Why did God ask Abraham to sacrifice his son?

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“By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, that in Isaac shall thy seed be called: accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.” Hebrews 11:17-19 (Read Genesis 22:1-19)

Why would God tell Abraham to take Isaac — his only son of promise, whom he loved — to a mountain in the land of Moriah and offer him there as a burnt sacrifice? How could God tell Abraham to give up his only-begotten Son of promise?

The first answer (and an often overlooked answer) is that sin demands it. The Bible tells us that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) and “the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20). What Abraham deserved as a sinner, and what Isaac also deserved, was to die for his sin. It is also what we deserve for our sin.

Secondly, God’s test points ahead to what God would do for the sins of the world. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). God sent His only-begotten Son, born of Mary and a descendant of Abraham, to be the perfect and holy sacrifice for the sins of the world (cf. John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:18-20).

The Bible clearly tells us that none of us “can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: (for the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever:) that he should still live for ever, and not see corruption” (Psalm 49:7-9). Therefore, God Himself had to provide the Lamb — a perfect and sinless Lamb, His only-begotten Son — to be sacrificed in our stead and to suffer and die upon the cross for our sins.

And it is certainly significant that God commanded Abraham to offer up Isaac on a specific mountain in the land of Moriah and there provided a substitute ram, caught in a thicket, to be offered up in the stead of Isaac.

First of all, the location is the later site of Jerusalem, where Christ Jesus was offered up for our sins. Consider 2 Chronicles 3:1: “Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD at Jerusalem in mount Moriah, where the Lord appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had prepared in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.”

And, as God provided a substitute ram to be offered up in the place of Isaac, so God provided a Substitute for you and for me – He gave His own Son to die in our stead and make atonement for our sins and the sins of the whole world (cf. 1 John 2:1,2). “Jehovah-jireh … In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen” (Genesis 22:14).

In faith, Abraham took his son Isaac and was ready to offer him up as a sacrifice, trusting that God could indeed raise him up again and fulfill His promises to Abraham to bless all nations through the Seed of Abraham and Isaac (cf. Genesis 22:18). And, in a figure, Abraham received his son back again alive from the dead.

So also Christ Jesus, who suffered and died the just punishment for the sins of the world, was raised up again on the third day. As the Bible tells us, Jesus Christ “was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:25). His resurrection is proof that God accepted His sacrifice as full payment for the sins of the world, and through faith in Jesus we are justified and counted righteous and acceptable in God’s eyes. Because Jesus died for our sins, in our stead, and rose again, we who trust in Him have the assurance that our sins are paid for in full and forgiven and that we too will be raised up on the last day to life eternal!

O Gracious and merciful God, we thank You for giving up Your only-begotten Son to suffer and die in our stead that we might have forgiveness and life eternal through faith in His name. Amen.

[Scripture taken from the King James Version of the Bible]

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