Gospel Revealed in the Abraham & Isaac Story Jehovah Jireh
The Lord will Provide
Have you ever wondered why the story describing Abraham preparing to sacrifice his only son is in the Bible? It is a bizarre story, one that might be difficult to make relevant in our life. However, millions over the world sacrifice their children on the altar of abortion every year. Child sacrifice was common in Abraham’s day, as it is now. The Canaanites often sacrificed their first-born to the sun god, Molech. The Bible describes this detestable practice as an abomination to God. God moved Abraham from a similar pagan culture in Iraq and brought him to the land of Canaan. God separated him from his people to follow the one true God. He was not a God who enjoyed human sacrifices. In fact, the Scriptures clearly state that every human life is precious in God’s sight. So why did God ask Abraham to sacrifice his only son with Sarah? Let us delve into the life of Abraham and connect with God’s endearing truths.
Abraham’s family did not follow God. They worshipped the pagan gods of the Mesopotamian Valley. Abraham’s father, Terah, crafted idols of pagan gods as an occupation. Abraham was a man heavily influenced by a world at war with God. God called Abram out of that environment. The name ‘Abram’ means ‘exalted father.’
Terah took Abram and his wife, Sarah, as well as his grandson, Lot, and moved north from Ur of the Chaldeans (present day southern Iraq) to the city of Haran (present day Syria) near the Euphrates River. They originally intended to move to Canaan, but only made it half way. The trip was long and arduous. Haran was approximately 500 miles northwest of Ur. Abram likely worried about his elderly father’s health. Terah neared 200 years of age at that time. They settled in Haran, probably because this city was named after Abram’s older brother, Haran, who had died some years earlier. Haran likely lived there, but left temporarily to visit his family in Mesopotamia. He died in the city of Ur in his father’s presence (Gen. 11: 28). Haran was also the father of Lot. Perhaps Terah and Lot moved to settle the affairs of Haran in his hometown. The Book of Acts reveals God called Abram to move from Ur to Canaan.
And he (Stephen) said, “Hear me, brethren and fathers! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Leave your country and your relatives, and come into the land that I will show you.’ Then he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. From there, after his father died, God had him move to this country in which you are now living (Acts 7: 2-4).
At any rate, Abram lacked the faith to finish the journey to Canaan. Terah died in Haran several years later at 205 years old. God spoke once again to Abram:
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing. And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” So Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him (Genesis 12: 1-4).
God introduced the ‘Abrahamic covenant’ in these verses. God later sealed this covenant by blood in Genesis 15. This eternal Divine promise would extend at least four thousand years to its ultimate fulfillment in the God’s millennial Kingdom on earth (Revelation 20). Abram faithfully trusted God on that occasion and moved to the land of Canaan at age 75 with his wife, Sarah, and his nephew, Lot. The Lord promised Abram He would make of him a great nation in Canaan. God pledged ‘all the families of the earth will be blessed’ in Abram. This promise still awaits its total fulfillment. The millennial kingdom will see all families of the earth blessed in Abram, because his ‘Seed,’ Jesus Christ, will then rule the world and forever after. Those who trust Jesus as Lord and Savior are recipients of the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant. Abram needed children quickly so God could carry out His promise. But Sarah remained barren.
The Lord later appeared to Abram in a vision after he had lived many years in Canaan. God said, “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; your reward shall be very great” (Gen. 15: 1). Abram was advanced in years by that time—likely over 80 years old. To whom could he pass an inheritance? He still had no children.
Abram said, “O Lord God, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Since You have given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir.” Then behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.” And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness (Gen. 15: 2-5).
Abram had no children at nearly 85 years old. He remembered God’s earlier promise of descendants that would bless all families of the earth. That just didn’t seem to square with reality. It was time for Abram to write a will to pass an inheritance to his servant, Eliezer. But God, set the record straight once again. God would grant Abram a son from his body, and his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the heavens. Once again, Abram trusted God by faith. God reckoned that faith as righteousness. Faith is always the path to God. God subsequently sealed this unconditional covenant with Abram with the blood of many animals—a three-year old heifer, goat, and ram, as well as a turtledove, and a pigeon. Why were the larger animals three years old? Numbers are very important in Scripture. The number ‘3’ is used quite often and has great significance. There are ‘3’ persons of the Godhead, ‘3’ apostles in Jesus’ inner circle, ‘3’ days Jonah spent in the belly of the whale, and (most importantly) ‘3’ days Jesus spent in His tomb prior to resurrecting from the dead. Likely, the blood of these animals prophetically pictured the blood of the Savior spent to seal the ‘New Covenant’—the precious blood that atoned for the sins of mankind.
Sarah’s faith grew weak after they had lived ten years in Canaan. She was seventy-five years old and still could not conceive. She instructed her husband to lay with her handmaiden, Hagar. Abram obeyed her instructions. He did not wait on God, demonstrating a lapse of faith. The repercussions of this act echoed down thousands of years to play out in many mortal conflicts between Israel and the descendants of Ishmael. Even today the conflicts between Israel and surrounding Arab nations can ultimately be traced to this one event—a lack of Abram’s faith exploited by Satan. As noted earlier, Abram means ‘exalted father,’ but he had no children. Hagar conceived and bore him a son, Ishmael (Gen. 16: 3-4). Abram initially believed God’s promises would come through Ishmael. He was then 86 years old. Eleven years had passed since he left Haran for Canaan.
Thirteen years later, God appeared once again to reinforce His covenant promise with Abram. On this occasion God embellished His earlier promises by proclaiming Abram would be a father of many nations and changed his name to Abraham, meaning ‘father of many nations.’ Abraham was ninety-nine years old at this time.
Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying, “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be the father of a multitude of nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee” (Gen. 17: 3-7).
The Apostle Paul later wrote of this verse and spoke of Abraham’s righteousness by faith—not through works of the law. “For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.” (Rom. 4: 13). Faith gets God’s attention and earns His accolades. Paul recorded more of Abraham’s faith several verses later in that same chapter:
yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. Therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness (Romans 4: 20-22).
But Sarah was still barren at age ninety. Abraham concluded God’s blessings would flow through Ishmael. But that was not God’s plan.
Then God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child? And Abraham said to God, “ Oh that Ishmael might live before You!” But God said, “No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him” (Genesis 17: 15-20).
Sarai means ‘my princess.’ God changed her name to Sarah—‘princess.’ God chose her as the ancestress of His promised nations and kings—the ‘mother of nations.’
Indeed, Sarah finally conceived at age ninety years old. She bore a son, Isaac, whose name means, ‘laughter. Sarah later chased Hagar and Ishmael away because of her jealousy.
So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac. Then Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.” The child grew and was weaned, and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned (Gen 21: 2-8).
Now Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, mocking. Therefore, she said to Abraham, “Drive out this maid and her son, for the son of this maid shall not be an heir with my son Isaac.” The matter distressed Abraham greatly because of his son. But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the lad and your maid; whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her, for through Isaac your descendants shall be named. And of the son of the maid I will make a nation also, because he is your descendant” (Gen 21: 9-13).
So three of them remained in Canaan—Abraham, Sarah, and their beloved son, Isaac—destined to become the father of kings, nations and many peoples. Abraham circumcised Isaac on his 8th day in the world. God’s covenant promises would now pass to Isaac and his descendants. The covenant promises included: 1) a great nation, Israel; 2) the land of Canaan, with borders extending from the Nile River in Egypt to the Euphrates River in Iraq; 3) Abraham’s descendants would be so numerous they could not be counted—like the stars in the sky (Gen. 15: 5). This promise still awaits a future fulfillment that is detailed in Rev. 7: 9-10:
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
God clothes each of these individuals with a white robe of righteousness, revealing their sins have been atoned by the Lamb. They are pure and holy. They cry out in unison: “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” The blood of Jesus Christ has saved and purchased each of these individuals. Their chant attributes this great work to Him.
Some prophetic scholars interpret this Scripture as revealing the timing of rapture of the Body of Christ—the Church in this world. Certainly, that is a distinct possibility, as this multitude consists of people of all languages scattered over the entire world. Jesus has led this great multitude into God’s heavenly domain with triumph. If this event is the rapture, its timing would follow Jesus’ breaking of the sixth seal. That would be after the mid-point of the 7-year tribulation.
Waving palm branches reminds us of the Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem days before His death. The multitude waved palm fronds before the Lord as He rode into Jerusalem. They chanted: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!” (Matt. 21: 9). Hosanna means, “save now I pray.” Hosanna was their call to God for salvation.
The multitude in Rev 7: 9-10 is not asking for salvation. They are praising God for salvation received. The palm frond is an ancient symbol of victory. This multitude proclaims the greatest victory of all times and waves palm branches before God the Father and God the Son. This Scripture fulfills God’s covenant promise to Abraham—a countless multitude of descendants—like the stars in the heavens.
Finally, 4) the covenant through Abraham’s ‘Seed’ would bless all families of the earth. Fulfillment of this will occur in the millennial kingdom, as noted above.
Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” 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 the two of them walked on together. Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together. Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. Abraham called the name of that place The LORD Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the LORD it will be provided.” Then the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed, I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your Seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your Seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. “In your Seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice” (Genesis 22: 1-18).
Number ‘3’ comes forth once again in this Scripture passage. Abraham came to Mt. Moriah, God’s designated place for the sacrifice on the third day. Remember, Jesus spent ‘3’ days in the belly of the earth at a location very close to this place of sacrifice.
This indeed, is one of the most interesting, yet perplexing stories in the entire Bible. Hadn’t Abraham’s faith been enough up to this point? He was one hundred years old! Why torture the old man? All the covenant promises will pass through the lineage of this one young boy. Why would God ask Abraham to sacrifice his only son? All human sacrifices were detestable to God. Would Sarah have had the faith to sacrifice her only son after a barren life of 90 years? That is unlikely. But God knew Abraham was up to the task. Abraham was a man of faith, and he had exercised it repeatedly before God. This last example portrays the greatest faith of a godly man.
But let us pause for a moment and answer these questions. The answer to each question is actually very simple. One word, one name can answer them all—Jesus, the name above all names.
God instructed Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, because this perfectly portrays what He would later do with Jesus, His only Son. God has only one Son and He was begotten only once in human flesh. Jesus perfectly fulfills the Abrahamic, Davidic, and New covenants. God sent Him into this world as a human sacrifice—His blood sealing all three of these unconditional covenants. The blessings of these covenants pass down to their recipients only through the sacrifice of God’s Son. We are those recipients. God chose us and loved us so much before He even created the world that He sent His only Son (an innocent Lamb) to be sacrificed as a criminal for the sins of all—so we could have an eternal relationship with Him. The only difference between the Abraham/Isaac story and the Jesus story is that God actually, historically did sacrifice His only Son. Jesus was God’s Lamb, sacrificed for the sins of mankind.
The next day he (John) saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1: 29).
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (Jn. 3:16).
The “Seed” of Abraham was also the “Seed” of the woman who would ultimately deliver the mortal blow to Satan. God prophesied this to Satan in Genesis 3: 15: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between your seed and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel.” That ‘Seed’ passed through Abraham for generations and ultimately was conceived by Mary, the mother of Jesus. The ‘Seed’ refers to the greatest of Abraham’s descendants, Jesus Christ. Satan understood God’s promise to Abraham. He waged a vicious attack on Abraham’s Seed from that point forward, as he had done to the ‘seeds’ of Adam and Eve (Cain and Abel). But Seth was the appointed one. Satan missed his opportunity. God appointed Abraham to carry forward His precious “Seed.”
Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his Seed. He does not say, ‘and to seeds,’ as referring to many, but rather to one, ‘And to your Seed.’ That is, Christ (Gal. 3: 16).
The Hebrew phrase for ‘the LORD will provide’ is Jehovah Jireh. God provided Abraham a sacrifice to replace his son, Isaac—the ram caught in the thicket. The ram is a grown lamb. God also provided us a grown Lamb, Jesus Christ, in a magnificent fashion. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead proved His sacrifice was acceptable to God. God forgives our sins on the basis of our faith in Jesus’ finished work. Abraham was a godly man of faith, despite all his human failings. Abraham trusted God by faith, and God rewarded him for it. God counted Abraham’s faith as righteousness. He also counts our faith as righteousness. Is Jesus Lord of your life? Perhaps now is the time to answer God’s call.