How Could God ask Abraham to Sacrifice His Son?

Does God Ever Ask for Too Much?

It might seem the answer is,  “Yes.”

Consider commands like “Deeply love (agape) your enemies” (Matthew 5:44),  or “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (5:48). 

Many see Genesis 22:2 in that light.  God commands Abraham,  “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.”

Isaac means “laughter,” and he was the delight of Abraham’s life.  Yet God commands the slaughter of that very son,  promised by God, whom Sarah and Abraham had awaited 30 years through long, tear-filled nights and month after month of disappointment.

Now sacrifice him!  And not simply that but sacrifice him as a burnt offering.  That means Abraham was to flay,  dismember and then completely burn up Isaac’s body (Leviticus 1:3-9).  All that would be left was his son’s skin which would be a gift to the one making the sacrifice (Leviticus 7:8).

How could God possibly be commanding this?

Had not God Himself promised that Abraham’s offspring would be like the stars (Genesis 15:5)?

Had not God Himself given the son (17:19;  18:14)?  Now God commands Abraham to kill him at Moriah (“the bitterness of the LORD”) on the very spot of Solomon’s future Temple (2 Chronicles 3:1).

The three-day,  43-mile journey from Beersheba to Jerusalem was the most bitter of Abraham’s life.  Every step heightened the dread of slaughtering this obedient son.

When Moriah was in sight,  Abraham placed the massive wood on Isaac’s back (enough wood to burn up a human body,  Genesis 22:3-6).

How bitter was it for Abraham to watch Isaac carry the wood,  stumbling along the way,  obediently struggling under the massive load?

God waited until Abraham had the knife in hand about to slaughter his son,  and then God’s angel said,  “Now I know that you fear God because you have not withheld your son,  your only son from me.”

When Isaac stumbled up the slopes of Moriah,  it is strangely similar to Jesus stumbling toward his death under the massive weight of the cross.  Just as Isaac carried the wood on which he would die,  so Jesus carried the cross on which he would die.  Moriah and Calvary are but a few hundred yards apart. 

As Abraham struggled to imagine slaughtering his son,  so too the LORD struggled from all eternity with the bitterness of allowing His Son’s public crucifixion.

God the Father says at Jesus’ baptism,  “This is My Son,  My only Son . . .” echoing the words of Genesis 22:2.

Maybe the question for us is,  “Does God give too much to redeem us from the curse of the law?”