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One of the stumbling blocks for infidels is the biblical story of Abraham being instructed by God to sacrifice his son Isaac. The objection: “How could a God of love ask a father to inflict such cruel and unusual punishment upon his own son?”
The command of God to Abraham was indeed a TEST of his faith. But in order to understand the nature of the test, we must have before us ALL the facts. Consider Hebrews 11:17-19:
Unlike Abraham’s son Ishmael (offspring of the FLESH), whom he sired through handmaiden Hagar, Isaac (offspring of the PROMISE) came along some fourteen years later. God PROMISED Abraham he would fulfill ALL his promises through Isaac, not Ishmael. When God instructed Abraham to offer up his son, Abraham did so with a PROMISE in his back pocket—a promise he would NOT have had if he had been asked to offer up Ishmael.
So the true test for Abraham was this: Was his God big enough to make good on his promise on the other side of his obedience? In his heart, Abraham answered that question in the affirmative, believing God would raise Isaac from the dead, if necessary, to make good on the promise!
At worst, Abraham’s obedience was going to cost him short-term PAIN in exchange for long-term GAIN—a pain he was willing to endure for the greater expectation of a resurrection as fulfillment of the promise!
Two considerations are in order. First is the practical application of obedience IF God were to ask US for the same level of sacrifice. But let’s be sure to compare apples with apples. If God had given us a promise like he gave Abraham regarding his son, we might also be predisposed to obey with a similar promise in OUR back pocket.
Second is the prophetic significance. On that same hill of Moriah nearly two thousand years later, God the Father would fulfill that picture in the offering up of his own Son for our sins! Just like Abraham, the death of the Lord Jesus would represent short-term PAIN in exchange for long-term GAIN—both for his Son, whom he would raise in a glorified body and re-ensconce on the throne of heaven, and for believers, to whom he makes the promise of eternal life, including a resurrected body like unto that of his Son.
The Lord STAYED the hand of Abraham so Isaac would not be harmed. But regarding his only begotten Son, the Lord SPARED NOT his own Son, but “delivered him up for us all” (Romans 8:32).
When we consider Abraham’s obedience in relation to what God might require of us, let’s be sure to compare apples with apples, and not apples with oranges. When God requires obedience of us and connects it to a promise, let us have faith enough to believe God is big enough to make good on his promise on the other side of our obedience!
As for skeptics who find fault with God for demanding such a cruel and unusual act of obedience from Abraham, I have this succinct response: You simply DO NOT KNOW the God of scripture!