Genesis 22 shows us a picture of God's love. What Abraham and his son Isaac experienced in this chapter points to what God the Father and His Son, Jesus, also experienced, making Abraham's story one of the greatest examples of faith in the Bible (see Hebrews 11:17-19).
With that in mind, let's look at Abraham's story in Genesis 22 and mark it in four phases:
1. Preparation. "It came to pass after these things" (v. 1). After what things? After Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac had experienced a period of rest (see Genesis 21:34). This period of rest was actually preparing Abraham for the worst storm he would face: God would ask him to offer his son as a burnt offering. Sometimes we read a story like this and think, I could never handle that. But the truth is that God made sure Abraham had learned what he needed to know and that his faith was stable. In the same way, God is preparing you today for what you'll face tomorrow.
2. Examination. "God tested Abraham…. He said, 'Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you'" (vv. 1-2). The way to know if your faith is real is to expose it to hardship. So God will, from time to time, test you to prove the quality and strength of your faith. And in testing Abraham, God touched the most sensitive nerve in his life: his son Isaac. The crux of the test was this: Did Abraham love God or his son more?
3. Submission. In verses 3-10, we read that Abraham submitted to God's command, even telling his men, "The lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you" (v. 5; emphasis mine). How could he say that? Hebrews 11:19 tells us that Abraham "[concluded] that God was able to raise [Isaac] up, even from the dead." He logically thought through the situation and said, "If God is faithful and can be trusted, which I know Him to be, that means He's going to raise my son from the dead, because that's the son He promised would be my heir." That's what you do when life seems illogical: you get theological and start reasoning based on who you know God is.
4. Anticipation. Right as Abraham was about to bring his knife down on Isaac, the Angel of the Lord stopped him (see vv. 11-12). Then Abraham saw a ram caught in a thicket, and "offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son" (v. 13).
Now, this event was an anticipation of something else (see v. 14): when God the Father would go through with what Abraham only almost went through with. God actually sacrificed His Son, Jesus, on the cross at Golgotha. When Abraham lifted that knife, all of heaven must have marveled at how a man could love God so. But when Jesus died on the cross, all of heaven was stunned at how God could love mankind so.
This story shows us visually what John 3:16 puts verbally: "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." Have you responded to that love? Have you placed your faith and trust in the one who gave His life for you and always has your highest good in mind (see Romans 8:28)?