The Akedah (the binding of Isaac) and the Angel of the Lord

In the Jewish News of 10th November 2016 a liberal rabbi wrote on the subject of the Akedah (the binding of Isaac - recounted in Genesis 22), and indicated that “sometimes we must say no to God”.  This is my response:

On reading the rabbi’s comments, I asked myself “Whose side is he on?”  I seem to recall that once upon a time it was man’s Enemy in the guise of a serpent who encouraged disobedience to God’s command, and look what a mess that has got us in.  Saying no to God surely has no place in Judaism, or Christianity. We are at one in that.

In my view this testing had a dual purpose.  First, a test of the faith of Abraham and Isaac, who surrendered unconditionally to God’s will, knowing that God did not make false promises concerning Isaac’s future.  Abraham believed that God would raise Isaac up from death to fulfil those promises He made.

But more than that, we see in this account a glimpse into the mystery of the nature of God and His purposes. As Abraham took up the knife to slay Isaac, the Angel of the Lord intervened and said, “Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from Me your son, your only son” (Genesis 22:12). This was no ordinary angel.  In saying “from Me” we see that the Angel of the Lord was the same as the One that Jacob wrestled with…and became Israel – Genesis 32:22-30 when he saw God face to face.  The Angel of the Lord was no less than the One present at the very beginning, when God said “Let Us make man in Our image.” (Genesis 1:26).

Here we have a glimpse of the plural unity, echad, in the Eternal and of Him who in a more lowly form many years later said “I and the Father are One”.

As importantly, we see in the account of the Akedah a picture of the once and for all sacrifice that God would provide for the atonement of the sins of mankind by the blood of His beloved son Yeshua.  No animals or even men could do this, only the perfect “Lamb of God”, who was without sin.  It was as if God were saying, “If you Abraham are prepared to sacrifice your beloved son for me, I will do the same for mankind.”

In His sacrificial death for us, Yeshua paid the full price to redeem those who turn to Him in repentance and faith, and God raised Him to life.

At the end of the account of the Akedah, we see a ram, caught by its horns in a thicket, who was sacrificed in Isaac’s place (Genesis 22:13).  Many years later in the same location a crown of thorns was placed on Yeshua’s head.  It is as if the Eternal were now saying to us and Abraham, “I kept My promise.”

Michael Harris