Abraham, worth a righteous one
Take up on the wood
Put it on your son
Lake or lamb
There is none to harm
When the angel came
You had raised your arm
Abraham, put off on your son
Take instead the ram
Until Jesus comes
Sufjan is a tremendous story teller. He tells compelling and original stories in his songs, just listen to “The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out to Get Us,” “Casmir Pulaski Day,” or more profoundly “John Wayne Gacy Jr.,” to get an idea of just how compelling and sometimes disturbing Sufjan’s story telling can be.
“Abraham,” on the other hand, is by no means an original story, as Sufjan briefly recounts the story of Abraham taking his son Isaac up on Mt. Moriah to offer him as a sacrifice to the Lord. But as Sufjan so often does, he closes his song with a short but profound statement. I recommend actually listening to this song as the music helps to convey the message quite profoundly (sorry the quality on the YouTube clip is not great).
What makes this song brilliant is how it somberly moves from despair for sin to the promise of grace. Sufjan seems to understand that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin” (Heb. 9:22), and thus sees the Old Covenant which was ratified by sacrifice (Gen. 15:8ff) as awaiting future fulfillment in Christ.
Sufjan, with simple but profound clarity sees the ram as a replacement sacrifice for Isaac and that there will come a time when a “once for all sacrifice” will be made and it will be made in Christ!
For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself (Heb. 9:24-26).