"And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of."—Gen_22:1, Gen_22:2.
The word tempt properly signifies, to try or prove: and the scene before us was intended to try the greatness of Abraham's love to, and faith in, God. He had displayed great trust in the Lord on previous occasions, but he was now to be tried, by being subjected to one of the severest sacrifices that God ever demanded from man.
The passage before us presents, I. The Command of God. II. The Obedience of Abraham. And, III. The Final Result.
I. The Command of God.
"Take now thy Son," &c. Observe,
1. The object referred to.
"Thy son." Not his bullocks or rams, not a servant; but his son. "Thine only son Isaac." Not Ishmael, the son of the bondwoman; but Isaac, the only son of Sarah, the child of his old age.
2. The duty enjoined.
"And offer him for a burnt-offering." It would have been hard for him to have devoted him to a life of solitude; but how much more severe to take away his life; and that, too, with his own hand! Not allowed to depute another to perform this work of blood. And to offer him as a burnt-offering. by which he would be reduced to ashes by the consuming flame Observe,
3. The almost insuperable difficulties connected with this command.
What might Abraham have pleaded against the performance of this solemn command?
(1) It was strange and unprecedented. Nothing like it had ever proceeded out of the mouth of the Lord. Sacrifices of beasts had been enjoined; but of presenting a human sacrifice there was no example, &c.
(2) It was directly opposed to the feel ings of our common humanity. And have not these feelings been planted within us by God? And are they not worthy of him who has implanted them? But here is a command at perfect variance with them—a command that is to do the greatest violence to them—by shedding the blood of man; and that man an only son.
(3) It was a violation of the divine law Gen_9:5.
(4) It would annihilate all his hopes in reference to the long-promised seed. It was counter to all God's promises and solemn declarations on this subject; and thus, when the long-expected and prayed-for dawn had appeared, to throw around him the most palpable and utter darkness.
(5) It would destroy all his domestic comfort. How would Sarah bear the tidings? From that hour, desolation, mourning, and wo would be written on the walls of his dwelling.
(6) It would render him odious to all around him. How could he clear his character, and wash out from his hands the stains of blood? Would he not be received, however he might attempt to defend his conduct, as a murderer of the most barbarous description?
These were some of the difficulties connected with the duty enjoined. Notice,
II. The Obedience of Abraham.
"And Abraham rose up early," &c. His obedience,
1. Was prompt.
He hesitates not—seeks no delay—requires no time for consideration; but as it is likely he received the solemn command during the darkness of the night, so he rises early in the morning, and makes preparation for its execution 2. It was deliberate.
Whatever anguish might be felt within there was no confusion in his manner. His servants are engaged—the wood. prepared—the ass saddled—and the journey commenced.
3. It was persevering.
The journey was one of three days' length. During the whole of this time Isaac was before his eyes. What time for reflection—for doubt—for abandoning the project! Besides, there was Isaac's distressing interrogatory: "Behold the fire, and the wood, but where is the lamb?" &c. And there would, also, be the address to his son, before he was bound; for he was now near thirty years of age. How he would have to relate to him all God's conduct towards himself, in calling him from his own country—in giving him such glorious promises—then their delay; last of all, by miracle, his own conception and birth, as the fulfilment of them—the joy it produced—how it strengthened faith, brightened hope, and increased his joy; and now the very mysterious, unheard-of, and to all human appearance the blighting command, to slay that son of promise! How his heart would heave with emotion, and his eyes be suffused with bitterest tears, in the recital of this mysterious history! Isaac listens—submits—is bound—stretched upon the rude altar; and now, the knife is raised to pierce the heart of his child! when a voice is heard: "Abraham, Abraham, lay not thine hand upon the lad," &c. This leads us,
III. To the Final Result.
1. Isaac is spared.
Given back as from the dead.
2. A sacrifice is provided.
"A ram caught," &c.; ver. 13.
3. Abraham is graciously distinguished for his faith and supreme love to God; ver. 16.
4. The promises are renewed; ver. 17.
5. God is glorified in and by the whole.
Learn, 1. The nature of true and acceptable obedience. To do whatsoever God commands.
2. The principle of true obedience. Faith in God.
3 The power of saving faith in the sacrifices it freely makes.
4. The reward of true obedience.
5. The subject directs us to Jesus Christ. To him who was delivered up of his Father for our sins, who shed his blood for our redemption; for whom no substitute was found; against whom, as the good Shepherd, the sword of justice did awake and pierce through and through, that he might give eternal life unto his sheep. He ascended the same mount—bore his cross—and was truly offered as a propitiatory offering for the world; 1Jn_2:2; Heb ix