During this quarantine time, when I actually get some moments to myself, my favorite thing to do is to sit on my back porch and dive into the Word of God – mostly because it helps my sanity. Honestly, I don’t think I have ever successfully read it cover to cover but I am starting from the beginning with fresh eyes and ears, new passion and perspectives. I love how alive the text is! It speaks to each of us in a new way when our hearts are open to receive; even passages we have read hundreds of times.
I’ve been in Genesis for a few weeks and really getting to soak in what is unfolding this time. My favorite new insight so far is how, multiple times, God went to extreme measures to make it clear to Hagar that her God is a “God of seeing (Hebrew: El Ro’i)” and He knows her heart and exactly what she is going through. And what she went through is pretty awful, both as a woman and mom. But God carried her through and provided exceedingly, just as He still does. Another story, one of the classics, hit home in a new way as we can somewhat relate more than ever to being held in close quarters with our family for an extended amount of time. But that one turned into a whole new blog… coming soon!
But today I read chapters 21 & 22 and was, once again, blown away by God’s timing and how alive His word is.
These chapters are all about Abraham and Isaac. God had told Abraham how, through Isaac, His covenant would be established and many nations would come. God also told Abraham to take this very son, his only son, and offer him as a burnt offering on a mountain top. And what did Abraham do? He stepped out in faith and followed in obedience. I can only imagine how confused Abraham was by this request. He probably thought, “How can Isaac have children if I am about to sacrifice him? And WHY am I being asked to do this?” But what’s amazing is that he didn’t argue or bargain with God. No, he just trusted that God would provide. Wow! The context also leads us to believe that Isaac has no idea what is about to happen to him. All he knows is he is having some good father-son time and climbing a mountain to worship God. We can also deduce that this was a common ritual, since Isaac picked up on what was missing…
Ch 22:6-10 “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 I am, 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.” So they went both of them together. When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the alter 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…
But Where Is The Lamb??!!
Can you believe that those were the words that came from Isaac’s lips? Isaac is crying out, “Dad, where is the lamb?!” We are left without any other comments from Isaac at this point, but I am left imagining that he at least had thoughts, while being bound by his father, of wondering if there was any alternative available. I know I would definitely be pleading for another way, a substitution of sorts; someone to take my place… a sacrificial lamb.
So here we are, thousands of years later, and our need is no different. Just think about it. Had Jesus Christ not come to our rescue, we would all know exactly how Isaac felt. We would all be helplessly bound by our sin and past regrets, in need of a substitute: a spotless, perfect lamb; the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29)! Let’s get back to the text (And Praise God for the “But”s!):
But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven 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 your 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. So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”
There are so many lessons in this short chapter but the one I love the most is the same story we are all reflecting on this week. The same story that is the reason we celebrate Easter. The same story that gives us hope and a reason to lift our voices to Heaven and sing endless praises to our Risen King! We celebrate, we sing, we have joy in our hearts because of the perfect, spotless Lamb who saw His children in need. He saw us tangled in our sin, destined for a life of separation from our Father. But He didn’t leave us that way. Thank you Jesus! No, instead He traded His throne of endless glory for a cradle in the dirt. He lived a life of peace, teaching us how to love one another and how to have fellowship with His Father through prayer and memorizing Scripture. He knew the will of God was to redeem His creation and that there was only one way to accomplish this.
Much like Isaac, He would journey to the top of hill carrying the wood that He would be bound to, His cross… our cross, all out of perfect obedience to His Father. Yes, Jesus alone is our perfect substitution. He took upon His shoulders every sin ever committed. Why? He loves us. That’s it. Jesus loves us. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
God offered a ram in the story above which meant that Isaac was no longer tied up. He was free. In the same way, God offered the perfect Lamb in Jesus Christ so that we can also walk in freedom! Christ died on the cross to set “the world” free from the bondage of sin that began in the Garden of Eden. (John 3:16, John 8:36) That includes YOU! He wants you to enjoy a life that is no longer bound by chains of all past mistakes, failures, hurts. There are no exclusions. It was All paid for. Are you living this life, TODAY, in the Freedom that Christ bought you? If not, what needs to happen to get there? It is time to stop living like a prisoner. Don’t make small of the sacrifice that Jesus made for you, but take hold of what He endured the suffering for. It is the most precious gift you will ever receive. If you have accepted that gift, let your freedom story begin today!
God, Jehovah Jireh, words are not enough but with our hearts we say thank you. Thank you for not leaving us bound up in our sin but for offering your only, beloved Son as the perfect sacrifice so that we can enter into Your presence and cry out to You in times of need and in times of rejoicing. You are our provider. We do not deserve the kind of love that you so freely give to us. Let us understand how loved we are by You, our Father, and let us walk in freedom, in knowing our identity is in You and our forever has been sealed by the precious blood of the Lamb. In His great name we pray, Amen.
So lift high the name of Jesus Christ! The name that makes every knee bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:10-11)
Happy Easter friends and family! He is Risen and He is Coming Again!