The Gospel in the Old Testament: Not Sparing a Beloved Son
Sometimes God's ways are confusing or even appear cruel, especially if we only look at the Old Testament. But then the cross gloriously clears up the confusion and reveals who He really is with such clarity and power.
Later writers, reflecting on the incident, make much of the turmoil in Abraham’s heart, although the biblical narrative has little enough to say on this score. Indeed, the impression we get from the biblical narrative is that Abraham treated it as God’s problem: it was for God, and not for Abraham, to reconcile His promise and His command. So, when the command was given, Abraham promptly set about obeying it; his own duty was clear, and God could safely be trusted to discharge His responsibility in this matter. F.F. Bruce Epistle to the Hebrews
Earlier, Abraham had been tested as to whether he would believe that God could do the seemingly impossible task of giving Abraham and Sarah a son. That was a test, but it was not as hard as this one. This test involved a conflict apparently within the words of God Himself. God has promised posterity through Isaac. But God had now also commanded Abraham to kill him.
How could this problem be resolved? There were only two ways. Abraham could have concluded that God was erratic, wavering from one plan to another because He did not know His own mind. This had not been Abraham’s experience of God. The long wait for the son had taught him better than that. Or Abraham could have concluded that, although he – being finite and sinful - was unable to see the resolution of the difficulty, God could nevertheless be trusted to have a resolution, which He Himself would certainly disclose in due time. This was the harder of the two options to accept, but Abraham’s experience of God led in this direction.
Abraham acted in a manner consistent with his knowledge of God. That is, he trusted Him, concluding that whatever God’s purposes may or may not have been in this situation, God had at least shown that He could not be his enemy. God was his friend. When the command to sacrifice Isaac was first given, Abraham did not understand how, if the command were carried out the promise could be fulfilled. But that was alright. Abraham left the difficulty with God, which is the essence of true faith. What is faith? Faith is believing God and acting upon it. That is what Abraham did. God had shown He could be trusted, so Abraham believed God and acted, even though he could not understand the solution to the difficulty. James BoiceGenesis 12-36
Sermon discussion topics for parents to use with their children:
Why did God's command to Abraham both trouble and confuse him?
Why was Isaac so central in God's plan of redemption?
What did Abraham conclude was going to happen?
Why is Abraham's faith and obedience commended?
Why is God not considered cruel in this request and all suffering?
Why is the cross central in understanding God and His heart?