Abraham is commanded by God in Genesis 22 to sacrifice Isaac who is the promised son Abraham had long been waiting for. Elwell said, “Abraham stands in the unique position of being the father of a nation and the father of all believers.” Biblical students should recognize that the entire Bible is the history of salvation and this story is part of God’s unified plan to restore all things in Christ. Davis calls this story, “the spectacle of divine providence”. Along the way you see promises, partial fulfillments, and complete fulfillments of those promises. These things point to Christ and this literal story is one of the types and shadows of the future reality of what Jesus will do.
It is recorded that Abraham came from and was himself a pagan. Joshua 24:2-3 NKJV
(2) And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: “Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River in old times; and they served other gods. (3) Then I took your father Abraham from the other side of the River, led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac.
Joshua is telling the people that “Your fathers” which includes Abram was a pagan. Joshua confirms the “Your Father” statement in verse 3 when he again uses the term for Abraham “Then I took your father Abraham”. God took the pagan Abram and made him the prophet Abraham.
Stephen’s speech in Acts 7:2-4 helps us to understand that Abraham is included as a “father” which should clarify the reality that Abram was a pagan:
“Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, and said to him, “Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.” Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, He moved him to this land in which you now dwell.”
Stephen tells us that God called Abraham before he dwelt in Haran. Stephen refers to him as a “father” So, this is being consistent with Joshua calling the fathers pagan (serving other gods). God called Abram around the age of 70 according to theologian Adam Clarke and at 75 his father died and he moved from Haran. It looks like despite being pagan the family believed Abram regarding the move and that they should make the 700 mile journey from Ur to Haran. Genesis 11:31 records Abrams father Terah led the way to Haran and once dead God led Abram outside of the pagan influence of his father and into true blessing found only in the God of all creation.
Regardless of God saving Abraham; he was still a sinner. He was not always doing the right thing. He and his wife tried to fulfill God’s plan for them on their own. God promised a child and they made up a plan to have a child on their own. There is a big difference between a miraculous son and a son as a result of human planning. God is able to open the dead womb’s of women such as Hannah in 1 Samuel. God provides these kinds of miracles to reveal truth. Beale said Abraham being blessed was God “renewing” the “human community” in the image of God with “regenerated progeny who also reflect God’s image and shine out its luminosity to others…” Sarah being old and unable to have a child represents the depravity of man but also the virgin birth of Christ later in history. Believing that they should force the issue of God’s promise of a son is a lack of faith in Him and resulted in further sin because Ishmael is the father of an unbelieving people.
Abraham is like all sinful people in that he has moments of failure and success. God proves Himself to always be faithful but men do not. Abraham demonstrates the presence of his faith by his actions of being obedient to God. It seems clear he recognized God’s faithfulness by his willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac. Abraham believed that God would provide a different sacrifice which He did. Again this event is a type and shadow of the reality that was to come. Jesus became the ultimate and final sacrifice which is the fulfillment of Genesis 3. The ram provided in place of Isaac prefigured the sacrifice of Christ.
Beale, G.K. A New Testament Biblical Theology The Unforlding of the Old Testament in the New. Grand Rapids: Baker Academics, 2011.
Davis, John J. Paradise to Prison. Salem: Sheffield Publishing Company, 1998.
Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001.
Ross, Allen P. Creation and Blessing, A guide to the study and Exposition of Genesis. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998.
Vos, Gerhardus. Biblical Theology Old and New Testaments. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1954.
 (Elwell 2001, 19)
 (Davis 1998, 155)
 (Vos 1954)
 (Beale 2011, 53)
 (Ross 1998)