The New Testament tells us of a Father who gave up his only beloved Son as a sacrifice for sinners (John 3:16 & Romans 8:32). This same Father would raise his Son by his Holy Spirit (Romans 1:4) for our justification (Romans 4:25). God spared Abraham the heartbreak of sacrificing his only beloved son. But he himself gave up his only beloved Son Jesus Christ for our sins. By raising him and not Isaac, he has bestowed new life upon us in Christ.
The Bible has many human authors. It has one divine author. If only the first statement were true we would not be surprised to find disagreements and inconsistencies between authors. But because the second sentence is true we find that the many human writers are in harmony and consistency with one another. Not only this; later portions help us to understand earlier portions (and vice versa). The New Testament is our best commentary on the Old Testament.
One of the most heart wrenching and excruciating portions of God’s Word is found in Genesis 22:1-19. There we read the account of how God commanded his servant Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. This narrative is so disturbing that the Danish philosopher Sören Kierkegaard wrote a whole book, Fear and Trembling, which is essentially a retelling of the story from several different angles. Despite his multiple retellings of the account, Kierkegaard missed what seems basic. He failed to account for the function of the Abraham/Isaac narrative in the unfolding drama of redemption.
Kierkegaard was certainly right to catch the pathos of the storyline. Isaac was Abraham’s only son. He was Abraham’s beloved son. In fact, Isaac was the son of the promise. Abraham and Sarah had Isaac in old age, well past the ordinary years of childbirth and rearing. Isaac was his parents’ pride and joy. He was the object of their affections. But he was more than that. He was the one who would fulfill the promises God made to Abraham. God promised that Abraham was to have descendants as many as the gritty grains of sand on the seashore and as the sparkling stars in the deep blue night sky. Through Abraham’s seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12, 15, 17, 22).