And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said to him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.…
All the elements of piety were in this act. The voice of the Lord heard and obeyed is essential to religion. The unshaken conviction that all He requires is best, though one lose thereby all but Himself, is the substance of religion. Abraham heard and did and trusted. Thus he became our worthy example.
I. His TRIAL. What could it mean? Abraham had the traditions and prejudices of his time. No man can be much above them. With all the manifestations of Jehovah to him, there yet lingered in his mind the common ideas of God and of His requirements which the common people had. He was in conflict between the two. The sense of sin and guilt was universal; the hope of propitiation as well. Human sacrifice was common. It represented the most stern exaction by the offended deity and the greatest gift which the transgressor could make. Popular custom helped the conceit in the patriarch. While heathen were so ready to show their faith in the false god, much more must he exhibit as great for the true. Could he withhold the choicest thing while imagining the Almighty asked for it, then his was a partial, not a single and complete, fealty. Isaac must not rival Jehovah in his affection. More and more plain the issue became, till his intense impressions seemed the solemn accents of his Maker, bidding him take the precious life. So far, at least, must he be willing to blot out every means by which his darling desire might be gained. Was not this an early illustration of the crucial test: "He that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me"?
II. HIS OBEDIENCE. "Doubtless," one says, "while Abraham lifted up the knife to slay his son, the sun was turned to darkness to him, the stars left their places, and earth and heaven vanished from his sight. To the eye of sense, all was gone that life had built up, and the promise had come actually to an end for evermore; but to the friend of God all was still as certain as ever — all absolutely sure and fixed. The end, the promise, nay even the son of the promise — even he, in the fire of the burnt-offering — was not gone, because that was near and close at hand which could restore: the great Power which could reverse everything. The heir was safe in the strong hope of him who accounted that God was able to raise him up even from the dead." The offering, so far as the offerer was concerned, had been made. His obedience to the word he thought to hear was perfect. God's will and his were one.
III. His ACCEPTANCE. From that lofty summit in the land of Moriah there went up to heaven the sweet savour of acceptable sacrifice before any fire was kindled on the altar. So in the grossest darkness it may be still, where they who know not of the true God bring as perfect a gift. But piety and humaneness alike impel all who have heard the protest from the lips of Jehovah to speed with it to them whose sacrificial knives are about to be bathed in the blood of their firstborn. Thus again Christ arrests the devout and teaches them His righteousness.
IV. HIS DELIVERANCE. The place was "Jehovah-jireh " indeed, for the Lord bad provided Himself the lamb for the burnt-offering. The sacrifice in its outward form should not fail. Here was the Divine sanction of the method of substitution. Here was foreshadowed the ritual of Tabernacle and Temple, and, most dimly, "the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." Isaac need not die, but the animal must. We need not perish, but the Christ must give His flesh and blood for the life of the world. The victim was God's choice in the first instance: He was in the last. In the smoke and flames of this first sacrifice ascended not only the tribute of a penitent and adoring soul, but also the unutterable gratitude for a life given back as from the dead.
(De Witt S. Clark.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.