Genesis 22:1–18, Isaiah 45:11–17, Matthew 4:1–11
Genesis has many passages in it that Christians, Jews, and non-believers stumble over. Often it is our own pride, and sometimes it is us looking back upon those “backward and ignorant” people, with all our knowledge and obviously “better” culture. This passage in Genesis (22:1–18) is often one of the hard ones, as God calls upon Abraham to sacrifice his only son of his wife Sarah. This appears problematic as God later condemns such human sacrifice. It is to result in the death penalty. Yet, God still calls for it. The easy answer is that God was “just” testing Abraham. God already knew that a ram would be provided. If so, to us it is a cruel test. To Abraham and the cultures around him, it was still cruel, but it was part of god worship (note, not God worship). We also have to understand that Isaac was the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham regarding descendants. God requested that Abraham kill the very legacy (so it seemed) that God had promised.
The harder answer, but perhaps more Christian answer is that Abraham was foreshadowing God the Father. God made a request of Abraham, the God the Father would completely fulfill generations later. God would sacrifice the Son for all of humanity. God’s only Son. The Son, part of the Trinity, would be born as man, so that mankind would become the legacy intended if sin had not come. As Isaiah speaks from God, righteousness stirred up. The holy city (a place of relationship with God) rebuilt. The exiles (those separated from God) set free, but not by money or exchange of goods. Then Isaiah says that Israel will be saved by God. The only true savior is God. With God being the savior, salvation is eternal. God becomes incarnate. God is with us (Emmanuel).
Even as God with us, Jesus walks our road. The temptations that Jesus faced in the desert are common to mankind (survival, security, pride/power). Since Jesus walked with us and Jesus is God, humanity and God became united in a way that Abraham could never have imagined, and Isaiah couldn’t fully comprehend. Even we really cannot fully comprehend it, and we (through the church) have had a long time to figure it out.
1) During his temptations, Jesus says, “Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God,” quoted Deuteronomy 8:3. If Jesus is the word (John 1:1–3), and Jesus is the bread, how does that cause you to rethink Jesus’ answer?
2) God called on Abraham to sacrifice his legacy. How can God call on us to sacrifice our legacy for an even greater legacy?
3) How can we discern when God is asking us to sacrifice our legacy, versus calling on us to sacrifice our pride?