“A test of Love (part b)”
II. Vs. 11-24 God will provide Himself
The story of Abraham’s offering of Isaac provides such an opportunity for us to appreciate the “Gift” of the incarnation of Christ in a way in which we can experience the its true value. Last week we left off with Abraham walking up the hill of Calvary with his son Isaac in total agreement. Abraham builds an altar arranges the wood in order, binds his son and places him atop the altar. The binding of Isaac was not to keep him from getting away any more then it was the nails that kept our Lord on the cross. If Isaac wanted not to be placed upon the altar he would have never allowed his father to tie him up to begin with. What was it that kept Isaac on the altar was the love for his father!
II. Vs. 11-24 God will provide Himself
Vs. 11 Abraham was completely willing to act upon the Word of the Lord, why else did the angel of the Lord have to stop him? The point is, “God takes the heart before He takes the action”, and He takes the “will for the deed”. When God sees that we are truly willing to obey no matter what the consequences He will often not require the sacrifice. A lot of folks want to know the will of God before they act. It is interesting to me that God looks at it from the opposite way, as He wants to see if we will act before He will let us know in which way we are to do so! The knife never needed to go into Isaac as God saw that it had already been plunged deep into the heart of Abraham.
Notice who it is that stops Abraham, The angel of the Lord! Several chapters back in Genesis that the “angel of the Lord” came before Abraham and in each case this was a theophany or christophany which is a pre-incarnate manifestation of Jesus. So it is none other than Jesus. Abraham is taking his beloved son up to Calvary with wood upon his back to be a sin offering in obedience to the Lord and Jesus says, “Abraham, Abraham, don’t touch your son for I know what lies upon the throne of your heart! And one day the world will know what lies on the throne of My Fathers and My heart!” Abraham had said to Isaac that “God will see the lamb for Himself” and there was a ram in the thicket but there was also a Lamb there who would take away the sins of not just Abraham and Isaac but the whole world!
Vs. 12 Abraham’s offering of Isaac in obedience to God’s word was not because he thought if he didn’t God would punish him, instead it showed that Abraham understood God’s character of faithful, unchangeable, merciful and full of loving kindness. In Hebrews 11:19 we read that Abraham “concluded that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead”. It doesn’t say that Abraham concluded that if he didn’t do as God had said he would squash him like a bug!
When God asked Abraham for the greatest demonstration of love and commitment, He asked Abraham for his only son. Why not ask for Sarah his wife, I mean his sister? Why not ask for all the possessions he owned? In Hebrews 11:9 we are told that “he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country dwelling in tents”. Because his possessions were not what was nearest his heart, what was nearest his heart was the child of promise. When you stop and think about it there is only one thing that could ever be placed upon the altar and that is the promise God has made towards us. Back in Genesis 3:15 God spoke to Adam and Eve concerning a child of promise that would restore fellowship between God and man. God was placing Isaac and through Isaac, Jesus upon the altar showing all what one day He would do for all of mankind. We can look at the baby in a manger and say to the Father as Jesus said to Abraham, “for now I know that you love me, since you have not withheld your Son, your only Son, from me.”
Vs. 13 Notice that God still required a sacrifice. He did not say, “Hey Abraham you are a real good person and you have proved that to Me so that’s enough!” Instead there was still a sacrifice only the Lord provided this one. Now in this substitute Abraham looked up and saw a ram instead of a man. Yet as Jesus was there Abraham could well of looked into the future redemption of all of mankind and saw a Man instead of a lamb! That is what Paul proclaims in 2 Cor. 5:21 “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Think of the emotions that Abraham must have went through when he lifted his eyes and looked behind him and saw the ram caught by its horns in a thicket. Isaac was dead to him, thus the hopelessness of this moment was no doubt heavy upon his heart, he had believed according to the NT that God was able to raise Isaac from the dead and figuratively this is what God did in providing a substitute sacrifice. We are told that the ram was caught by its horns and in Scripture the horns are always a symbol of strength and power. As this relates to Jesus we see that Jesus was held by His strength and power upon the cross and this same strength and power that would raise him from the dead.
Vs. 14 One would think that Abraham would have named this hill later to be called Calvary, trial hill or agony hill but that is not what he calls it. No instead he aptly names it “The Lord will provide” mount, or as the Hebrew renders it “Jehovah Jireh”. Thus it bears the name that testifies of God’s intervention speaking to the truth of God’s presence and provision in providing the Lamb of God in His only begotten Son. Moses interjects by saying that during his day it was known as God’s provision Mountain. As people would go by that place they would say, “That’s the place where God provided Himself a sacrifice” not knowing that it would the same place that God would provide His only Son as our sacrifice for our sin.
According to verse 4 all of this has taken place after the 3rd day and in 1 Cor. 15 3-4 Paul writing to the Corinthians concerning the importance of the resurrection says, “I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures”. The key phrase is “that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures”. You can search the scriptures in the OT to find a reference to the resurrection happening on the 3rd day and you won’t find one except for this one picture in Isaac. Isaac was reckoned dead the moment God gave the command to take him to Calvary and thus he was made alive “raised” after the third day.
Vs. 15-16 We are told that the Lord swears or takes an oath to Himself. It is this incident that the author of Hebrews in chapter 6 refers to saying, “when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself,
Saying, “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.” The point in doing this is to give assurance to Abraham and us. When God who is truth and cannot lie promises to Himself to do what He has said it is like saying “I guarantee it!”
Vs. 17-18 Look at the phrase “in blessing I will bless you”, in other words I’m going to bless you in the same way as I have said before but I’m going to do so in a way that will exceed what you could ever ask or imagine! In these two verses the Lord gives three promises to Abraham:
“I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore”: In chapter 15:5 God promised Abraham descendants that would be as the stars in heaven, now God says that they will be as the sand on the seashore. Some bored mathematician calculated this both as 10 to the 25th power. Now this speaks of you and me as we are grafted into this by faith.
“Your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies”: The gate of a city was the key to controlling the whole city, thus the idea is that those who have the Lord on the throne of their heart will never have to be concerned about being helpless as God is our help!
“In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice”: The idea here is that all who trust the Lord as Abraham proved will be blessed. This is rewarded to us on the bases of God’s grace.
Vs. 19-24 The final section in this chapter speaks of Rebekah’s descendants. Rebekah you will recall is going to be Isaac’s wife. Now what makes this interesting to me is verse 19 as it says, “So Abraham returned to his young men, and they rose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba.” We know that Abraham sacrificed a ram instead of Isaac but there is no mention of Isaac coming down the hill only Abraham. I’m not suggesting that He didn’t because we are told 24th chapter that Abraham sends his servant “Eliezer” to find a bride from among the people mentioned in the final five verses of chapter 22. Why doesn’t Abraham mention Isaac coming down the hill which he by faith believed would and clearly does in chapter 24?
I suggest to you that this is a picture of what happened after Jesus rose from the dead. He ascended to the Father where we are told that he is preparing a place for us His bride and one day soon He is going to come and get us so that we will be with Him forever. Here’s what we see in this passage Isaac is not mentioned as leaving from Calvary and instead Abraham speaks to us about Isaac’s bride’s family. Then in chapter 24 Abraham (Isaac’s father) sends his servant “Eliezer” to bring the bride back to his son. “Eliezer” name means comforter! Wow! This passage is placed here as a picture of what we as the bride of Christ are waiting for, the Son to send the comforter to come and get us to be with Him. It reminds me of something I read the other day. A parent had a child that was in a 2nd grade school play. Amazingly the public school had allowed some of the Christmas songs to be sung. The played centered upon the words Christmas Love and the students sang a little song describing things that illustrated Christmas Love. Obviously what they left out was Jesus. So as they sang the song each letter stood for what they felt was indicative of Christmas love. All was going well until the little girl that was holding the “M” in Christmas started fidgeting she got the letter turned upside down so that it was a “W”. All the students, teachers and parents were trying to get here to turn it back to an “M” but she just thought that they were enjoying the play. The final part of the play came when all the letters were put together to spell out the words “Christmas Love” but instead spelled out “Christ was Love”!