Community Group Study “Genesis: Laying It All Down”
Read Genesis 22:1-24
Things seem to be going smoothly at this point in time for Abraham. Through his trust in the faithfulness of God he navigated the 25 years of not having a child, the delay and waiting for God to provide. God had even shown him tremendous covenantal love and committed grace despite Abraham’s failures and brokenness like his lying about his wife to save himself and his faithless episode of having a child with Hagar their servant. Here we find Abraham rich in years, with his promised son Isaac, what more could this man ask for?
It is at this point that God brings about one of the most difficult commands in scripture someone is asked to do. Abraham is once again commanded to go to the place God will show him, but not to find a new homeland and a become a blessed people, instead he is to go and offer up his only son whom he loves. We’re told from the beginning of the passage that this is a test from God (Genesis 22:1), something that Abraham doesn’t learn until the end of the story (Genesis 22:14). This gives us a clue as the reader that God did not intend for Isaac to die, instead God desired to test Abraham to see where Abraham’s heart was at. It is not as if God did not know; God is omniscient (all knowing) and has foreknowledge. Yet, God brings about this test so that he can experience Abraham’s trust with everything God had given him; and so Abraham would know that he no longer walks in fear, but a committed faith in the Lord.
This is a difficult passage because we struggle to understand how God could ask for someone to sacrifice a child. As we read through scripture we also see that God condemns child sacrifice. We struggle with the morality of it all and the test can feel cruel. However, there are a few things help us understand what God is doing here. First off, we’re told this is a test so God doesn’t intend for Isaac to die. Second, God gently leads Abraham bringing back language to remind him that God is trustworthy; the command to go is the same form and similar wording to Abraham’s first encounter with God in Genesis 12. This functions as a “book end” to Abraham’s faith journey and likely reminded him of God’s trustworthiness those 35 years earlier. Third, God also shows that he knows the weight of what he is asking when he emphasizes that he knows Abraham loves the boy saying “take your son, your only son whom you love”. God understands the magnitude of what he is asking, so this is not a cold command from the Lord. Fourth, God has shown himself to be overwhelmingly trustworthy in Abraham’s life; it is hard to imagine Abraham obeying this command if God had not already shown himself to be faithful. Finally, there have been repeated statements from God that his desire was to bless Isaac and use Abraham’s family line for salvation and blessing to the nations. Abraham must of had this in mind during the journey to the land that God would show him.
All of these observations lead Abraham to a confident trust that God would provide. He expresses to his servants that he and the boy will come back and when Isaac asked him where the offering was, Abraham said that God would provide (Genesis 22:6, 8). He did not know how God would provide, but in his faith and his trust in God, he obeys and lays his entire hope and future at the feet of the Lord (Genesis 22:9-10). God stops Abraham from sacrificing Isaac, showing us that he never intended for Isaac to die, and in God’s lovingkindness, he opens Abraham’s eyes to see the substitute he provided for Isaac in the ram caught in the thicket. Abraham’s take away: The LORD provides.
Finally, out of all the passages of Genesis we have looked at so far this one more than any other points forward to what happens with Jesus on the cross. God has an only son, whom he loves who carries wood up the same mountain where he is offered for the sins of the world. God provided for Isaac with a substitute in the Ram caught in the thicket, but Jesus becomes the substitute for us.
At your community group:
Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.
How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week?
What do you think about God testing his followers? Who do you think the benefits most from the test, God or his followers?
We know this is a difficult and seemingly impossible command for Abraham to obey, yet he follows the Lord’s command. What makes this command so difficult (think about the entire story of Abraham’s life) and how does God gently lead Abraham in this passage?
Why did God single out Isaac as the offering out of everything God could have asked for?
We learn that God rescues Isaac by providing a substitute in the ram. How does this section of scripture point forward to Christ as our substitute for sin? Look at 1 John 4:9-10, 1 Peter 1:18-19 and Romans 8:32.
The take away that Abraham has is that God provides. How does this truth give you comfort and hope this week?