For Easter this year I wanted to share something I was able to recently share with my Sunday school class via zoom, so this post is going to be a variation of what I was privileged to teach a week ago.
Early on in Scripture, there were two questions asked. God had just created the world and planted a garden known as Eden and placed Adam and Eve there to live. Everything was perfect and God was pleased with His creation. Within this garden He had planted two trees, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the tree of life. God gave Adam and Eve instructions that they could eat from any plant in the garden that they wanted, except from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, or else they would die. Yet, as we have all heard, Satan came into the garden disguised as a snake and spoke to Eve. Essentially he asked her, “Are you sure that God really has your best interests at heart? Are you sure you can trust Him?” That is question one, and as we all know, Eve chose to listen to the doubt that question planted in her heart instead of the truth that she knew. When Adam and Eve chose to eat the fruit from the forbidden tree, they were essentially removing God from the throne of their lives and placing themselves and their own desires on the throne instead. They decided that they could be better kings and queens over their lives than God, which then leads to the second question. Shortly after Adam and Eve chose sin, we see God pursuing His people whom He created and loves, and He says, “Where are you?” Now, God didn’t loose them, what he was asking is, “what is the posture of your heart towards me?”
Now, if you have your Bibles we are going to turn to Genesis 22. By time Genesis 22 happens, a lot of time has happened since the creation of the world. We see a continued story of rebellion against the kingship of God. With each generation, sin continues to seemingly reign and there looks like there is little hope for humanity, but God was not done yet. There is a shift in Genesis 12, where we see God calling a man named Abram whom was later renamed, Abraham. God called Abraham to leave his land he grew up to follow Him to an unknown location where God promised He would make Him into a great nation through which He would bless the entire world. Over the next ten chapters we see Abraham following God. He wasn’t always perfect, but he was faithful and kept following God. Yet one problem persisted, Abraham and his wife Sarah had no children and they were getting older. Eventually, it is seen that they began to give up hope that God would keep His promise to give them children as we are told that Sarah was well past the childbearing age. Yet God was still faithful, when Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90, God blessed them with their promised son, Isaac and our story today picks up sometime after this.
Starting in Genesis 22:1, “Sometime after these things God tested Abraham.” We’re going to pause for a second to observe something, God tested Abraham. If anyone ever tells you that God does not test you, they are wrong. Tempting and testing are two very different things. Also, just as a side note, have you ever heard someone tell you when you’re going through a hard time, “God won’t give you more than you can handle?” Just for the record, that’s not true. I think that as we can all attest after these past couple of weeks that this whole life is more than we can handle, that’s why we need Jesus. The real truth is that God won’t give us more than HE can handle. So we see that god tests Abraham and he calls to him, “HE said to him, ‘Abraham!’ ‘Here I am” (side note: Throughout scripture we see this pattern of God calling out to his saints and them replying, “here I am”, this is a pattern for us to follow.) God said, ‘Take your son- your only son, whom you love, Isaac” (-this is the first time the word love appears in scripture, and it is talking about a father’s love for his son.) ‘and go to the land of Moriah! Offer him up there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will indicate to you.’ Early in the morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took two of his young servants with him, along with his son Isaac. When he had cut the wood for the burnt offering, he started out for the place God had spoken to him about. On the third day Abraham caught sight of the place in the distance. So he said to his servants,’You two stay here with the donkey while the boy and I go up there. We will worship and then return to you,’ Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and put it on his son Isaac. Then he took the fire and the knife in his hand, and the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father, Abraham, ‘My father?’ ‘What is it my son?’ he replied. ‘Here is the fire and the wood,’ Isaac said, ‘but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’ ‘God will provide for himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.’”
Throughout this entire passage of scripture there are so many similarities that can be drawn between Isaac and Jesus. Within the Old Testament, God would often use events in the lives of his peoples to work as an allegory to show the promise of what was going to be coming in the form of Jesus. Here are just a few of the many similarities that can be drawn from this passage:
- Isaac was Abraham’s only son- John 3:16 (For God so loved the world he gave his ONLY SON)
- Isaac is the intended sacrifice- Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice (Hebrews 10:10 we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all)
- Isaac carried the wood for the sacrifice- Jesus carried his cross
- Abraham was asked to sacrifice His son out of His love for God- God would sacrifice His son Jesus out of His love for the world
Returning to Genesis 22, Abraham and Isaac are walking up the mountain and Isaac asks Abraham where the lamb for the offering is, and Abraham in vs. 8 replies, ‘“God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together’ It is at this point that we reach the place of testing. As the following verses show, they build the altar and Abraham binds Isaac and places him on the altar to sacrifice him, and Abraham reaches out his knife to sacrifice his son. Now remember, Isaac was the son that God had promised Abraham that Abraham didn’t receive until he was a hundred years old. At this point, there aren’t going to be anymore children. Isaac was the son of the promise and Abraham was about to give him up to God. Stop for a moment and think about how hard that must have been. Abraham had waited all of those years for the promise to be fulfilled, and now God was about to have him give up that very promise.
Yet right as Abraham was about to sacrifice his son, the Angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven in vs. 11-12 and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 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 witheld your son, your only son, from me.” Now, many scholars believe that the angel of the Lord mentioned here is actually a per-incarnate Jesus. And in the next verse we see that Abraham looked up and sees a ram caught in the thicket and the ram is sacrificed in the place of Isaac. Abraham then gets to walk down the mountain with his son and calls this place, “The Lord will provide.” This is the part of the story where we all smile and say, “God answered a promise.” Yet, I want to encourage you guys to look back at verse 8, “God will provide for himself the lamb.” He never said anything about a ram, the promise was the lamb. Now let’s jump back to where the Angel of God called out to Abraham. If the scholars are right that this angel of God is a per-incarnate Jesus, then the very Jesus that stopped Abraham from sacrificing Isaac and provided the ram is the very lamb that would later come 2000 years later as the perfect sacrifice for all our sins on that very same mountain range. When we walk through tests and trials in our life, we are never promised the ram, but we are always promised the lamb. When Abraham mentioned at the beginning that God would provide the lamb himself for the sacrifice, there was a short term answer that day in the form of the ram, but the complete fulfillment wouldn’t happen until two thousand years later. The lamb did show up that day in the per-incarnate form of Jesus, but the complete fulfillment would happen all those years years later when the incarnate Jesus, the lamb of God, would lay his life down as a sacrifice for all of mankind.
Many times throughout our lives we are going to be asked to walk up that mountain. I actually had to walk up that mountain myself last year five different tines, and each time leave without a ram being provided. January a year ago my grandpa was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer that had spread throughout his body. For eight weeks I begged God for a ram to be provided, that I could walk down the mountain with my grandpa, yet at the end of those 8 weeks I walked down the mountain alone. Then again just weeks later my family received a phone call that a dear family friend had been diagnosed with cancer a few days prior and died that night. I once again walked down the mountain without a ram. Then again in June when a friend lost their battle with mental illness, and again in August when a friend from my Bible study went in to have a brain tumor operated on and didn’t wake up from surgery. And finally one more time when my uncle was diagnosed with cancer and gone a few weeks later. Each time I had to walk away from someone I loved, each time I begged God for a ram, but no ram was provided, yet one thing never failed. Each time I walked down that mountain with the Lamb! He never once left me alone. He held me when I cried, he listened to my questions, and through it all reminded me that he was there. That lamb is the reason I am still standing today. That lamb is why I have hope for the future and can now trust him at a level I never knew was possible. If he can carry me down the mountain five times in a year when a ram was not provided, I can trust him to carry me during these uncertain and sometimes scary times. That lambs reputation in the past is his resume for our futures! We don’t have to be afraid in these times, because we can know that while a ram is not promised, the lamb is and the lamb is what we need!
I will be honest with you guys though, in the beginning, it was not easy for me to look at those places and call them “the place the Lord provided.” And when God started working in them showing me how he was going to use what I was going through to bring others into the kingdom, I was not excited about it. It has taken nearly a year for me to be able to say, “Thy will be done.”
So now I want to encourage you guys as we go through this season, when you are getting fearful, and not sure what the future is going to hold: during this season, are you spending more time with your eyes locked on a thicket or on the cross? Is your hope in a ram or in THE LAMB, Jesus? We have no guarantees about the ram, we have every guarantee about the lamb. Which now brings us back to those two questions we first discussed, because during this season you are going to hear them over and over again. When you hear the enemy whisper“Are you certain that God has your best interests at heart during this season of Covid-19?” here is your answer, “I am not sure about the ram, I am certain about the lamb.” And the next question, “where are you?” Abraham gave us the answer to this question, “Here I am Lord, ready and willing for wherever you call me.” This is going to look different for each of us during this season, but I want to encourage you guys, when I was going through my season of testing last year, I had a lot of people watching me who didn’t know Jesus that were also going through hard times. And as they watched me go through that season, they saw that I handled it differently than them, I had a hope they did not have and it sparked conversations, some of those conversations are still going on to this day, and others have resulted in people placing their trust in Jesus, the Lamb of God. Right now, our world is lost and scared in the midst of this pandemic desperately searching for a ram. What they don’t realize is that they don’t need a ram, they need the lamb. As Christians, how we face this crisis must be different than those around us. We have the lamb and we are called to point our lost and terrified world to Him.
So now, what do we do with this? I want to end this post with three questions to consider throughout the next week:
- Do you truly believe that God has your best interests at heart during this season when you can’t necessarily see that for yourself?
- When God asks you what the posture of your heart towards him during this time, are you going to choose fear or answer, “Here am I, ready and willing”?
- And finally, Are you looking for a ram, or are you looking to the lamb?
Happy Easter sweet friends!