In Genesis 22, we see the account of when God tested Abraham. He had promised Abraham that he would have countless descendants and that the whole world would be blessed through him. For most of Abraham’s marriage, there was already a test in believing that. His wife, Sarah, was barren. How can a man with a barren wife have any descendants at all? Yet, in Abraham’s old age, God opened Sarah’s womb, and she gave birth to a son, Isaac. The promise was, to Abraham, back on track.
But then, the LORD tested Abraham again. He told him to
Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.
Many are quick to scoff at this idea, or rather scoff at the God who requested this act of worship. The first answer to that objective is that God is Creator, and He can do whatever He wants with His creation. Second, it would not have been unjust for Isaac to die, for he was a sinner like the rest of us. Thirdly, and most importantly, Isaac represented as Abraham’s “only son” is pointing forward to when God Himself would willingly give up His own only Son. And where Abraham would be giving up his son to One who is worthy, God would give up His Son for those who are totally unworthy, sinners like you and me.
The phrase “only son” here may be confusing at first. After all, Abraham fathered Ishmael. But this isn’t speaking numerically. This phrase refers to the son who was near and dear to Abraham. It was his beloved. The same emphasis is given in John 3:16 when He speaks of God so loving the world “that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
So, Isaac is the first type of Christ. What’s the second?
As Abraham and Isaac were walking to the place of sacrifice, Isaac noticed that they had the wood, but they didn’t have an important piece–the sacrifice. When he asked Abraham about it, Abraham responded,
God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering (22:8)
Abraham was speaking of Isaac when he said that, but his words corresponded with an even more significant reality.
Later, as Abraham was about to obey the LORD in faith and sacrifice Isaac, the angel of the LORD stopped him. The test was over. By God’s grace, Abraham had passed. But there was still a sacrifice to be made. By providence, caught in a nearby thicket was a ram. And it was this ram that was offered up instead of Isaac, and that was pleasing to the LORD.
The ram was the type of Christ. Here, is the first example of substitionary atonement. The ram took Isaac’s place. Jesus came to take our place. We deserved to have the weight of the wrath of God poured on to us, but instead He poured it out on His Son, for everyone who believes in Him. What glorious grace! Glory in Christ when you read of Abraham, Isaac, and the ram!