my first love

April 27, 2017

Genesis 22: why the O.T. is so great. First love

Two episodes in the life of Abraham stand out with special prominence. The first, when against all natural hopes, he “believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Rom. 4: 3). In the second he was, “justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar” (Jas. 2: 21). To this second great event we come in Genesis 22.

“After these things,” we read, God put Abraham to the test, and this is ever His way. Peter speaks of “the trial of your faith,” and declares that it is “much more, precious than of gold that perisheth” (1 Pet. 1: 7). At the outset Abraham’s faith laid hold of God as One who was able to raise the dead. Under test he was now to demonstrate that such was his faith, in a way that would be apparent to any thoughtful observer. He showed his faith by his works.

If considered typically the chapter has remarkable significance. Here we get father and son both going up together to the sacrifice. In a figure the son is sacrificed and raised from the dead. We have already seen the death of Christ typified (1) as atonement, covering the guilty sinner, in the coats of skins (Genesis 3); (2) as the basis of approach to God, in Abel’s sacrifice (Genesis 4); (3) as the ground of acceptance, in Noah’s burnt offering (Genesis 8). Now we find a fourth and fuller type in the offering up of the son, and this brings in not only death but resurrection also. Consequently we find in this story details of very striking significance.

In verse 2 Isaac is mentioned as Abraham’s “only” son, which is rendered in Hebrews as, “his only begotten son” (11: 17) . ‘This makes it abundantly clear that Isaac was a type of our Lord, and further, it sheds light on the meaning of the words “Only begotten” as applied to Him. Ishmael indeed sprang from Abraham but being after the flesh he did not count in the Divine reckoning, and Isaac was quite unique. So our Lord Jesus Christ was Son of God in a perfectly unique sense.

It was God who declared Isaac to be Abraham’s “only” son, and He also added, “whom thou lovest.” Now this is the first time that love is mentioned in the Bible, which is remarkable, seeing it prefigures the love in the Godhead of the Father for the Son. Not until we reach the New Testament and such a statement as, “Thou lovest Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17: 24), do we get that love fully revealed; but now that it is revealed, we can better understand the great statement that, “God is love.” How fitting that the first mention of love should be typical of that supreme love, which is the fountain from which flows all true love of which we have any knowledge.

The command of God was that this only son of Abraham’s love should be offered by him as a sacrifice upon a mountain, chosen of God in the land of Moriah. He was to deliver to death the son, in whom all the promises were vested. This, was indeed a tremendous test of faith, as is made so plain in Hebrews 11: 17-19. That he did not fail under it was due to the fact that he believed that God was able and prepared to raise him from the dead.

The spot chosen for the sacrifice was that whereon, centuries after, the temple was built, and where Jewish sacrifices were made at the altar of burnt offering. Though Abraham cannot have known it the circumstances were divinely arranged to complete the typical picture. What we do see in Abraham is the energy with which he responded, rising up early in the morning, and’ the preparation he made to act in obedience. He departed with son, servants and wood for sacrifice.

On the third day Abraham saw the chosen spot; this was significant, for in after days he would look back to it not so much as the place of sacrifice as the place where in figure he received him as from the dead — the place of resurrection, in fact. That the faith of Abraham embraced resurrection is borne witness to by the closing words of verse 5. The sacrifice of Isaac was contemplated as “worship,” and the lad as well as his father was to “come again.” Abraham’s confidence as to this coming again is the more striking as he carried both a knife and the fire, as the next verse records. The wood was laid on Isaac. We may see in this a foreshadowing of that which is recorded in John’s Gospel — “He, bearing His cross, went forth into a place called . . . Golgotha.”

The sacrifice commanded was to be a burnt offering, hence to the eyes of Isaac the fire and the wood were perfectly natural, and the only question raised in his mind was, “Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham’s answer, though he may not have known it, was prophetic of something far beyond his own days: “God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering.” No lamb that ever died on any altar, patriarchal or Jewish, was other than provisional, and in view of that which was to come. The question, “Where is THE lamb?” was unanswered until John the Baptist was able to declare, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” Abraham, however, was fully persuaded that God would provide the lamb for this occasion, and in that faith both father and son went together.

Verses 9 and 10 relate how full was the measure of Abraham’s obedience. Nothing was lacking up to the point where the death stroke would have taken place. At the last possible moment the Angel of the Lord intervened. His obedience had been tested to the full and had stood the test. He had not withheld his only son. This not only proved beyond question that he believed in God as the God of resurrection, but also furnished a foreshadowing of the infinitely greater moment when God “spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all.”

Though not stated in the narrative, we must not fail to notice the submission of Isaac. No word of remonstrance on his part is mentioned. He typifies the One of whom the prophet testified, “As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth” (Isa. 53: 7). His experience must have typified that which our Lord passed through, in infinitely greater measure, in the Garden of Gethsemane.

The voice from heaven arrested the death stroke that was to have fallen on Isaac, and now Abraham’s eyes were directed to God’s immediate provision; not a lamb merely but a ram. If we desired to have the strongest and most vigorous specimen from among the sheep, we should have to select a ram. This one moreover was caught in the thicket by its horns, symbolic of its strength, and it was offered as a burnt offering “in the stead of his son.” Though the actual words, substitute, or substitution, do not occur in our English Bible, here we have exactly that which the words mean. A substitute is one who stands in the stead of another.

So in this incident, which presents to us the fourth type of the death of our Saviour, we have before us salvation by a substitutionary sacrifice. And further, since the ram was detained to be the sacrifice by its horns, the strongest part of its frame, we may see how our blessed Lord was held to His sacrificial work by the strength of His love. No nail that ever was forged could have detained him on the cross. What held Him there was love to the Father, and love to us. (See John 14: 31; 13: 1).

Abraham recognized the wonderful way in which God had provided the lamb for a burnt offering, and signalized it by naming the place Jehovah-Jireh, meaning, ”The Lord will provide.” And out of that sprang a saying which was still current when some four centuries later Moses wrote these things: “In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen,” or “shall be provided.” That was the language of faith, for another four centuries, or so, after Moses, there stood on Moriah the threshing-floor of Ornan the Jebusite, and years after that Solomon’s temple was built there, and so it became the place for Jewish sacrifices. That to which all these sacrifices pointed took place “without the gate,” for the Lord Jesus was the rejected One.

The first call out of heaven had acknowledged the completeness of Abraham’s obedience: the second call pronounced great blessing, confirmed by an oath. This is the occasion referred to in Hebrews 6 when God, “because He could swear by no greater,” “swear by Himself.” The extent of the blessing might well have staggered Abraham. His seed was to be multiplied (1) “as the stars of the heaven,” (2) “as the sand which is upon the sea shore;” it was (3) to “possess the gate of his enemies,” and in it (4) “shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” It is not surprising, therefore, that God reinforced His bare word by His oath, that there might be “two immutable things” on which to rest.

The ancients knew but the stars that are visible to the naked eye. Only in our day has it been discovered that they are literally as numerous as the grains of sand on the sea shore. But we think we may see in (1) his spiritual seed, whose destiny is heaven (see, Galatians 3: 7); in (2) and (3) his earthly seed who, born again and redeemed, will enjoy millennial blessing and victory; and in (4) a prediction to be fulfilled in Christ, who is the Seed — in the singular, as Galatians 3: 16 points out — in whom all nations shall be blessed. All this blessing is guaranteed by the mighty oath of God.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

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