Thursday, 8 September 2011

Thinking Thursday: Echoes of a Saviour

Gen.22:1-19 The Sacrifice of Isaac

The story of Abraham being asked by God to sacrifice his son has many echoes of God's sacrifice of His Son many centuries later.

v2 Echoes of a Saviour's sacrifice

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 which I shall tell you."

Isaac had been born as the result of God's promise to Abraham and Sarah, when they were already elderly. Along with the promise of a son, God had also promised Abraham that his descendents would be as numerous as the sand on the shore and a blessing to all nations. Suddenly God asks Abraham to sacrifice this very son of promise. It is a sacrifice not only of a beloved son, but the foundation of the blessing.

v6-8 Echoes of a Saviour's provision

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. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, "My father!" And he said "Here am I, my son." He said, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" Abraham said, "God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son."

It would not have been unusual for them to travel to a high place and offer sacrifices to God. But they would have taken the sacrificial lamb with them. Isaac's innocent question led Abraham to 'fudge' an answer which turned out to be prophetic. God would indeed provide the lamb, not only for Isaac, but one day for the whole world.

v9-10 Echoes of a Saviour's willing sacrifice

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. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son.

The amazing event at the centre of this story shows incredible trust on the part of both Abraham and Isaac. I find it astonishing that Isaac does not question his father when he binds him, lays him on the altar, and moves to sacrifice him. And Abraham shows such faith in God, that as He was faithful over His promise of Isaac, so He will be faithful over his promise of descendents, even if Isaac dies. Isaac is willing to die, and Abraham is willing to sacrifice him. In the future God's own Son would suffer and die willingly for the sake of all mankind.

v11-13 Echoes of a Saviour's perfect sacrifice in our place

But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here am I." 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." 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.

Having shown his faithfulness, Abraham doesn't have to sacrifice Isaac. God does indeed provide the sacrifice as Abraham had said. The account particularly points out that the ram was caught in the thicket by his horns – he was unblemished, not injured in any way. The sacrifice of God's Son was powerful enough to save the whole world because He was pure and unblemished by sin. God gave His only Son to satisfy justice in our place.

Often Christians are challenged to give way to other faiths and accept them as valid alternative lifestyles. Scripture's response to why we cannot accept other religions & philosophies is because of what it cost God to provide the way. Abraham did not have to sacrifice his son in the end. Jesus went through to the bitter end to bring us the freedom that could not be gained in any other way.

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