March 11, 2019

Lent 1 - Genesis 22:1-14

“The Scripture Cannot be Broken” (John 10:35)
1. A bond made by a father and son.
2. A bond dependent on respect and trust.

Genesis 22:1-14 After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." 2 He said, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you." 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you." 6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together.

7 And Isaac said to his father Abraham, "My father!" And he said, "Here I am, my son." He said, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" 8 Abraham said, "God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." So they went both of them together. 9 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." 12 He said, "Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me." 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, "The LORD will provide"; as it is said to this day, "On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided."  

It's sad that today’s story is one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented in the entire Bible. What makes this so unfortunate is that in reality it is one of more important and endearing portions of God’s Word. Those who oppose God’s Word say that it’s another example of typical backwards thinking displayed throughout the Bible, especially the Old Testament. We hear people say, “How could you follow a God who would demand human sacrifice?!”

But, the entire purpose of this text is that God didn’t require Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. The entire text pivots on the importance of a substitute. There are many lessons for us to learn in this story. We see examples of great faith in both Abraham and Isaac. We see an emotional glimpse into the difficulty of following and trusting God no matter what. Most importantly, we see a story of love as God connects what Abraham and Isaac endured (as father and son) to what He and Jesus endured (as Father and Son). It’s this bond, linked together throughout the holy and inspired pages of God’s Word, that makes this story one of the most important to our faith.

Our theme is pointed at that bond. A bond between Father and Son and the qualities they displayed. But also a bond in Scripture that connects these thoughts with the suffering and death of our Savior, Jesus – the only Son who was not spared. So, we center our thoughts on a single passage where Jesus described the unshakeable unity of His Father’s Word – “The Scripture cannot be broken.”

It was a tense moment in Jesus’ ministry when He spoke those words. He was conversing with the Jewish leaders. Jesus had just taught that famous speech about being the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep and promises them eternal life. Immediately, in response to that promise we’re told that the Jews took up stones to kill Jesus. They thought He had blasphemed by claiming to do what only God could do. And so, Jesus pleads with them to examine the record. Had they really thought this through or were they being led by emotion? Because, the Scripture cannot be broken. Jesus taught them that when they examined God’s Word, they would find an inseparable bond between the Father and the Son.

This same principle was at play long ago on Mount Moriah. Consider for a moment all that was at stake for God in this story. God hated the heathen religions that demanded human sacrifice. Although His people Israel were not a unified nation at the time of Abraham, we know from their subsequent history where God stood on this matter. Jehovah was not the God who demanded human sacrifices. That’s one thing that separated Him from other false gods. At no other point would the true God demand a human sacrifice. And yet, this is the very thing He required of Abraham. Would God betray His very nature?

Another thing at stake was God’s promise to Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. Think of how long Abraham had waited for Isaac to be born. That process alone was a tremendous test of Abraham’s faith. Finally, the fulfillment had come and God now wanted Abraham to kill his son. How could it be? Killing Isaac would negate the established promise that God provided. It would have turned all the prior tests of faith into pointless exercises – cruel expressions of the divine playing games with mortals.

And perhaps greatest of all, the salvation of the entire world was at risk here, for Isaac was also the heir of the Messianic promise. If he died, so also would that promise die, unless God either raised him from the dead or gave Abraham another heir. What agony must have been on Abraham’s heart and mind – seemingly pulled in two impossible directions; love my son, or follow my God.

Each of these results threatened the bond between father and son; not just between Abraham and Isaac but also between the Father and Jesus. As impossible of a situation as this seemed, the bond remained. As Jesus declared, the Scripture cannot be broken. That was true that day in Jerusalem and it was true that day on the mountain. As impossible as it seemed, God would not allow the bond to be broken – between father and son, and between the promise of His Word.

When everything seemed like it was about to fall about – a substitute enters. And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. God sent a substitute so that the bond would remain. God sent a substitute so that Isaac would be spared. God sent a substitute to vindicate His own merciful nature and to preserve the promise of salvation. Everything in this story surrounds the substitute. The horrific notions of this text only endure when the substitute is ignored. Listen to what God is describing. The terrifying shock of all the extremes we mentioned earlier is a glimpse into what life is like for deserving sinners when there is no substitute. Who doesn’t shutter at the thought of human sacrifice? Who doesn’t cringe at the thought of Abraham losing the very purpose and meaning of His life? Who is not angered at the thought of the innocent being condemned to death? Without a substitute, we would be left with these feelings and emotions.

Likewise, just as the bond between Abraham and Isaac remained, so also the bond between the Father and the Son remained. The Scripture would not be broken that day, nor would it be broken on Good Friday. As the righteous substitute for sinners, Jesus would ascend the cross in our place. He would carry our punishment so that we could go free. Yet, despite the many parallels, there is one difference. God’s Son would not be spared. The heavenly Father’s comparison with Abraham is fitting except in this one point. The materials would be gathered. The altar prepared. The Father would bind His Son, His only son, to the edifice of expiation. The implement of divine wrath would be yielded. Yet for Jesus, there was no escape as there was for Isaac. The death blow of God’s justice over sin would be fully met in His Son’s body upon the cross. Jesus was the Substitute.

Isaac needed to be spared to preserve the bond of father and son – and the bond of Scripture. In contrast, Jesus would need to be sacrificed to achieve the same end. The bond of Jesus and the Father was at stake on Calvary’s mountain. And as it pertains to you, so also was your bond with the heavenly Father as sons and daughters; rightful heirs of salvation. There was no other way to preserve the Scriptures. And so, as Jesus concluded with the Jewish leaders in His plea to consider the truth, He said, “…believe the works [that I do], that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.” Jesus held together the bond of His Word, so that sinners could believe that the Father is in Him, and He in the Father. A bond between father and son.

Jesus became the sacrifice, suffering the very torments involved with a father offering up His only Son, so that you could believe and know. Believe and know what exactly? The same thing Abraham declared, that “the LORD will provide.” That’s why the bond of Scripture is important. That’s why the bond between the Father and the Son is important. So that you and I can believe that God will provide.

We see how that works in our text also. Faith takes an obedient, trusting attitude with God. Three times we see that displayed by Abraham, who upon following God’s will responds, “Here I am.” When the LORD calls, Abraham responds. When God’s plan is in motion, Abraham listens. This is the trusting obedience of faith. Abraham knew and believed what God said even though his entire being must have been filled with sorrow and shock. When all else seemed gone, Abraham still had his faith. This is the listening ear of faith, not the accusatory shout of defiance. And as Abraham clung to His LORD, he would witness the miracle of God’s mercy upon that mountain.

And so, we continue to believe and trust that God will provide. You know, the actual Hebrew of this phrase is that “God will see.” The same idea can mean that God looks upon or even visits. He sees with intention, with purpose. This is a common Biblical expression for blessing. Think of the familiar Benediction – “The LORD make His face shine upon, and lift up His countenance upon you.” Abraham and Isaac were not alone that day – God was watching. God saw. God provided. And Abraham believed and memorialized that gracious thought.

In the pain and the suffering, you experience, whether at your hands or someone else’s – the same blessing is in effect – God sees. God looks upon you with intention – to provide. Never forget why. Never forget the bond that will never be broken; a bond between a Father and a Son. Never forget, that because Jesus was forsaken; because no substitute was given for Him; because darkness reigned on the day of His crucifixion; because your Father provided for you and not for His own Son – you are saved. You are now His Child, and He made good on His promise – The Good Shepherd will lay down His life for the sheep - and no one can snatch you from His hand. Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment