The Psalmist (Psa. 111) begins his praise of the Lord (Almighty ‘I Am’ God who visited Moses), by calling the people to praise Him. They are to give glory to the Lord, to cry out ‘Hallelujah!’ They are to be bright, to shine in the glory of the Lord. The Psalmist will “praise the Lord with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation.” The Psalmist uses another word for ‘praise,’ meaning to speak out, confess, to sing with much thanksgiving. He then speaks out (praising the Lord) in verses two through nine, declaring that His works are great, honorable, and glorious. He speaks of the Lord’s righteousness, judgment, commands, and redemption, etc., which declare His glory. The Psalmist closes his psalm with the words, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom …his praise (a musical term for a song which exults the Lord God) endureth forever.”
The word used by the Psalmist for ‘fear’ is from the same root word used in our key verse for today: “for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (22:12). This ‘fear’ speaks of our attitude toward the Lord. Nehemiah (7:2) gave Hananiah charge over Jerusalem because “he was a faithful man, and feared God above many.” The centurion of Caesarea, Cornelius, was called a “devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always” (Acts 10:2). Our position and attitude toward God are reflected in how we worship and serve Him.
It is written that Abraham “planted a grove in Beer-sheba, and called there on the name of the Lord, the everlasting God” (Gen. 21:33). Abraham lived, for some time, in the land of the Philistines. It came to pass “that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham; and he said, Behold, here I am.” God put Abraham to the test, to prove his character and standing before the Lord. It was a test that would refine the character of Abraham. God had given His commandments to his people that they would observe them, and so live. They are to remember the way of the Lord their God who led them for forty years “in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldst keep his commandments or no” (Deut. 8:1–2).
Our Lord never tempts us to sin, but He does test us that what is truly in our heart and soul will be revealed, whether our faith is true, and our walk in Christ is real, and not just an outward act with no substance within. For our Lord desires us to walk more closely in His way.
The test began with the command, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering.” The Lord emphasized two things about Isaac, that he is the only son, and that he is loved very much by Abraham. Isaac was his most prized possession on earth. Isaac was given to Abraham and Sarah in their old age, and he was given by a covenant promise of God which spanned generations to come. “Abraham loved his son, not only as nature dictates, and as parents commonly do, who take delight in their children, but as beholding the paternal love of God in him; …Isaac was the mirror of eternal life, and the pledge of all good things” (Calvin, Comm.). Calvin also points out that “God seems not so much to assail the paternal love of Abraham, as to trample upon His own benevolence.”
When Abraham rose early in the morning, he took “two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son,” with wood for a burnt offering, “unto a place of which God had told him.” Abraham was also taking all of the promises that the Lord had given him. Abraham, on the third day, “saw the place afar off.” For three whole days, God was testing Abraham in his mind as he thought upon what he was commanded to do. The Lord did not leave Abraham, who must have continually brought to mind His gracious promises. The outward circumstance should not govern our thoughts of what should be, but our thoughts should rest squarely, by faith, upon the promises of God in Christ Jesus.
Abraham’s faith in the Lord and his promises were revealed in how he obeyed God’s command. He told the young men to remain behind as he took his son to “go yonder and worship,” with the promise that he would return. Abraham took the wood and placed it upon the shoulders of Isaac, while he carried the “fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. Isaac then questioned his father, “Behold the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering.” Isaac was familiar with the sacrifices of worship. He was prepared to worship with his father in the way that was prescribed and taught to him. Abraham’s answer was, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burn offering.” We must remember that, in our worship and service, it is God alone who provides the right sacrifice, or the right way in which He alone will be worshiped and praised and served. And this worship will come from a heart made clean by the precious blood of Christ.
Surely there was much grief in the heart of Abraham. We would not so willingly give up our loved one without a great measure of sadness and wonder. The words of his son pierced his heart, but the grace of God sustained him. For in every testing, the Lord asks not that we find a way out, but that we rest totally upon Him to bring all things together according to His love and providential care of those who are precious in His sight. Abraham was sustained in a most trying event. “In such straits, the only remedy against despondency is, to leave the event to God, in order that he may open a way for us where there is none” (Calvin).
Abraham built an altar at God’s designated place, upon which he laid the wood, and “bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.” Abraham then stretched “forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.” Repeated over again is the thought that it was Isaac as Abraham’s son that was being brought to the altar as the sacrifice, emphasizing the closeness of the sacrifice to the heart of Abraham. Isaac was truly a vision of the Christ to come. As the Father said, “This is My beloved Son” (Matt. 3:17). And as John the Baptist said, “Behold! the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). As the Christ said of His Father, “For the Father loveth the Son” (John 5:20).
As Abraham held the knife to slay his son, an angel of the Lord called out of heaven, “Abraham, Abraham …Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him; for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast no withheld thy son, thine only son from me.” It was the Lord who held the hand of Abraham, refining his faith that it might never be executed in vain. And as Abraham lifted up his eyes, he saw another provision of the Lord, a “ram caught in a thicket by his horns.” He then offered up this ram “for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.” Isaac then became a representation of all of God’s people. Christ became the Lamb as a sacrifice for all those whom the Father has given Him. For we have been redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18–19).
Abraham “called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh (the Lord is providing); as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.” We also learn who God is by His testing and refining both our faith and character in Christ Jesus. Our memorial is the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, whereby we remember His death, His sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. The Lord shall be seen in our remembrance.
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