Advent Devotional Day 6: Hebrews 11.17-19/Genesis 22
Child of Promise, Child of Sacrifice, Child of Resurrection
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, of whom is was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. (Hebrews 11.17-19)
At Christmas time, we do not celebrate Jesus’ birth in a vacuum. We do not celebrate the birth of a child just for the sake of celebrating the birth of a child. We do not celebrate the birth of a mere influential person. In fact, we would not celebrate Jesus’ birth at all or know anything about it or what it meant, if it hadn’t been for His perfect work of spotless obedience, atonement, resurrection, and ascension. The Child of promise was also to be the Son of sacrifice and the first fruits from the grave. Within the text of Genesis 22, the events of which are referenced in our text above, we have a picture and a foreshadowing of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of our Lord.
If we were reading the text of Genesis 22 on its own, we would notice a few different elements to the story. First, is that this child that Abraham is told to go slay on Mount Moriah is the child that God has promised. The entire line of promise that was to come from Abraham was to come through Isaac. Did this cause a crisis in Abraham’s faith? How would God bless the nations through his body if the child of promise was dead on a bloody altar? Our text above subtly denotes this tension when it says that “through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” The difficulty of understanding how God would bless the nations through a promised child who had his life snuffed out as a blood offering is palpable in the Genesis account.
There are three verses to pay close attention to when analyzing how Isaac is a type of the Messiah who was to come. The first is Genesis 22.5: “The Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with my donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.’” Abraham knew that his every intention was to take a knife and drive it through his own son. Yet he tells his servants to stay far off, and BOTH of them will return after they have worshipped. Is Abraham engaging in some form of clever deception? Does Abraham say this even though he really expects to come back alone, leaving his promised son dead on the altar? Some would say that Abraham is lying. The New Testament writers know better, and within the context of exalting the faith of Abraham in God’s promise, the author to the Hebrews says that Abraham was expecting God to raise Isaac from the dead. Abraham knew that God is faithful and could not break His promises to him, he also knew Isaac was explicitly the child of promise, therefore Abraham knew that even if Isaac was killed by his own hand at the command of God, God would raise him up. The text from Hebrews 11 also says “from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” There is a figurative (typological) resurrection in Genesis 22.
When Isaac himself questions where the lamb for the offering is, Abraham responds to him: “God will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” (Genesis 22.8) In this story Abraham is always pictured as fully intending to offer Isaac. He is expecting to slay his own son, therefore the writer to the Hebrews says that Abraham had faith that God could bring Isaac back from the dead. Abraham also knows that the Lord could indeed prevent the fatal blow if he desires. Abraham believes that God could offer a substitute for Isaac, and that even if he didn’t, and Isaac was the “lamb” that the Lord provided, God would raise him from the dead in accordance with His own power and faithfulness to His promises. When he is about to slay Isaac on the altar, is stopped by the angel of the Lord and a ram caught in a thicket is provided in his place. This ram is sacrificed instead of Isaac, and this is a beautiful picture of the substitutionary sacrifice of our Lord that is the ground of our eternal life.
The last verses from Genesis 22 to look at for this devotional are verses 17-19, in which there is a repetition of the promise-themes given to Abraham. In response to Abraham’s faithfulness, God reaffirms His promises: “I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” After this event involving the first “promised seed” to Abraham, there is a repetition of all the Gospel-themes we have looked at so far in the book of Genesis. “He will possess the gate of His enemies,” this points to the ultimate promised Seed who would route God’s enemies by crushing the Serpent’s head. (Genesis 3.15) We also see that this promised Seed is the full fruition of the many offspring that Abraham was to be given. The multitude of descendants that Abraham was given, the nation birthed from his loins, was intended to bring about the Ultimate son of Abraham that would bless the nations. He would bless the nations by making them sons of Abraham through faith in Himself. (Genesis 3.7-9) Now we who trust in the Messiah, men from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation, are children of Abraham through faith in the One who came from Abraham’s line.
Within this account then, we have remarkable pictures of the Gospel. We have a promised seed, we have a substitutionary sacrifice, we have a triumphant resurrection, and we have a people of God as numerous as the grains of sand on the seashore. (although in Genesis the resurrection is figurative) It is important that we understand this account because of the typological picture of the Gospel that it presents. Who is Jesus? He is the Ultimate child of the promise, the one who was promised to a virgin. Who is Jesus, He is the Child of promise who went willingly to the cross of His own sacrifice, and instead of God providing an offering in His place, He himself was the offering in His people’s place. Who is Jesus? He is the One whom God actually gave in sacrifice, crushing His own son, and whom God literally, bodily, triumphantly raised from the dead! Who is Jesus? He is the One who fully and finally produces a people for God through that death and resurrection, descendants of Abraham by faith, an innumerable people from every tribe. (Revelation 7.9) Do not forget the Ultimate Child of promise and all of His Gospel-work for your redemption. This story is a picture of that.