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At last! Abraham had a son, born to his own wife, Sarah. This birth was miraculous; Sarah’s womb was dead, for “The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah” (i.e., she was post-menopausal). Because of this, she had laughed when she overheard angels telling Abraham she would bear a child (Gen. 18:10-12). But when she bore a son, she laughed again – this time in joy. She named him Isaac, which means laughter.

As the boy began to grow up, his older half-brother, Ishmael, “mocked” or “laughed” at him. Sarah saw that and put her foot down: she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac” (21:10).

In Galatians 4:22ff, Paul sees an allegory in this incident. The son of the slave woman, he compared to “the Jerusalem that now is” and Isaac, the son of promise, he compared to the New Jerusalem. The one was in slavery; the other is free. We, he said, are the free children of promise – but are persecuted by those who are born of the flesh. Then he quoted Sarah’s demand: “Cast out the slave woman and her son….”

Abraham did cast out Ishmael and Hagar, though God protected them when they were in distress.

In chapter 22, God put Abraham to a supreme test.

He told him to go to the land of Moriah with his only son, Isaac, and there sacrifice the boy as a burnt offering to the Lord.

As Abraham and Isaac climbed the mountain Isaac asked, “My father! ….Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham replied, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.”

At the top of the mountain, Abraham prepared the altar with the wood laid on it. Then he bound Isaac, placed him on the altar, and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Do not lay your hand on the boy…for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son from me.” God renewed His promises to Abraham, emphasizing “And in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth blessed” (Gen. 22:18; quoted in Gal. 3:16 and applied to Christ).

Abraham then saw a ram in a thicket, which he sacrificed as the lamb God provided. At this point, we see the depth and extent of Abraham’s mature faith. In the Hall of Fame of the Faithful, we read:

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, form which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. (Hebrews 11:17-19, ESV)

God did go through with sacrificing His Son – and did, in truth, “receive him back” from the dead. It is our faith in that Son of God, who was brought back from the dead, that makes us children of Abraham as we live our lives within the STORY of God’s redemptive purposes. We also go down into death and are raised together with Him through “faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12).


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