they clearly took their experiences to mean. (And I’ll leave you thumbing through the maps to see whether the mountain region of Moriah, verse 2, was the region where Jesus the only son carried wood upon his back.) Blind faith? No. Rather a wonderful picture for Abraham of the saving and substitutionary work of Christ.