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The Substitute Sacrifice

Advent 2020: December 7
The Substitute Sacrifice Hero Image The Substitute Sacrifice Hero Image

“After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.’ So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. Then Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.’ And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, ‘My father!’ And he said, ‘Here I am, my son.’ He said, ‘Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’ Abraham said, ‘God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.’ So they went both of them together.

“When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’ 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. 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.’” (Genesis 22:1-14)


Following God is not always easy. Taking a step of faith can be frightening—unless you fully trust in God’s goodness and the wisdom of His plans for your life.

God asked Abraham to do something incredibly hard. In fact, it is probably the hardest thing that anyone could be asked to do. Put yourself in Abraham’s shoes and imagine how he must have felt: God had promised him a son, miraculously kept that promise, and then asked him to offer that son as a sacrifice back to God!

We know the end of the story, so it may not seem so scary to us when we read it today. Abraham, however, could not see how everything would play out. He just trusted that God ultimately had a good plan, and he bravely obeyed. He had faith in the God who had been faithful to provide for him, lead him, and keep all of His promises. We see Abraham demonstrate his faith when he told Isaac that God would provide a lamb for the sacrifice. Sure enough, God did provide—just as He would later provide another Lamb, another Son, to be sacrificed in our place.

Abraham wasn’t the only father willing to sacrifice his only son. The story is a prophetical picture of how another loving Father—God Himself—would willingly sacrifice His only Son as part of His good plan. A Son, Jesus, who would also carry the wood for His own sacrifice on His shoulders up a hill. But this time God would not stop it. Jesus would become the substitute sacrifice, the Lamb of God, sent to rescue those who believe in Him from the punishment, power, and presence of sin. Jesus’s sacrifice would be incredibly hard, but it would be incredibly good. Sin and death would not have the last word; Jesus would. As you celebrate Jesus’s birth this Christmas season, remember why He came. Trust that His sacrifice is enough. We know how the story ends; Jesus always wins.

  1. What is something hard or scary that you have had to do? Is there something coming up that is difficult or scary for you?
  2. What aspects of God’s nature and character can give you hope and help you trust Him when facing a hard choice or circumstance?
  3. Read John 3:16. Why did God send His Son? What was His motivation, and what was the purpose? How does this verse give you hope?
Family Activity:

The ram died so that Isaac could live. God provided a sacrifice to take his place! Draw a picture of a ram on today’s ornament, showing how God provided for Isaac and gave him life. Read Romans 5:6-8. Thank God that, because of His love for us, He sent Jesus at just the right time to die in our place so that we might be saved when we have faith in Him.