Abraham said (to Isaac), “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together. (Genesis 22:8)
Abraham and Sarah were the recipients of only one son. That boy, named Isaac, arrived late in life after much grief and waiting. Although God had promised them this son, their trust in God’s promise was already tested as they were old and had more than given up on this long ago.
Yet they did have a son. He was to be their heir and not just their heir, but also the heir to Israel’s future. As Isaac thrived so would Israel. If anything happened to him while he was still a young boy, all would be lost.
When Abraham says the above words to Isaac, they are on their way to a mountain where Abraham believes that he is to sacrifice Isaac as a way of honoring God. The writer tells us that this is a test. But it is also clear, Abraham doesn’t know that it is a test. For him it is just an order and obedience seems to both honor God and also mean that Isaac will end up dead. Abraham must have been tormented by this. Imagine having God finally come through and give you what you want and then ask you to be involved in losing it forever!
The story ends with Abraham’s statement proving to be true. God intervenes, a ram is provided, and Isaac lives. God has seen Abraham’s faith and faithfulness.
But the story points to something much bigger. It is a mini-parable of what eventually happens with Jesus. God sends Jesus to be among us knowing that he will be resisted, rejected, and eventually be killed. God will provide proves to be prophetic. Not only does God provide a ram to prevent Isaac from being sacrificed, God also provides Jesus so that we don’t sacrifice either. We learn in two ways that Hosea 6:6 is true: God “desires mercy not sacrifice.”
While we often look at the Christ story primarily as sacrificial and with Jesus as a stand-in for us, scripture points to a God who simply wants us to trust and obey. In so doing, we are to know that God can be counted on to provide. God shows us, even in the hardest of times. And God’s actions and desires are directed toward helping us live and pursue the things God is calling us to do.