December 4 – Genesis 22:1-14

We’re continuing on in Greater, our Advent series on how Jesus fulfills all the promises and expectations of the Bible from cover to cover. Last week we saw how Jesus completed and perfected the purpose that Adam and Eve failed; this week we’ll see in Isaac, the promised son and heir of Abraham, a shadow of God’s only Son, whose death ushers us into the promises God made to Abraham.

Heads up!

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To do this in our brief time together in community group we’ll make a quick survey of the promises that God made to Abraham. We’ll read three passages, Genesis 12:1-3, Genesis 15:1-6, and Genesis 17:15-21, which will give us the highlights. In summary, God came to Abraham and promised to bless him, to make him into a great nation, and to bless all the families of the earth through his one special family. 

But as the years went on Abraham saw little progress towards these promises, and in their 90s he and his wife Sarah still had no children together. And though Abraham had a son with a slave woman, Hagar, God rightly did not regard this as a legitimate—or good!—“solution”. However, God assured Abraham of the promise, and soon he and Sarah welcomed their son Isaac into the world.

So one reason we’ll survey these passages is to see the covenantal promises involved in this discussion of the Abrahamic Heir. These promises to “be fruitful and multiply” were contingent on a crucial aspect, one that folks in their 90s were utterly incapable of producing: biological children. God intentionally set up a situation in which the only way the promises he made could come to pass was by his supernatural intervention (which is another reason Abraham’s son with Hagar didn’t suffice for the covenant, because Abraham sought to fulfill the covenant promises on his own). Isaac was essential to these promises actually coming true.

But we’ll also survey these passages to see how utterly heartbreaking it must have been for God to come to Abraham and say, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering” (22:2). He must have wondered, how could God do something so despicable? How would he make good on his promises through such an unnecessary death? And why did he give Isaac if he was just going to take him away again? 

On the surface the whole ordeal is a test of Abraham’s faith in God, and the author of Hebrews clarifies that Abraham’s faith through this trial was due to his assurance that God could request Isaac’s life but also give it back when he was finished (Heb 11:17-19). But underneath this, God also walked Abraham through the shear horror of this request in order to reveal something greater in store, to point to the horror of another ordeal faced by another only Son, another heir of Abraham, who also carried the wood for his own death on his back, who also faced his death on Mt. Moriah (2 Chron. 3:1). 

But where God stopped Abraham’s hand against Isaac he let the blow fall on his own son. Here in Genesis 22 we get a glimpse of when “God will provide for himself the lamb” (Gen 22:8). And, perhaps, in Abraham’s heartbreaking trial we can get a sense for the infinite loss God must have experienced by sending his son to the cross, and the great love he must have for us in facing such a loss for our sake.

But Jesus isn’t just a parallel Isaac, not merely another sacrificial son dying on the same mountain. Jesus is also the greater heir and answer to the promise of which Isaac was only a component. There’s a reason Matthew’s gospel traces Jesus’ lineage from Abraham in Matthew 1, to show that the birth of Jesus was in fact the arrival of the Messiah, the heir of Abraham and David, the one through whom “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:3).

In our discussion we’ll turn to Galatians 3 to really get a sense for this, how Jesus fulfills the Abrahamic promise and by his death welcomes us into this blessed family. The promises God made to Abraham required an heir, but all along God had a greater heir in mind, “the heir of all things” (Heb 1:2), and in his birth, death, resurrection, ascension, and coming return we can place all our hope and see all our longings answered.

Questions for Discussion

• Could we get three people to read these three passages: Genesis 12:1-3, Genesis 15:1-6, and Genesis 17:15-21?

• According to those passages, what all did God promise Abraham?

• What did Abraham’s lineage have to do with these promises?

• Could someone read Genesis 22:1-14 for us?

• What stood out to you from this passage?

• In what ways do you think this story parallels the death of Jesus on the cross?

• How can the story of Isaac help us understand the significance of Jesus’s death?

• Could someone read Galatians 3:7-16?

• How does Jesus connect the promises of Abraham to us?

• How can all of this help us worship Jesus this Christmas?