From the beginning of the world there have been prophets of God on the earth, except during the Dark Ages. Jehovah, who is also Jesus Christ, communicated with Adam and Eve in the Garden and from that day forward, the teachings of heaven were available to the children of men. Throughout the world’s history we see, in the lives of His prophets, a foreshadowing of the mortal life of Jesus Christ and our Father in Heaven.
Let’s us first take a look at Abraham, a prophet of the Old Testament. Born a couple of thousand years before Jesus Christ, Abraham was asked by Jehovah to sacrifice Isaac, his only son by Sarah and only son born in the covenant.
Offered up for sacrifice by his father, when he was a child, (Abraham 1:7-19) Abraham must certainly have had deeply emotional and psychological scars and objections to the sacrifice of human beings, let alone by a father.
And so, let us read of Abraham’s tremendous faith and trust in Jehovah, who is Jesus Christ:
And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.
And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.
And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.
Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.
And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.
And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.
And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?
And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.
And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.
And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.
And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.
And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.
And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.
And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.
And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time,
And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:
That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;
And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. (Genesis 22:1-18)
Taken at surface level, this seems to push loyalty to God a little too far. But in looking deeper into this story we see it as a powerful lesson, archetype and foreshadow of Jesus Christ. Jehovah asked no more of Abraham than was being asked of Himself and His Father.
Many experts say that Isaac was in his early thirties, and therefore, not a child at all. Of course, in the scheme of Old Testament times, 30 would be considered to be very young in a lifespan of more than a century or two. However, it is said that he was in his early thirties, as was Jesus Christ who was 33 when He suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane, was crucified and resurrected. It is also said by experts that Isaac knew full well what was going on and went willingly. If these assumptions are accurate, than we also see the tremendous faith, trust and love Isaac had in his father, Abraham, but also in Jehovah. It makes this a much more powerful lesson.
Andrew Skinner, the Executive Director of the Maxwell Institute formerly known as the Foundation for Ancient Research and Modern Studies wrote:
Here we remember the impressive discourse of Elder Melvin J. Ballard who said that he thought, as he read the story of Abraham’s [near]sacrifice of his son Isaac, that our Father was trying “to tell us what it cost him to give his Son as a gift to the world. … It must have pierced the heart of Father Abraham to hear the trusting and confiding son say: “You have forgotten the sacrifice.” Looking at the youth, his son of promise, the poor father could only say: “The Lord will provide.” …
I presume Abraham, like a true father, must have given his son his farewell kiss, his blessing, his love, and his soul must have been drawn out in the agony toward this son who was to die by the hand of his own father. Every step proceeded until the cold steel was drawn, and the hand raised that was to strike the blow to let out the life’s blood. Then the angel of the Lord said: “It is enough.”
Our Father in Heaven went through all that and more, for in His case the hand was not stayed. (Andrew C. Skinner, Prophets, Priests and Kings, Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, 2005 34-35)
And so Abraham, a type and shadow of Heavenly Father, was asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac, just as Heavenly Father allowed the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, for the redemption of all mankind. Not only could Abraham completely comprehend the fatherly feelings in such a circumstance, but certainly he could recall his experience as a child under the rule of a wicked father. This uniquely places him, as Skinner points out, in the position of not only understanding the feelings and emotions of the Father, but also the Son.
Skinner goes on to point out that just as Jesus Christ was Heavenly Father’s Only Begotten Son in the flesh, Isaac was Abraham only son of the covenant. Just as Isaac carried the wood for the sacrifice, Jesus Christ carried His own cross. The similarities go on and on.
Often, I have wondered why Jehovah would ask this of Abraham. I have come to understand that we all must go through our own Abrahamic sacrifice. Certainly, we will not be asked to foreshadow the event which changed the course of mankind forever, the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But each of us, in our lives, will be asked to follow God, to triumph over our trials rather than merely survive them. We are expected to learn to trust in God, completely and utterly without question or thought.
There is much we have to learn about Jesus Christ, His life, His mission and His Divine role. Not the least of which that the Lord prepares His people for all that is to come. Do we have eyes to see and ears to hear . . . will we study the scriptures, poring over the words of prophets and apostles so that our hearts, minds and spirits are lifted up above the mediocrity of life? Can we see in the near sacrifice of Isaac we can further began to understand the relationship between our Father in Heaven and our Savior, Jesus Christ and the full and complete sacrifices they made on behalf of mankind.
So whenever you hear of Abraham, remember the nuances of every part of his life and how it was a type and foreshadow of Jesus Christ.