Thursday, August 18, 2011

Genesis Chapter 22 ~ Child Sacrifice - The Gospel

Genesis Chapter 22

The Sacrifice of Isaac... After the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah God tested Abraham. Here’s what God told him:
“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.” (Gen. 22:2)
What would you do if you were Abraham? Would you obey God? Here’s what Abraham did, he rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, took two young men with him, and took Isaac as well and went to Mount Moriah. Once there Abraham cut wood for the burnt offering of his son. On the third day (a typical period of time in Scripture to prepare for something important)[1] he saw the place and told the men he brought to stay with the donkey while he and Isaac, “go over there and worship and come again to you.” (Gen. 22:5) Isaac carried the wood, and Abraham carried the fire and the knife. You can only imagine the pain Abraham is feeling to have to carry the instruments he will have to kill his son with. Further, since it was three days after God spoke to Abraham we know that he had to have mulled over this again and again. The three days preparation removes any thought that this was just a quick action of obedience. No, Abraham had to think about this, travel someplace to do it. It wasn't as simple as quickly deciding to do something and getting it over with. Isaac then asked where the sacrifice for the burnt offering was, and Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” (Gen. 22:8)

They arrived at the place, and Abraham built an offering. He laid the wood there, bound Isaac and put him on the wood on the altar. Then he took out the knife to slaughter Isaac. Can you feel the tension at this moment? Then, suddenly the angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven and told him not to go through with it, because now He knows that Abraham fears God, because he wouldn’t even withhold his son from Him. And as Abraham looked up he saw a ram caught in a thicket by it’s horns, so Abraham offered it as a burnt offering instead of Isaac. So Abraham called that place, “The LORD will provide.” Then Moses adds a comment, “as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.’” (Gen. 22:14) Then the angel of the Lord re-affirmed the covenant promises to Abraham:
“I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” (Gen. 22:17-18)
After this they went back to where they lived in Beersheba.

Then at the end of this chapter we hear of the children of Abraham’s brother Nahor and his wife Milcah, and his concubine Reumah:
This chapter continues to show the family in which the LORD will work redemption and salvation. We'll soon see why Nahor's family is detailed here. We see also that God is continuing to establish His covenant with Abraham.

Further, in this chapter God is showing what truly following Him will look like, and what love looks like. We have to forsake all, not just homelands, not just possessions and offerings, but even our own children. This is what love for God looks like. I wonder if when you read this you think, "What is God asking of Abraham? This is deplorable!" Well, in our economy of thinking it is, and to a certain extent it should be. When a man seeks to take the life of another on an unjusifiable basis it is patently wrong, and this is especially the case if someone did this with their child. Further, it is just like us to forget that God has proven over 21 chapters already that He is just and right in all that He does. Even though we don't know His intentions beyond that He is testing Abraham, we should not assume that His intentions are evil and depraved. In God's economy, since He is the Creator and Ruler of all things, He can make requests of His creation that if the creation were to make on it's own it may be wrong. He can do however He pleases. Besides, God knows that He won't let Abraham go through with it. Also, in His wisdom He is teaching us something about true love, obedience, and sacrifice. We must forsake all to follow and worship Him! Even if God didn't stop Abraham He would still be just in His requests and decrees.

This event serves another purpose. It is a foreshadow of what it will cost in order to appease God's wrath and reconcile us to Him. It will take not the death of our children as a sacrifice, but the death of His Son, Jesus Christ, as a sacrifice on Calvary, which is in the, "land of Moriah." (Gen. 22:2) This is a foreshadow of the sacrificial system that will be instituted in Israel to point to the one who would become the true sacrificial lamb (John 1:29; 36; Heb. 9:11-28; Rev. 5:6; 7:17; 14:10; 15:3; 19:9; 21:23; 22:1; 22:3), the Messiah Jesus! This is a strong pointing at the sacrificial system partly because of where it occurs, on a mountain in the land of Moriah. It was probably Mount Moriah. This place is spoken of in one other place in Scripture, 2 Chronicles 3:1, "Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to David his father, at the place that David had appointed, on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite." This is where Israel's temple would be built where God would meet with the High Priest in the Holy of Holies. This is the city of the King of Israel. It is amazing that even here, during Abraham's time, God is foreshadowing all that would come after him in this event in this specific place. It is a foreshadow and picture of what God's love looks like to His chosen people. God loves us so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him might have eternal life. Read how the New Testament puts it:
John 3:16-18: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God."

1 John 3:16: "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers."
When we read this we should be repulsed by what God asked Abraham to do to his only son, the one through whom the Messiah would come to save the human race from sin, Satan, and death. But then, we realize that God doesn't let Abraham go through with it. We can breath a sigh of relief, but that disgust we felt at first, that's how God knew He would feel when He poured out His wrath on Christ for our sake. Ultimately, what should repulse us and disgust us is our sin, that a sacrifice of God's Son was necessary to redeem us. Can you see what God is doing in this event in Abraham and Isaac's life? He's showing us a glimpse of the gospel. God is asking Abraham to sacrifice his only son in a just and righteous way, but we see in the gospel that God willingly sacrifices His own Son for our sin, so that we might be saved. Again, a right and just decree of which we are invited to be the beneficiaries of. Isn't it amazing that something so terrible can become something so beautiful? Praise God!
[1] cf. Gen. 31:22; 42:18; Ex. 3:18; 15:22; 19:11, 15, 16; Num. 10:33; 19:12, 19; 31:19; 33:8; Esth. 5:1; Hosea 6:2; Jonah 3:3; Matt. 12:40; 1 Cor. 15:4. See Bruce Waltke, 307.

No comments: