The picture of Abraham trudging up Mount Moriah to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac is very similar. The story line is straightforward: God had long before promised the aging Abraham a son, and through that child, a nation. After an agonizingly long wait, Sarah finally gave birth to this child of promise.
Then God put Abraham’s devotion and faith to the ultimate test. He commanded Abraham to take his boy to a nearby mountaintop and sacrifice him there. It was a shocking request, the kind of instruction that leaves one feeling weak-kneed and nauseous. Nevertheless, Abraham somehow summoned the courage and the strength to obey, trusting in, if nothing else, the power of God to bring his dead son back to life (see Heb. 11:17-19). But the story ends on a happy note. As Abraham raised the knife, the Angel of the Lord suddenly called out to him, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me” (Gen. 22:12).
That is the obvious story on the surface. What then is the hidden picture? Commentators have long noted how this incident illustrates the salvation that God would one day provide for the world through Jesus Christ. The similarities are obvious. Isaac was Abraham’s only legitimate son; and Christ is the only Son of God. Abraham loved God so much that he was willing to sacrifice his son; God loved the world so much that He was willing to sacrifice His Son. Isaac did not resist the will of his father; Christ did not resist the will of His Father. Isaac carried the wood for the sacrifice on Mount Moriah; Christ, at least until He became weary, carried His own Cross up to Golgotha. Even the site of Abraham’s sacrifice is near the site where Jesus was crucified. The author of Chronicles identifies Mount Moriah as the mount where the temple in Jerusalem was built (2 Chr. 3:1).
However, there is one more amazing parallel, which has to do with the way God provided Abraham with a substitute sacrifice. Over in a nearby thicket was a wild ram. “So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son” (Gen. 22:13). God has done the same for us! He has provided, not a ram, but the Lamb. Christ, through His death on the Cross, has become our substitute. He died so that we might live.