And now, the fatal blow is going to be given. “And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.” But do you not think he intended to turn his head away, when he gave the blow? What’s more, why may we not suppose that he sometimes drew his hand in, after it was stretched out, willing to take another last farewell of his beloved Isaac, and desirous to defer it a little, though resolved at last to strike home? Be that as it will, his arm is now stretched out, the knife in his hand, and he is about to put it to his dear son’s throat.
But sing, O heavens! And rejoice, O earth! Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity; for behold, just as the knife, in all probability, was near his throat, “the angel of the Lord called unto him from heaven, and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham,’ (The word is doubled, to engage his attention; and perhaps the suddenness of the call made him draw back his hand, just as he was going to strike his son.) And Abraham said, ‘Here am I.'”
“And he said, ‘Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing that thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.'”
…With what comfort may we suppose the good old man and his son went down from the mount and returned unto the young men! With what joy may we imagine he went home and related all that had passed to Sarah! And above all, with what triumph is he now exulting in the paradise of God and adoring rich, free, distinguishing, electing, everlasting love, which alone made him to differ from the rest of mankind, and rendered him worthy of that title which he will have so lond as the sun and the moon endure, “the father of the faithful”!
…Isee your hearts affected; I see your eyes weep. (And indeed, who can refrain from weeping at the relation of such a story?) But behold, I show you a mystery hid under the sacrifice of Abraham’s only son, which, unless your hearts are hardened, must cause you to weep tears of love, and that plentifully too. I would willingly hope you would prevent me here, and are ready to say, “It is the love of God, in giving Jesus Christ to die for our sins.” Yes; that it is. And yet perhaps you find your hearts, at the mentioning of this, not so much affected. Let this convince you that we are all fallen creatures, and that we do not love God or Christ as we ought to do; for if you admire Abraham offering up his Isaac, how much more ought you to extol, magnify, and adore the love of God, who so loved the world as to give his only begotten Son Christ Jesus our Lord, “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life”? May we not well cry out, “Now know we, O Lord, that you have loved us, since you have not withheld your Son, your only Son from us”? Abraham was God’s creature…and therefore under the highest obligation to surrender up his Isaac. But, oh, stupendous love! While we were his enemies, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, that he might become a curse for us. Oh, the freeness, as well as the infinity of the love of God our Father! It is unsearchable; I am lost in contemplating it; it is past finding out.
Think, O believers, think of the love of God in giving Jesus Christ to be a propitiation for our sins. And when you hear how Abraham built an altar, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood; think how your heavenly Father bound Jesus Christ his only Son, and offered him upon the altar of his justice, and laid upon him the iniquities of us all. When you read of Abraham’s stretching forth his hand to slay his son, think, Oh think, how God actually suffered his Son to be slain, that we might live forevermore! Do you read of Isaac carrying the wood upon his shoulders, upon which he was to be offered? Let this lead you to Mount Calvary…and take a view of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, bearing and ready to sink under the weight of that cross, on which he was to hand for us. Do you admire Isaac so freely consenting to die, though a creature, and therefore obliged to go when God called? Oh, do not forget to admire infinitely more the dear Lord Jesus, that promised seed, who willingly said, “Lo, I come,” though under no obligation to do so, “to do thy will,” to obey and die for men, “O God”!
Did you weep just now when I bid you fancy you saw the altar, and the wood laid in order, and Isaac laid bound on the altar? Look by faith, behold the blessed Jesus, our all-glorious Emmanuel, not bound, but nailed on an accursed tree; see how he hangs crowned with thorns…see how the thorns pierce him, and how the blood in purple streams trickle down his sacred temples! Hark how the God of nature groans! See how he bows his head, and at length humanity gives up the ghost!
Isaac is saved, but Jesus, the God of Isaac, dies; a ram is offered up in Isaac’s place, but Jesus has no substitute; Jesus must bleed, Jesus must die; God the Father provided this Lamb for himself from all eternity. He must be offered in time or man must be damned forevermore.
And now, where are your tears? Shall I say, refrain your voice from weeping? No; rather let me exhort you to look to him whom you have pierced, and mourn, as a woman mourns her firstborn; for me have been the betrayers; we have been the murderers of this Lord of glory, and shall we not bewail those sins, which brought the blessed Jesus to the accursed tree? He having done so much, suffered so much for us, forgiven so much, shall we not love much? Oh! let us love him with all our hearts, and minds, and strength, and glorify him in our souls and bodies, for they are his.
From George Whitefield’s sermon, “Abraham’s Offering Up His Son Isaac”