In Genesis 22, God issues Abraham with an unimaginable instruction: To take his only son, Isaac, and sacrifice him. We frequently celebrate Abraham's obedience, but what about Isaac? What is his response? Join us as we look at this age-old tale with fresh eyes.
My girls were born with glitter in their veins. When they were little, they loved to dress up as princesses and reenact their favourite fairy tales, but at times, the lines between fantasy and reality got a little blurred, and it was hard for them to discern fact from fiction. As we read the familiar Sunday School stories of Scripture, the lines can get somewhat blurred for us, too. We forget that these were real people—not fanciful stories but actual events.
A perfect example of this is found in Genesis 22 where we find the last two recorded conversations between God and Abraham. These final interactions have echoes of the first: an instruction to go somewhere that God will later show him and a promise of blessing. But this time, God asks something of Abraham that will cost him everything. He asks him to take his son, Isaac, and sacrifice him as a burnt offering (v.2). Can you even imagine?
We read these conversations with the end in mind, knowing that Isaac is spared when God provides a ram to be sacrificed in his place (v.13). From our stance in history, we see a beautiful foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Jesus that secured our freedom. But Abraham doesn’t know any of this. He only knows what God has asked of him and what God has promised. And as he weighs these things, his response is to get up early the next morning and set out to do the unthinkable.
Every step that Abraham takes towards Moriah is a step of actively surrendered obedience—an act of worship.
But he isn’t the only one taking those steps.
Genesis 21 closes with Isaac newly weaned, and because of this, many have assumed that he is still a child when Abraham is asked to sacrifice him. But the events of Genesis 22 occur “some time later” (v.1), and based on Sarah’s age when she dies (Genesis 23:1-2), rabbinic tradition places him at the age of about 37. Isaac is not a child with no say in the matter; he is a full-grown man who trusts and co-operates with what his father is doing. Twice, Genesis 22 tells us that Abraham and Isaac walk together—once before Isaac knows that he is the sacrifice and once after (vv.6 & 8). This account is not just of Abraham’s surrendered faith but also of Isaac’s; together they point us to how the Father and Jesus walk in unity of purpose and to Christ’s willingness to lay down His life (John 10:17-18).
Faith calls us to surrender our own will in order to make room in our lives for His will. We can only do this if we keep the truth of who God is firmly in view. This is what enables Abraham to walk in surrender through his most painful and costly trial yet. He knows God has said that it is through Isaac that his descendants will come, and he knows that God is faithful to what He promises—so he keeps looking up. As he walks, he lifts up his eyes (v.4) and sees the mountain God told him about; he has received guidance. He will later lift up his eyes (v.13) and see the ram, beholding God’s provision.
Abraham’s willingness to surrender leads both him and Isaac to experience God in a new way: as Jehovah Jireh, the One who provides. And God rewards his faithfulness, reaffirming His promise and extending it further with the declaration that “your seed [Jesus] shall possess the gate of His enemy. In your seed all the nations of the earth will be blessed—because you obeyed My voice” (Genesis 22:17-18 TLV).
Like Abraham and Isaac, we are called to walk with God in obedient surrender, lifting our eyes to see His faithful provision, and offering ourselves as living sacrifices. As Paul teaches, this is the “true and proper” response to God’s mercy and the way of transformation (Romans 12:1-2).
Where is God inviting you to take a step of surrendered obedience? What do you need to remember about His character to be able to follow where He is leading you?