Evidences of Faith

Parallel Offerings


In the twelfth chapter of Genesis, God makes some promises to Abraham (whose name was still Abram at this point), including the promise that he would become "a great nation" (verse 2). This is a remarkable promise, since Abraham is seventy five years old, and as yet has no children since his wife is barren (11:30). Eleven years later, Abraham has a son by his wife's maid, and names him Ishmael (chapter 16). In 17:19, God reveals to Abraham that Ishmael is not the descendant through whom the promises would be realized, but that Abraham's wife Sarah would bear him a son, and God would establish His covenant with him. This son, the son of promise, was to be named Isaac. Finally, we find in chapter 21, Isaac is born when Abraham is one hundred years old, and Sarah is ninety. This brings us to chapter 22:

As you may already know, God did not let Abraham kill his son, but stopped him in the nick of time. Of course, Abraham fully intended to carry out the Lord's instructions, and so Isaac was as good as dead in his mind up until the moment the angel's voice restrained his hand. It is a remarkable account of faith, but there are other lessons we can learn from this event.

In II Chronicles chapter 2, King Solomon began making preparations to build a palace for himself, and a temple for God. Chapter 3 opens by telling us where the temple was built, "Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah" (II Chronicles 3:1). Abraham was instructed to sacrifice Isaac in Moriah, and we find that Mount Moriah is in Jerusalem. This calls to mind another sacrifice which was made in Jerusalem roughly two thousand years later: the sacrifice of Christ.

Remember that, although Abraham's firstborn son was Ishmael, God referred to Isaac as his only son. This expression emphasizes Isaac's preeminence; remember that it was Isaac through whom God would bring about His promises to Abraham, and so Isaac the one and only son of promise. Now, consider John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." Here the same expression is used to express Jesus' preeminence among God's children: Jesus is the One through whom God ultimately fulfilled His greatest promises to Abraham and accomplished His plan of salvation for all mankind; and Jesus is the One who most perfectly displayed the image of God in which Adam was created. So, both Jesus and Isaac were preeminent among their respective fathers' children to such an extent that both are referred to as only sons.

But God had also made a point of the fact that Abraham loved Isaac. Likewise, He made a similar point regarding Jesus at His baptism, "And behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased" (Matthew 3:17). It is no great coincidence that both Abraham and God loved their sons. However, it is interesting that God specifically pointed out this fact in each case. And, since the writers of scripture were generally selective about which details they included in their accounts, it is interesting that both Matthew and Moses included this one. But there is more.

Abraham fully intended to kill his son at God's command, and so far as he was concerned, Isaac was as good as dead until he got to the mountain and the angel spoke from heaven, which was on the third day from when God had issued the command. Similarly, consider the length of time Jesus was among the dead, "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures" (I Corinthians 15:3,4). So, just as Isaac was as good as dead until the third day, so also Christ was in the grave until the third day from His crucifixion.

Again, remember that Isaac bore the wood for the burnt offering. Likewise, Jesus bore the cross, "They took Jesus therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha" (John 19:17). Therefore, just as Isaac carried the wood upon which he was to be burned, so also Jesus carried the wooden cross upon which He was to be hung.

Further, Abraham carried the fire and the knife; he was to be the one to perform the sacrifice of his only son whom he loved. That being the case, consider that Jesus was delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23). Thus, the sacrifice of Christ was ultimately God's doing, and the men who physically performed the crucifixion were in essence God's tools. God, knowing their hearts, was able to use their evil inclinations to achieve His purpose. In both sacrifices, then, the father was to execute the sacrifice of the son.

All of these parallels might be relegated to the realm of striking coincidence, except for the consideration that the book of Genesis was written some 1400 years before Jesus was born, and the authors of the various books of the Bible were all selective about the details they recorded. Many details which are ordinarily included in other literary works are generally left out of scripture. That being the case, we need to satisfy the question of how the author of Genesis knew which details to include in his story in order to bring out these parallels: unless he had divine guidance.

To say that the New Testament authors contrived their histories to fit the account in Genesis, does not fit the facts. For example, all four gospel accounts were recorded independently, yet all four describe details of Christ's sacrifice that correspond to Isaac's. Also, none of the gospels make any mention of parallels between the two sacrifices, whereas they certainly would have had the details been so contrived. In fact, we need to look at several different books in order to see all the parallels, which shows that the writers of the gospel accounts did not have these parallels in mind when they wrote; otherwise they would have been sure to include all of them and draw them out. Further, none of the gospel accounts even note the connection of the location of the two sacrifices: we need to go to the seemingly unrelated book of II Chronicles to find that both occurred in the same area. So then we are left with the fact that the author of Genesis, who was very selective as to which details he included in the various accounts, somehow managed to include several details of the sacrifice of Isaac which closely parallel the sacrifice of Christ: 1400 years before Jesus was born as a man!

In the New Testament book of Hebrews (which was not written by any of the authors of the gospel accounts), we find that God indeed had Jesus in mind when He told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, 'In Isaac your descendants shall be called.' He considered that God is able to raise men even from the dead; from which he received him back as a type" (Hebrews 11:17-19).

The word rendered type in this passage is the same word often translated parable: it refers to a story which is intended to symbolize something else. Jesus often used parables in His teaching in order to help make spiritual concepts more understandable. In this case, God orchestrated an event in Abraham's life to symbolize what He intended to do with His own Son some two thousand years later: He created a living parable. He then saw to it that this event was recorded in writing, so that we could look back and see that what He accomplished in Christ, He had planned all along. "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!" (Romans 11:32). Amen.

For those who still insist that all of this is nothing more than mere coincidence, there is yet one more fact to consider. The "coincidences" mentioned here are just a drop in the bucket. There are many such parallels in scripture. For now, however, these parallels between Isaac and Jesus will suffice as our first discussion of the evidence which God has provided to show that He did indeed guide the writing of scripture.


Email this author at jimrobson@tp.net

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