Scripture Text: Genesis 22:1-14
When people hear the word “father”, many different images, memories, and feelings may occur. For some, thoughts of a father bring feelings of love, affirmation, guidance, and provision. For others, feelings of rejection, criticism, and abandonment come to the mind. Some have good experiences with their earthly fathers. Others do not. God created fatherhood and desires for all fathers to be strong, loving and supporting elements of their families. Satan, however, wants to attack the institution of fatherhood and make fathers unloving and ineffective. Why? Because if fathers are distant, disconnected, or even abusive, children will believe all fathers are this way. This impacts their view of the heavenly Father who claims to love them unconditionally. All fathers — even ones who are not Christians — are created to imitate God’s goodness. According to Josh McDowell ministries, however, the status of fatherhood in America looks bleak.
- 24 million children in the United States of America live in a fatherless home.
- 40% of students in grades 1-12 have no biological father in the home.
- 71% of teenage pregnant mothers have no father in the home.
- 71% of high school drop outs have no father present.
- Out of the 25 million children who are fatherless:
- 67% of these children will become inmates
- 30% more likely to use drugs
- 2x as likely to drop out of school
- Fatherless females are:
- 53% more likely to marry as teenagers
- 71% more likely to have children as teens
- 16% more likely to have an out of wedlock birth
- 92% more likely to get a divorce
If anything can be said about these statistics is that fathers are important. Fathers are needed. Those who claim that fathers are not needed are not speaking the truth. That is not to say that a family without a father is doomed, because many are not. It just means that good fathers who are present and involved in their families is the best design. Maybe God knew what He was doing when He creating the family with both moms and dads working together to support their families. Fathers are important.
The text today is about sacrifice, particularly about one father’s sacrifice. Sacrifice is giving up something for someone or something else. It is letting go of something that you really want for the good of someone else. Fathers oftentimes have to sacrifice for their families. They will sacrifice their personal wants and desires to do what is needed for their families. I am reminded of George Bailey in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” who sacrificed his desires and dreams to support his family. Good fathers will sacrifice for the good of their families. The text today, though, speaks of an unusual sacrifice one father made. It is a sacrifice that just about any father would dread to make.
God’s Promise to Abraham
This father was Abraham. He and his wife, Sarah, had a very special family. God had promised a son to Abraham and Sarah. After many years, God gave them a son, when Abraham was only one hundred years old. They named him Isaac, which means “He laughs”. This was appropriate as Abraham laughed when God told him about having a son at his age. When Isaac was born, Sarah also said that everyone would laugh over her for bearing a child at the young age of ninety. This son, Isaac, was the child God had promised to them many times over many years. Finally, God’s promise to them had come to pass and they rejoiced. So, God promised something wonderful to Abraham and Sarah and He fulfilled His promise to them. God is faithful and God is good.
Abraham’s Sacrifice for God
Things were great for Abraham and Sarah. God had promised them something wonderful and He delivered on that promise, but then something strange happened. God told Abraham to do something very unusual. Have you ever had someone give you something and then ask to take it away? That is somewhat like what God did here, at least it appears to be that way. Look at the following verses.
Genesis 22:1–2 1 After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “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.”
The first thing we ought to notice is the nature of this passage. The text says, “God tested Abraham,” which should tell us something extraordinary was about to happen. This might remind us of Job, whose devotion to God was called into question by Satan (Job 1:9) and God’s response to Satan invited testing that resulted in remarkable suffering. Both Abraham and Job did not know what was going on at the time. Scripture affirms that God’s people suffer for faithfully following Him. Following Jesus is not a path to peace and prosperity, as some like to believe. Paul and the rest of the apostles, even Jesus Himself, are proof of faithfully serving God through suffering. The same is true for many Christians throughout history. What was Abraham’s test? God told him to sacrifice his only son. We see the seriousness of the test. How many parents would be willing to do what God told Abraham to do? None! We cannot say that this meant nothing to Abraham, for this was his only son whom he loved. How did Abraham respond to God?
Genesis 22:3 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.
When God spoke to Abraham in the preceding verses, he responded by saying, “Here I am”. He did not try to hide from God. In response to God’s command, Abraham got up early the next morning, got himself ready, got what he needed for the sacrifice and took his son, Isaac, to the place God had told him. He obeyed God. Abraham loved Isaac, but he loved God more. This shows us one thing: the best gift a father can give to his children is his faith in God. J.T. Waresak once wrote about “Ten Traits of Effective Dads”. One of those traits is a real relationship with God. Warsak said, “[Fathers] realize that their manhood and fatherhood is directly tied to their relationship with God. This means time in God’s Word, time in prayer and time with God’s people are essential parts of their lives.” The best gift fathers can give their children is their faith in God.
Abraham demonstrated his faithfulness by obeying God. He did not know what God was planning to do, he just knew what God had told him to do. Sometimes, we do not have all the answers. Sometimes, what God tells us does not make sense. What are you going to do in those times? Will you trust and obey Him, or doubt and reject Him? Abraham trusted God and obeyed Him. He may have believed that God was going to do something miraculous. He told his servants who journeyed with him and Isaac that he and Isaac would “come again to you” (v. 5). This may indicate that he believed God was going to fulfill His prior promise that through Isaac his offspring would come. Abraham believed God was faithful and did not break His promises. God is not like those absent fathers who constantly break their promises. God is the Father Who faithfully keeps His word. Remember also, God was testing Abraham. The writer of Hebrews tells us something of Abraham’s faith and maybe what he expected to happen.
Hebrews 11:17–19 17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.
Abraham trusted God and believed God was able to make his son, Isaac, live again. Abraham demonstrated a strong faith in God. Faith is important. A father’s faith is immensely important to the health of a family. A father’s faith is immensely important to the growth of his children. You will not be a good father until you are a faithful man. So men, what are you teaching your children? How much faith are you showing to them? Do they know that you love God and are following Him?
God’s Provision for Abraham
Maybe Abraham believed that God was going to raise Isaac from the dead, but that was not God’s plan. That may have been Abraham’s plan or what he thought God was going to do, but that was not what God had planned. We see in this text that God had planned something else entirely for this test. Look at the following verses.
Genesis 22:7–8 7 And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.
A second time, Abraham said, “Here I am”. This time, his son, Isaac, called out to his father and asked, “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Isaac saw the fire and the wood, but noticed that there was no lamb. Can you imagine the anguish Abraham most likely felt when Isaac asked that question? What would you have said if you were Abraham? God told me to take you, my only son whom I love very much, and sacrifice you as a burnt offering. Instead, Abraham showed incredible faith and hope in the God he served and simply said, “God will provide for himself the lamb.” Abraham was open to God providing a lamb for the sacrifice, and perhaps, was hoping his son Isaac would, somehow, be spared. After all, Isaac was the promised child through whom Abraham’s offspring would come. Abraham did not yet realize it, but God would provide.
Genesis 22:11–13 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.
This time, God called to Abraham and Abraham responded a third time, “Here I am”. What might have Abraham been thinking? What is God going to ask me to do now? Was God going to change His mind? No, God did not change His mind, but He did provide a substitute for Isaac. God intervened, stopped Abraham from completing the deed, and provided the sacrifice so that Abraham would not have to go through with it. The angel of the Lord called to Abraham and beckoned him to not harm his son. When Abraham looked up, he saw a ram nearby, the sacrifice that God provided. Then, Abraham acknowledged that God is the One Who provides by naming the place “The Lord will provide,” since it was where God provided His own sacrifice (v. 14). Abraham’s words to Isaac were true. God did provide!
God knew exactly what He was doing. God knew exactly what Abraham was going to do. If that is so, what was the point of the test? We learn from this passage that it was never God’s intention to sacrifice Isaac. We learn that it is God’s nature to provide what He requires. We also learn that God’s stopping the hand of Abraham in a culture where human sacrifice was common indicates that He did not approve worship through human suffering. In the case of Abraham, God intervened and spared Abraham’s only son. God saw that Abraham had not withheld from Him his only son, the son whom he loved. Maybe that is the point of the test. What or who do we put before God? What do we withhold from Him? What must you let go in order to faithfully serve God? Fathers, your relationship to God must come before even your own family. Your first and primary relationship is with God, for He created you for Himself, not for your families.
Maybe the tests of life are for our benefit. One person once said, “When you go through hard times, God isn’t testing you to be faithful to Him; He’s proving His faithfulness to you. God proved to Abraham that He was still faithful. Obviously, we are told that God tested Abraham, but maybe what your are going through is not so much a test of your faithfulness but of God’s faithfulness to you. Maybe God is showing you how much He will provide for you during a difficult time. Perhaps what you need most is to trust God Who provides for us. That leads us to the final observation about this text.
God’s Sacrifice for Mankind
We also see something more profound in this passage. We see a picture of our heavenly Father. You may believe that God does not know what it is like to live your life. We forget that Jesus Himself lived as a human and was tempted and suffered as such. God knows what you go through. God knows your suffering. God also knows what it is like to sacrifice. He gave His very best, His one and only Son, so that the world would be spared. Not only is this passage a marvelous account of the mercy of God that proves His promises to His people, it is also an obvious foreshadowing of another sacrifice centuries later. Abraham was called to sacrifice his one and only son, but was spared from finally going through with that horrific act. God, however, did not spare His one and only Son. Jesus is our substitute sacrifice for those who will turn to Him in faith. God the Father sacrificed His Son so that we would be spared from death. Look at these familiar verses.
John 3:16–17 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Our heavenly Father sacrificed so much in order to give us everything. Abraham’s sacrifice was a foreshadowing of what God the Father did for the world. Look at the parallels between Abraham and Isaac and God the Father and Jesus Christ.
- Abraham had one promised child God had His only begotten Son
- Isaac carried the firewood on his back Jesus carried the cross on His back
- Isaac was bound to the altar of wood Jesus was nailed to a cross of wood
- Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son Jesus was willing to sacrifice Himself
- God spared Abraham’s son God the Father did not spare His Son
- God provided a ram for Abraham God provided the Lamb for us
- The ram was a substitute for Isaac Jesus is the substitute for us
God the Father sacrificed His very best. He provided His very best to save us. Behold what love the heavenly Father has lavished on us. How can we reject Him?
What shall our response be to our earthly fathers? Our earthly fathers are important. Good fathers are a picture of our heavenly Father. If you have a good, godly father, then thank God for him. Honor him who has loved and sacrificed for you. Fathers, respond by loving and sacrificing for your families and bringing up your children in the fear of the Lord. Remember the words of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians.
Ephesians 6:1–4 1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Good fathers are a blessing. But even if you do not or have not had a good earthly father in your life, there is a Father who will always be there for you. Some may have a poor picture of God the Father because of their earthly fathers. However, our view of God our Father must come from Scripture, not from our childhood experience. We are physically born into sin, and fear, and death. But as Christians, we are spiritually reborn, not receiving the spirit of slavery to fall back into the fear that so often cripples us. We become victors. Through Jesus Christ, we are adopted as God’s children. God brings us into His family. He is a Father of the fatherless (Psalm 68:5). So, Happy Father’s Day to all our earthly fathers, and Happy Father’s Day to our most loving, providing, and sacrificing Father in Heaven. This is good news. Amen!
This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.