“The Lord will provide,” Abraham said quietly. Whether he said it to convince himself, or his son lying bound on the stones in front of him, he wasn't sure.
He took a deep breath. There was the altar that he had built, laying stone upon stone, with the wood spread out on top. Wood his son had carried up the mountain. He had made many such altars, had offered many sacrifices. The wood was arranged so that the fire would catch quickly and the wind blowing over the mountain top would quickly feed the flame. And consume the offering.
“Father,” Isaac had asked, “We have fire and wood, but where is the lamb we are going to offer?” Abraham had replied, “The Lord will provide for Himself the lamb.” He had been so certain. He had been sure that Isaac wouldn't die. Or if he did, Abraham knew that God would have to raise him from the dead. So many promises were bound up in the boy.
But with the knife in his hand, he was no longer so confident. He surveyed the scene one final time for some sign of deliverance. He found none.
Closing his eyes, he raised the knife. “The Lord will provide,” he prayed.
“Abraham! Abraham!” came the voice from heaven.
Abraham was asked by God to do the unthinkable. He was told to take his son Isaac and to offer him as a mountain top sacrifice. Isaac was his only child with Sarah. He was the miracle baby, born to parents ninety and one hundred years old. He was the son that Abraham loved above all others. He was also the vessel through which God had promised great blessing would flow. It was through Isaac that Abraham's descendants would become a great nation. They would outnumber the dust of the earth, the sand on the seashore, the stars in the heavens. It was through Isaac that every nation would be blessed.
God asked Abraham to take this son and to sacrifice him. By faith, Abraham obeyed. But at the last moment, as the knife was raised, a voice spoke from heaven. Isaac was delivered.
This scene would replay itself many years later. Like Isaac, Jesus would climb a mountain, and there submit himself to the will of the Father. He would offer himself up as a sacrifice. But unlike Calvary, there would be no last minute deliverance. There would be no voice from heaven. Jesus would not be spared. There would be no substitute. Jesus himself was the substitute.