Archive for June 18th, 2014

God Will Provide, Part 2

June 18th, 2014

Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”

Genesis 22:13-14

The word translated with all capital letters, LORD, is the Hebrew four-lettered sacred name for God. Out of reference, the Jews would not speak the name but would instead say “Adonai”, the simple word for “Lord.” (Bible translators have usually placed LORD in all capital letters when translating this word in English.) The name was considered the personal name of God and it is filled with significance – God who is intimate with the worshiper, God Who is the Ground of All Being, God Who Is Always There – but in this incidence it especially draws attention to the Lord as the God of the Covenant.

Often in Scripture, and especially in Genesis, we see certain individuals who picture or prefigure the life and sacrifice of Christ, and here Isaac does this. We may say that Isaac served as a “type” of Christ – “type” coming from the Greek word in 1 Corinthians 10:6, tupos, which really meant an example, or a model. This does not mean to suggest that Isaac saves us, no more than any other person in Scripture, other than Jesus, saves us. Rather that the events of his life prefigure the sufferings of Christ.

The Beloved Son of the Father is offered as a sacrifice: As Isaac was offered, so Christ would be offered in future generations. The precise meaning of Son of God has a depth that is not fully represented by an earthly father-son relationship, but God chose these terms to convey to us His nature. And furthermore, since the reality of the Trinity predates the creation of the world, the nature of the human father-son relationship mirrors for us something of the nature of God. The early church theologians used the words “very God of very God” to convey that the Son was equal in essence to the Father, and was wholly subservient to His will. The nature of the relationship between God the Father and God the Son, as well as God the Spirit, is love. And for our purposes, the love that Abraham felt for Isaac gives us some real idea of the love between the Father and the Son.

No easier was it for the Father to send the Son into the world to die for our sins, than it was for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Only the greatness of His love could have propelled God to such an action, as the Scripture proclaims: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son” (John 3:16). There are limitations to Abraham’s representation of God’s heart – Abraham was just a man, after all, and not perfect in character or knowledge – but still this action stands as an example of what will transpire at Calvary between the eternal Father and the eternal Son.

The Beloved is bound to the wood: As Christ carried His cross, so Isaac carried the wood for the burnt offering (22:6). Here is an example from scripture that must have rung out to the minds of devout Jewish believers in the early proclamation of the Gospel. As Isaac was bound to the wood (22:9b) so Christ was nailed to the cross (staurow in Greek is commonly translated “to crucify” but the original meaning was to drive down stakes or nails, indicating the means of attaching Christ to the cross.)

The Beloved is offered near Jerusalem: God told Abraham to take Isaac to a hill in the region of Moriah, and tradition places this around Jerusalem, and it might very well have been the same hill where Christ was crucified. Both Isaac and Christ carried the wood up a hill – though the New Testament does not describe Calvary as a hill, from the fourth century onwards the early Christians used the term Mount Calvary, understanding it as being a hill.

The Beloved willingly makes his sacrifice: We are not told here the age of Isaac, but the Jewish rabbis had long reasoned that Isaac was already an adult, fully able to protect himself. Josephus said he was 25, some rabbis thought he was 35, but these ages correspond with Christ’s probable 33 years of age at His sacrifice. What thoughts must have gone through the mind of Isaac as Abraham his father tied him to the wood we can only imagine, but it is clear that he was a willing participant. Christ also willingly went to the cross, fully committed to the Father’s plan. “I lay down my life for the sheep…No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:15-18). (See also Galatians 2:20; Philippians 2:6-8; Hebrews 10:7.)

But these are only the similarities, the analogies, the types. There are also differences. God kept Abraham from sacrificing Isaac, and the meaning of the name, “God Will Provide,” we can see points to Christ. What Abraham was not in the end required to do, one day a Man from Isaac’s seed would be offered as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world. God will provide the sacrifice that will save us from our sin, and the profound meaning of these words and their significance have led many to assume that this must have been the true place where Christ was to be sacrificed almost 2,000 years after Abraham and Isaac had climbed this hill.

God Himself has provided for us a perfect sacrifice that would take away the sin of the world. There was no struggle in this matter in God’s heart, as we people struggle with great decisions, vacillating here and there, doubting ourselves, wondering if we will go through with it. But the story of Abraham and Isaac helps us grasp the pain of God’s heart. Out of His love for the world, the Father placed on the beloved Son the sin of the world, and the redemptive act of Christ has resolved our sin problem. And this should cause our hearts to respond in love to God and in devotion to Christ who laid down His life for us.

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