(Or the Sign of Abraham)
Abraham was a very righteous man, but had no son. Very late in his life the Lord promised him a son and soon Abraham was a father. The Lord then told Abraham to go and sacrifice this son, whom Abraham loved very much. Because Abraham was righteous he went to do it. However, just as he was about to sacrifice his son the Lord stopped him through an angel and provided an animal in his son’s place.
Note: When telling this story we need to remember that our friends believe it was Ishmael and not Isaac who was going to be sacrificed. Even though we disagree, it is best to just refer to Isaac as “Abraham’s son” and avoid needless controversy. Our purpose is to introduce them to Jesus in a whole new way as soon as possible, so steering away from this controversy helps this process. If this is brought up we can just respond, “I think if we focus on which son it was we can miss the whole point of the story.” If we choose to fight this battle and, as a result, don’t have time to get to Jesus we have paid far too high a price.
Abraham is very righteous because he obeyed even God’s most strenuous commands. His obedience and faith is a model for us all. Even though Abraham was willing to sacrifice what is most costly to him, the best sacrifice is ultimately what the Lord himself provides. The lamb God provided was a display of his mercy and all Abraham had to do to receive this mercy was accept the sacrifice God provided.
This story also shows us more about the great coming sacrifice. Not only is this great sacrifice going to come from the Lord (so we won’t have to provide our own sacrifice) but it will also come in the form of a lamb.
Note: Even though most people think of lambs as being completely stupid that is the wrong meaning. The true biblical image of a lamb is one if being defenseless. For example, when we are compared to sheep in scripture it does not mean that we are stupid, God never calls us that, but it is rather a picture of our defenseless without the Lord. The animal Abraham was given was defenseless, so it is allowable to referred to as being “in the form of a lamb.” Besides, determining the exact type of animal it was is far less important than which son it was.
The great coming sacrifice is coming from the Lord and will come in the form of a lamb. Like Abraham, we need to walk in faith and receive it.
Optional use of the Qur’an:
– The Qur’an has other stories of Abraham, but we should just focus on this particular act. In this account, just as Abraham was about to sacrifice his son the Lord stops him and says “We have ransomed him (his son) with a momentous sacrifice” (Those Ranged in Ranks 37:107). The word “ransomed” literally means the death of the animal purchased the freedom of Abraham’s son. While Abraham was about to sacrifice his son God stepped in and provided something that was far better. The term “momentous sacrifice” is clearly an indication of something greater than just an animal. We see that this is also going to be a blessing for later generations (Those Ranged in Ranks 37:108) so this account provides an illustration of a future great sacrifice. According to the Qur’an, there is something much bigger happening here than just trading Abrahams son for an animal.
– The sign is God’s provision of a greater sacrifice before Abraham could sacrifice his son. It shows us that God is the one who provides the best sacrifice and that his great coming sacrifice will come in the form of a lamb.