“Abraham called the name of that place The LORD Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the LORD it will be provided.” Then the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham lived at Beersheba.” Gen. 22:14-19
After Abraham completes the sacrifice of the substitute ram and names the place “Jehovah Jireh”, or “The LORD will provide” (or perhaps “The LORD will see our need” – see my previous posting God Will Provide), God reminds Abraham of the promises He previously gave him, and adds an additional blessing as well.
When Abraham was first called by God in Genesis 12:2-3, God gave several promises to Abraham, some of which are repeated here, including making him into a great nation, and that in him all the nations of the earth would be blessed. In 12:7 God adds the blessing of the Promised Land, which is also repeated in Gen. 13:14-15, and v. 16 Abraham’s future descendants are likened to the dust of the earth. In Gen. 15:5 they are likened to the stars of the heavens. A few of these promises are reaffirmed yet again between Genesis 16 and 21.
So what does this mean? Does it mean that Abraham really only needed to follow God’s initial calling to leave his family and travel to Canaan and the same promises would still be in effect? Did Abraham have to go through the other ordeals such as circumcising himself and all his household, sending away his son Ishmael, and the near-death of his son Isaac, if the promises in the end were largely the same? Or were the promises contingent upon Abraham’s continued obedience? If Abraham had failed here, would the promises still hold true?
Perhaps God’s continued testing of Abraham was precisely to bring about one of His promises about Abraham: “I will make your name great” (Gen. 12:2, paraphrased)
One new promise is in v. 17: “your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies.” This promise is echoed in Gen. 24:60 when Rebekah’s family blesses her before she departs to marry Isaac.
It may well be that this new promise is directly linked to Abraham’s latest trial. After all, in this story the offering of Isaac is a picture of the sacrifice of Christ. As such, Isaac’s soon-to-be wife Rebekah becomes a picture of the church, as the church is the bride of Christ. Isaac mysteriously disappears after the offering (see v. 19) and we do not see him again until he meets Rebekah. Both Isaac (Abraham’s seed) and Rebekah receive the same blessing – to possess the gate of their enemies. This is very similar to what Christ said in Matthew 16:18:
“…upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”