Genesis 22: Mount Moriah- An Unusual Christmas Story.
The word moriah means forseen of Jehovah We are told in Revelation before the foundation of the earth, the Lamb was slain. This means mans sin was foreseen by God. Therefore God built into the plan of creation- the plan of salvation. Consider the watchmaker who realizes a watch will stop telling time and therefore builds into the watch the mechanism where it can be reset. This allows the watch to be restored to perform the purpose for which it was designed rather than be discarded as useless. In much the same way, God who has all knowledge, including foreknowledge foresaw the fall of man. For this reason the Lamb was slain before the foundation. In other words, The Fall was foreseen and provided for in councils of Triune God in eternity past. God Provided a way. He made a way where there was no way. In fact- the Lord Jesus would become the Way.
Mount Moriah is the very place where in later years King David bought the threshing floor of Ornan as a place for the site of the temple.( I Chronicles 21:18) And it was on that very place where Abraham offered Isaac, the temple of Solomon was built, ( 2 Chronicles 3:1).
Today the Moslem mosque, the Dome of the Rock is built over the great rock that formed the altar upon which Abraham offered Isaac. It is from this rock that Muslims believe Ishmael was offered and from this rock they believe Mohammed and his horse ascended into heaven. So this is a place this is very historic to three religions.
This account of Abraham offering Isaac is a remarkable foreshadowing in the OT of the work of Christ in the NT- with Gethsemane, Calvary and the Resurrection all clearly in view.
But also this account gives us not only an account of Abrahams greatest test- it gives us an insight and picture of the deep love that God the Father has for His Son. In this story of Abraham and Isaac we sense the great love and joy that Abraham has for his only son, Isaac. We can empathize and comprehend this love Abraham had for his son and in doing so- we get a glimpse of the great love that God the Father had for His Son. We shudder when we think of how great this sacrifice was for not just the Lord Jesus- but for our Heavenly Father. Jesus told us- if you earthly fathers being evil give good gifts to your children- how much more will your Heavenly Father give good gifts to them who ask Him. The Lord Jesus was providing a hint to the greatest gift ever given- the most expensive gift ever given- His precious blood and if that was not enough He also gave us the Holy Spirit.
As we have studied the book of Genesis I have referred to what theologians refer to as the principle of first mention. This principle points out when a word is used for the first time in the Bible, the context in which it occurs sets the pattern for its primary usage and development through the rest of Scripture.
Did you know in this verse, Genesis 22:2- the word love appears for the first time? Isnt it interesting the first time it is used is not in connection with a mans love for his wife or a mother for her children or brotherly love, or love of country or even love for God. Instead it is used of the love of a father for his son.
That Isaac is a type of Christ is confirmed by Galatians 3:16. The experience of Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah is a type of offering of Christ at Calvary is confirmed by Hebrews 11:17-19. So in this account of Abraham and Isaac we see and can more fully comprehend and appreciate the sacrifice that God the Father endured in heaven when His Son climbed that other mount and was laid upon the wooden cross. For God the Father did not spare His own Son- but delivered Him up for us all.
You see- this love of God the Father for God the Son existed in eternity past- long before the world was created. Therefore we can conclude this love is the foundation for all other types of love. And what a love it is— sacrificial, unconditional- withholding nothing- a love that risks all and is for all who would receive it.
God proclaims this deep love for His Son in the NT . Lets look at the first occurrence of the word- love in the NT.
Matthew 3:17- (at His baptism) And a voice from heaven said, this is my Son , whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.
Mark 1:11 and Luke 3:22 record similar statements; at Jesus baptism.
Then in John 3:16: we see the first mention of the word love in that Gospel. But here Gods son tells us God the Father loves US so much He was willing to sacrifice His only beloved Son that we might be saved.
I John 4:9-11 : This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
So with this information as a backdrop- lets look at this account this test of Abrahams faith with all of this perspective. In doing so- we will find a most unusual Christmas story.
Genesis 22:1-2: Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, Abraham and he said here am I.. Then God said take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love ( First mention of the word love in Bible) and go to the region of Moriah; and offer(KJV) him there for a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.
I purposely used the word offer from the KJV because of the meaning of the word offer. Offer means to present for acceptance.. God did not actually ask Abraham to kill his son- nothing is said about slaying Isaac, although this is the natural conclusion that Abraham jumps to as most of us reading this also concur. Offer= present for acceptance. Same word used when Paul writes in Romans 12present your bodies a living sacrifice. That Abraham would be willing to offer his son was the test- God, of course would not accept the sacrifice- He wanted to test the heart and love of Abraham. Remember the first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord thy God with ALL your heart, mind, soul and body.
Notice the scene is set chronologically by telling us this is some time later. From this we infer Isaac is a young man, capable of carrying a load of wood. Probably in his early 20s. The KJV uses the word tempts- the NIV interprets the Hebrew word used here nacha as tests. This interpretation better describes the meaning which is defined in Hebrew and Chaldee dictionary as assay, prove or try. God does not tempt He test the heart He tries it.
Satan tempts with the purpose of seeing us fail. God tests us in order to confirm our faith.
We do not want to lose sight of the fact that Abrahams story is a story of faith. In fact Abrahams story is recorded in such a way that he becomes our sample man of faith. What we have observed so far is a man on a 50 year journey of faith.
God has tested his faith and in doing so- Abraham has learned to recognize Gods voice.
He has learned that sometimes he is asked to go out to a place that he does not know where he is going but trusts the God who is directing him to that place.
In learning to follow God and walk the walk of faith- Abraham learns following God means sometimes leaving behind things our old nature loved.
Think about what Abraham has left :
Mesopotamia and his comfort zone.
Tehran, his father in Haran.
First choice of land- yielded first choice to Lot.
The rewards of the king of Sodom- which were great.
Ishmael, his first son. The representative of the old nature- the flesh.
But in each incident, as Abraham looked back over his life of faith, he realized how God had been faithful
I believe in these tests and with his sending away of Ishmael and Hagar we realize a very important spiritual truth and principle*.
*God will not take away your Ishmael until you have received your Isaac*.
We are not told what Abraham thought- but we can certainly imagine the night before he left and the 3 days journey- there was nothing else on his mind but what lay ahead. The sense of dread and fear and reluctance must have been on his mind and heart constantly.
But verse 3 tells us early the next morning he took off with Isaac and two servants. He had a load of wood, and other needs for making a sacrifice. We read they set out for the place God has told them about.. A place that surely was dreaded- not unlike our Lord Jesus and His Father dreaded another place called Calvary.
In verse 4- we read on the third day they saw the place In Luke 22: 33, we are told, And when they had come to the PLACE which is called Calvary, there they crucified Him. One place surely foreshadowed the other place. For three days- Abraham must have thought of nothing but the death of his only beloved son. But something happened in that three day journey.
What Abraham does next reveals something happened to Abrahams faith in those three days. A faith that had been 50 years in developing.
Verse 5: He(Abraham) said to his servants, Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship the Lord and then WE will come back. You see the statement of faith- WE will come back. Do you find it strange that Abraham referred to what he was about to do as worship? The literal and original meaning of the word- worship has lost its true meaning. We think of worship as a worship service- preaching, singing hymns, fellowship but the original Hebrew word a verb- Shachah- means to bow down- to prostrate ones self as an act of respect before a superior being. It was a way to show submission. To worship God, as Abraham spoke of here was to bow down to His will. Recognizing He is who He says He is and can do what He says He can do. And because we believe that we submit to His revealed will, even if we do not understand it.
What happened to Abraham in those three days of travel? Hebrews 11: 17-19 tells us the rest of the story:
By faith Abraham when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. Abraham reasoned ( reckoned- accounted) that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death. (Romans 6- Paul tells of powerful truths we should know and reckon to be true.)
Do you understand what Abraham did he reckoned, reasoned and calculated that God had said it was through Isaac all the nations of the earth will be blessed. Isaac is necessary to the fulfillment. Furthermore, Isaac was not married yet and had no offspring. So if Abraham had to go through with this dreadful act- there could only be one explanation- God would raise Isaac from the dead, even from the ashes. That is why Abraham said without hesitation to the two servants- WE will return. Abraham had come to believe that God was who He said He was and could do what He said He would do.
Abraham said to the two servants I and the boy go over there and worship. The place they had come to- was a place where only the Father and the Son could gothey went up together. Twice it is mentioned- the father and the son went up together.
For the Lord Jesus there came a point where He went forward alone( a stones throw) in the Garden to be with His Father. He was going to a place only He and His Father could go- as they prepared to go up to Calvary together- a place the disciples could not go.
Now let us carefully consider these next verses:
Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac( a picture of the cross laid upon our Lords shoulders) and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went up together, Isaac spoke up and said to Abraham, – Father. Yes my son, Abraham replied. The fire and wood are here, said Isaac, but where is the lamb?
Abraham answered, God Himself will provide the lamb FOR the burnt offering my son. And the two of them went on together.
Do you see the foreshadowing of Gethsemane here? We see the Lord Jesus in the garden, sweating great drops of blood, and asking His Father- Abba- Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will but what you will. The Lord Jesus was in anguish we are told. But now consider what must have been the heart of God the Father as we consider what this agonizing question from Isaac (where is the lamb, Father?)must have done to Abrahams heart.
We can visualize the scene- an old man with a son in his 20s climbing a mountain with a container of fire- a knife and a load of wood laid upon the young mans back. The young mans question where is the lamb?- would not be answered for centuries. Then a prophet came out of the desert named John the Baptist. His mission was to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord the Messiah. In John 1:29, John the Baptist proclaimed as he saw Jesus the day after baptizing Him- Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The Lamb of God had arrived!
In verse 9, we see Abraham and Isaac, father and son, reach the place. Abraham built the altar and lay the wood upon it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him upon the altar. We realize at this time, that Isaac knows what is happening and has submitted to the will of his father. He could have easily overcome his father physically- but he submitted like a lamb led to the slaughter. Again we see the cross of Mount Calvary in plain view. God the Father did not force His Son to die on the cross. Listen to what Jesus said in John 10_ 17-18: the reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.
It was the Fathers will- but the Son willingly obeyed. Praise God our Father who with His Son went together to that place, Calvary, and because they did, because God spared not His Only Son- lost sinners can be forgiven and receive eternal life. He gave us the greatest gift ever- He gave us His Son to take our place on the cross.
Abraham did not have to take the life of his son, Isaac. God never intended for him to do so- God wanted Abrahams heart.
So in a dramatic ending- the knife is stopped and a ram whose horns are caught in the thorns is provided by God as a sacrifice instead of Isaac.
Here is your Christmas message : You see you cannot truly celebrate Christmas- without celebrating Calvary.
Look not just to the Babe in Bethlehem but look at the Son of God on the cross and see the crown of thorns. For this reason the Lord came to earth- for this purpose was the Babe in Bethlehem born. It is the Lamb, God has provided- his horns caught in the thorns. That crown of thorns that encircled our Lords brow is our Christmas wreath. The cross on which He was laid is our Christmas Tree.
God provided a sacrifice in the place of Isaac that day and Abraham named the location- Jehovah-jireh meaning God will Provide.
You see Christmas is for giving- for God gave us His Only Begotten Son. The Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world. For Christmas reminds us why Christ came into the world: Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burn offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then said I: here I am it is written about me in the scroll I have come to do your will, O God. ( Hebrews 10:5-7)
You cannot celebrate Christmas without celebrating Calvary. Christmas is for giving and Christmas is about forgiving. For God so loved the world He gave His Only Begotten son that whosoever should believe in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life..
On the day He was born in Bethlehem, Our Lord Jesus and His Father began a journey to that place- Mount Calvary. It was a journey planned long ago in eternity past. You cannot celebrate Christmas without celebrating Calvary because the purpose of Christmas was to go to Calvary.
So open your gifts from your Heavenly Father:
If you knew the gift of God
Wait for the gift my Father has promised..
And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit
But the gift of God is eternal life..
Each man has his own gift from God..
This (salvation) is the gift of God not of works..