Old Testament: Genesis 22:1-18 (Lent 1: Series B)

Reading Time: 4 mins

Abraham had a daring confidence that God would reveal a saving work to him on that mountain.

Sometimes a text turns on a very small, but significant point. Sometimes that idea can only be made by a very minute detail. In the case of our text for today, the detail is down at the grammatical level.

To set this turn up in the sermon, you may want to start by talking about how Abraham was called to be a man who lived by faith and not by sight (Genesis 12). The only thing he ever had was to trust in God for literally everything. Every other part of his life was complicated either by him or someone else. By the time we reach our reading in Abraham’s life, something became complicated with his relationship with God (Genesis 22). Abraham was called to sacrifice his beloved son in “the land of Moriah” (verse 2), the future site of the Holy of Holies. Abraham set out promptly and on the third day he lifted up his eyes and saw the place to which God was leading him (22:4). In 22:8, when Isaac asked his father where the offering was, the answer was simply: “God will reveal it” (אֱלֹהִים יִרְאֶה־לּוֹ).[1] As Abraham was about to slay his son, the angel’s voice stopped him. The patriarch lifted up his eyes (again) and saw a ram caught in the thicket who would be the substitute for the sacrifice (22:13).

Abraham had a daring confidence that God would reveal a saving work to him on that mountain. We only see it, though, in a grammatical detail in verse 5 of our reading ( וַאֲנִי וְהַנַּעַר נֵלְכָה עַד־כֹּה וְנִשְׁתַּחֲוֶה וְנָשׁוּבָה אֲלֵיכֶם ) :“I and the boy will go over there, and worship and I and the boy will come back to you just the way we came.” The key to the clue of this confident faith of Abraham is in something called a “Waw Consecutive.” In this case, it is more than just “and” in the translation. Here, it can be understood as saying: “In the same way you see the boy and I go over there, you will see us come back to you in the same manner.”

What inspired this faith? Abraham knew God would keep His promise. God promised the blessing of Abraham would pass through His only, beloved son to the rest of the world. There was no one else God promised that through, not even Ishmael, and God keeps His promises. He always has and He always will. So, if God were going to require him to make a bloody sacrifice of his son, he knew the Lord would literally raise his son on the spot. Why? Because God made a promise, and He will keep it. What singular trust and hope that Abraham would see through eyes blinded by tears and faith the promise of God on the other side of death. He would have faith in the God who could raise this son of his from the dead so He might keep His promises.

What inspired this faith? Abraham knew God would keep His promise.

Now, you might think I am pushing the grammar a little too far, but we actually have scripture to back this interpretation of scripture. Take a look at Hebrews 11:17-19:

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.”

What an amazing text to talk about the Gospel of Christ. Abraham believed in the resurrection of the dead just as we do. However, neither he nor we believe on account of Isaac, but on account of Christ. Christ Jesus, who would be the lamb for us, who would carry the wood of the sacrifice on His shoulders, who would lay down as our substitute for sin, who would not be spared but die in our place AND (Waw Consecutive) rise again for our justification (Romans 5:16)! God has revealed the sacrifice of His beloved Son Jesus Christ and on the third day we see His glorious resurrection. The same Jesus who went to the cross is the very same Jesus who rose again for you. The same Jesus who stood in our place as God’s provision for our sin is the same Jesus who stood up from the grave for our justification (Romans 4:25). We have a “Waw Consecutive” kind of faith as well. If God’s only begotten son would have to go through with that sacrifice, then we believe, by grace through faith, that when God raised Him from the dead (Acts 13:30), we will rise together with Him too (2 Timothy 2:11; Romans 6:8)!

Perhaps the best structure for a text focused on this key detail which reveals a beautiful turn from severe law to amazing Gospel is the “Lowry Loop.” Eugene Lowry developed this structure in his book, The Homiletical Plot. He suggests you create an “Aha moment” by using the sequence of the sermon to generate experiences on the part of the hearers that mirror the experiences of a typical plot form. A “Lowry Loop,” as it is often called, has five sections: 

(1) Upsetting the equilibrium (“oops”)

(2) Analyzing the discrepancy (“ugh!”)

(3) Disclosing the clue to the resolution (“aha!”)

(4) Experiencing the Gospel (“wee!”)

(5) Anticipating the consequences (“yeah!”)

Just as in a narrative, the climax of the story often arises from a surprising discovery of a new way of looking at things. So, also in this sermon structure, the reversal is something unforeseen by the hearers and, therefore, a surprise or, as Lowry calls it, an “Aha! experience.”[3] This is the revelation of the “Waw Consecutive.”

Here is an idea for an outline based off the Lowry Loop all fleshed out:

Intro: God calls Abraham to always live by faith in what he cannot see. Summary of Genesis 12-22!

Oops: Sacrifice your only beloved son. Wait what?!?

Ugh: He is actually going to make me go through with this!!! Why?

Aha:  When the angel stays his hand, we then recall what he said to his servants in verse 5 (Waw Consecutive) and what it means. We see this is true because of Hebrews 11:17-19.

Wee: God provided for Abraham a substitution, but it was not just the ram, it was Jesus the Lamb of God who is your substitute too!

Yeah: We have a Waw consecutive faith as well (see 2 Timothy 2:11; Romans 6:8). No need to bring a sacrifice. God has provided one for you just as He said He would AND He is risen from the grave for your justification Romans 4:25 and Romans 5:16.


Additional Resources:

Craft of Preaching-Check out out 1517’s resources on Genesis 22:1-18.

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Genesis 22:1-18.

Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Genesis 22:1-18.

Lectionary Kick-Start-Check out this fantastic podcast from Craft of Preaching authors Peter Nafzger and David Schmitt as they dig into the texts for this Sunday!


[1] E-lo-him yir-eh low. This can also be translated “God will provide to/for Himself.”

[2] wa-a-ni wǝ-han-na-ar ne-ley-kah ad-koh wǝ-nis-ta-ha-weh -na-su-bah a-le-kem. When the vav prefix appears as part of a vav-consecutive form, it appears as /wǝ-/ (וְ) before the suffix conjugation, but /wa-/ (וַ) before the prefix conjugation. These forms are highlighted here in a slightly larger font.

[3] https://concordiatheology.org/sermon-structs/dynamic/narrative-structures/lowry-loop/