There are two things to notice about God’s command:

  1. God told Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. This horrifies us, but it is not murder. All people are doomed to die for their sin. A sacrifice pays for sin, and this story shows us that the cost of paying for sin is everything. Abraham loved Isaac, and Isaac represented all that God promised to Abraham.
  2. This is chiefly a test of faith, not obedience. It is faith that makes obedience possible. The book of Hebrews says Abraham had faith that God would keep his promises even if Isaac was killed. That’s why he was able to obey. Faith means making God’s goodness all our hope. Abraham believed that although paying for sin is horrible and would cost everything, God would find a way to still be good to him.

When God told Abraham to put down his knife, it was not because God had been fooling about the sacrifice. Nor had God decided to settle for less. Isaac’s death was actually not enough to pay for any sin. God himself would provide a greater sacrifice that would cost him everything.

Many years later, God sacrificed his only Son on those same mountains that Abraham named Jehovah-Jireh, “The Lord Will Provide.” The horror of Abraham’s test helps us appreciate the high cost and supreme love of the cross.

Our test of faith is to believe that the cross is God’s way to pay for sin and still be good to us. Our hope is not in our ability to give up everything for God, but in the fact that Jesus gave up everything for us. And when we deeply believe this, we too are able to obey anything God wants.

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