Is there a more tender scene in Scripture than when the doe-eyed Isaac asks his father where the lamb is for the burnt offering? If that doesn’t pierce your heart you probably need to check for a pulse. And if we find it difficult to read, what must it have been like for Abraham? Yet he reassures his son that God will provide.
In his commentary on Genesis in the Interpretation series (John Knox Press), Walter Brueggemann points out how the narrative of Abraham and Isaac is structured around three sections that feature 1) a summons, 2) a response and 3) an address. The first section (v. 1-2), has God summoning Abraham, his responding (“Here I am”) and an address where God tells him to take Isaac to Moriah and sacrifice him there. The third section (v. 11-12), has the angel of the Lord calling for Abraham, him again responding “Here I am,” and the address where the angel tells him not to kill Isaac.
The second section (v. 7-8), has everything the first and third do. It contains the summons where Isaac says, “Father,” the response of Abraham (Yes, my son?”) and the address asking where the lamb is. But as Brueggemann points out—there is an additional element that breaks the symmetry of the sections and by doing so, draws attention to itself and becomes the centerpiece of the story. What is this element? It is Abraham’s answer to Isaac’s question: “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering my son.” This is the truth that occupies the heart of the story. Everything before and after points toward it.
Who is God? He is Someone who supplies what His creation needs. The God who tests and trusts is ultimately presented in Genesis 22 as the God who provides.
From the mountain in Moriah to the hill of Golgotha, God provides. From the Garden of Eden to the garden where the body of Jesus was entombed, God provides. From the dawn of creation until the climax of history when Christ returns, God provides. This is the theme that Jesus takes up in Matthew 6:25ff and culminates in His instruction for us to “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (v. 33). As disciples, we trust that God will “Give us this day our daily bread” (v. 10). The One who will provide for our sins will also provide for us each day of our lives.
Brueggemann says, “In the end, our narrative is perhaps not about Abraham being found faithful. It is about God being found faithful.” It’s not that Abraham didn’t demonstrate great faith on this occasion—both the writer of Hebrews and James point to Moriah as an illustration of such (Hebrews 11:17-19; James 2:21-23). But in the end, maybe what we learn about God, as Brueggemann suggests, is of even greater importance. And what is it we learn about Him?
We learn that God is worthy of the unblinking faith that Abraham put in Him.