Substitution and Covenant (Genesis 22:13-14, 18)

Genesis 22:13-14, 18


13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

18 “…and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”


            I want to make two simple observations from my quiet-time reading in Genesis 22. The story is familiar. Abraham was called by God, as a test, to go and offer up his son as a burnt offering. Abraham obeyed God, went to the mountain, prepared to sacrifice Isaac, and then halted as God stopped him. Then God provided a ram for Abraham to sacrifice in Isaac’s stead and reaffirmed his covenant with Abraham.


            The first thing I notice today is the concept of substitution clearly illustrated in this passage. Abraham was allowed by God to sacrifice a ram in place of his son. This points us toward the work of Jesus, God sacrificing his son in place of his chosen people. If God would not allow for sacrificial substitution, we would be lost, forever damned because of our sin against a holy God. This picture, though odd to us, is beautiful, and it should stir awe and gratitude in our hearts.


            Then, the covenant words of verse 18 grab my attention. God again affirms with Abraham the words that we read before in Genesis 12. God would bless all nations through the family of Abraham. This is the metanarrative of the Bible in simple form. Man needed to be rescued. God sent the Rescuer, and the Rescuer, the Lord Jesus, came through Abraham’s family. Now, people from all nations, all over the world, are offered salvation and genuinely bade part of God’s family through the finished work of Jesus, the Promised One, alluded to by God in this verse of the Bible.


            These are big themes that leap out in this passage. We need to know them. They make understanding the Bible possible. Without a grasp of sacrificial substitutes and of God’s plan to rescue his children through a provided substitute, we could not make sense of the story. With a proper grasp of these truths, we can see the flow of events leading to Jesus with great clarity, and we can be led to praise and thank God for this great grace.