The birth of a child usually brings great joy. When it was told Abraham that he would have a son in his advanced age of one-hundred years, Abraham fell on his face and laughed (Gen. 17:17). Sarah laughed as well at the thought that she and Abraham would have a child, being “well stricken in age” (Gen. 18:11-15). At this time, her laughter must have been tinged with doubt for she was reproved for it. But when Isaac was actually born, Sarah stated “God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear me shall laugh with me” (Gen. 21:6). In Isaac, we all laugh with joy. It is no wonder that the name “Isaac” means “laughter.”
The joy at the birth of Isaac was partly because Isaac was a child of promise. God had promised Abraham many years before that he would make a great nation of him (Gen 12:1,2). When children seemed to be a long-time coming, Abraham cried to God, “To me Thou hast given no seed” (Gen. 15:3). However, God assured him that one born from his own bowels would be his heir and through him all nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 15:4). He also promised him that his offspring would be as many as the stars in the sky and the sand on the shore. God could cause even a dead womb to bring forth life (Rom. 4:18-21)
Just as Isaac was a child of promise, he was also a type of the Christ. When God promised that one was coming who would bless all nations, ultimately this was not Isaac. Before Abraham, God had promised Eve that her seed would crush the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15). To the ancient patriarch Job God has promised a Redeemer Who would stand upon the earth in the latter days (Job 19:25). In fulfillment of these and all other Old Testament prophecies, Jesus came as our Redeemer (Gal. 3:13; 4:15; Rom. 11:26; Is. 59:20). Indeed, Jesus was truly the seed promised to Abraham (Gal. 3:16).
Isaac’s life once and again demonstrated the kind of faith his father had demonstrated. With the exception of Isaac’s lie to Abimelech about his relationship with his wife, which was, in itself, reflective of his father’s character, Isaac lived an exemplary life. Isaac’s life was:
“So quiet and unenergetic, that his whole life was spent in the circle of a few miles; so guileless, that he lets Jacob overreach him rather than disbelieve his assurance; so tender, that his mother’s death was the poignant sorrow of years…so patient and gentle, that peace with his neighbors was dearer than even such a coveted possession as a well of living water dug by his own men; so grandly obedient, that he put his life at his father’s disposal; so firm in his reliance on God, that his greatest concern through life was to honour the Divine promise given to his race…” (Cunningham Geike, Hours With The Bible, p. 378).
For Abraham, however, the laughter undoubtedly turned to sorrow when God commanded him to sacrifice of his son, his only son, Isaac (Gen. 22:2). Isaac surely must have been aware that something was amiss when he and his father went off to sacrifice to God but took no offering (Gen. 22:7). Isaac was probably now at least twenty years of age. When he finally realized that he would be the sacrifice, did he struggle? Did he run in fear? Did he resist in any way? The Bible does not give the details but it appears that he submitted to his father to be offered as the offering, and, in doing so, he demonstrated a faith that rivaled his father’s!
How much did Isaac know of the seed promise given to Abraham? Surely Abraham must have spoken of this to Sarah and Isaac. We do know that immediately after Abraham’s death, God repeats the promise He had given to Abraham to Isaac (Gen. 26:1-4). It doesn’t seem to be news to Isaac that he would be given this promise. It seems possible, and perhaps even likely, then, that Abraham would have revealed this promise to his wife and son. Which makes Isaac’s role in being offered by his father all the more remarkable. If Isaac was aware, then we can assume that he was a willing participant in this sacrifice.
If the Angel of the Lord had not intervened, Abraham would have delivered the death blow. There was no doubt in God’s mind that Abraham would have gone through with it (Gen. 22:11,12). Evidently, Abraham was able to offer his son because he believed that God would raise him up if he were indeed killed in order to fulfill the promise God gave to him (Heb. 11:18; Gen. 22:5). If Abraham was certain of this because of the promise, and Isaac knew of the promise, then mustn’t Isaac’s faith have been equally strong? To knowingly face going to the slaughter and still go requires remarkable trust in God.
Our Lord came into this world knowing that He would go to the cross (Matt. 20:28). He knew that He must be about His Father’s business from the start (Luke 2:49). Yet He gave Himself willingly to save us (Rom. 5:6-8). Just as Isaac, Abraham’s only son, carried the wood for the sacrifice to the hill God had appointed (Gen. 22:2,6), Our Lord, the Only-Begotten of the Father, carried the cross to the Golgotha (John 19:17). And as Abraham received Isaac back to life again after three days (Gen. 22:4), in a figure (Heb. 11:18), so the Lord was victoriously raised after three days (Matt. 17:23; 27:64; Luke 24:46).
Rejoice evermore (I Thess. 5:16)!
Eric L. Padgett