God Provides the Lamb

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(Genesis 22-27)

(This is the second post about Abraham and Isaac. The first one is here, if you missed it).

When Isaac heard the ram bleating, he knew he was saved. He climbed down from the altar, and the sheep took his place. Abraham had promised that God would provide a lamb, and God did. He always provides a lamb.

In the years that followed, Isaac wandered around in sin. He failed the God who saved him. Abraham’s promised son lied and fathered liars, two sons who tarnished the family name and fought over everything from their supper to their birthrights. He bickered with his wife, and even endangered her life to save his own. Rebekah repaid him in kind, by sending her favorite son Jacob to steal Esau’s blessing.

Isaac’s life was a mess, but God never revoked His Promise. On that terrible, wonderful day, when Isaac was only a boy, God proved His truthfulness by sending a ram. A sheep in place of a boy.

Isaac was no promise keeper, but he worshipped the One who was. God’s promise passed from Isaac to Jacob (another liar) to Jacob’s sons (murderers, rapists, liars). Despite their failure, God remained true.

You and I aren’t promise keepers, either, by the way. We talk about loyalty, we talk about faith, we talk about righteousness, but we fail. We sin, we break faith, we choose the wrong. Yet God stays true.

All of us live under the shadow of death. The knife has been raised, and our judgment stands near. But just like Isaac, we find reprieve. A perfect Lamb, slain in our place. A Lamb who rose again, fulfilling God’s promise of life and blessing for those who believe.

That Lamb calls out to us, offering His life in place of Our death, His forgiveness in place the condemnation we deserve. That Lamb is the One whose promise never fails, the One who gives life freely to all who trust Him. Even the worst promise breakers can find life through the Lamb. Even you and me.

Death is our birthright, but God provides the Lamb. 

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Stars and Sacrifice

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Genesis 12, 15, 22, Hebrews 11:8-20

(Note: This is the first of two posts about Abraham and Isaac. I’ll publish the second one next week, and you’ll want to read them both in order to get the whole picture). 

He had to kill the boy. It would be next in the line of innumerable deaths in the old man’s life. This would be no glorious death on the battlefield, no quiet death in bed. It would be close, just the old man, his son, the knife, and God.

Yes, God would be there too. He would ascend the mountain with Abraham, quiet yet present. He would see every violent and terrible moment. God would watch Isaac die by his father’s hand.

Abraham shifted his feet and looked at the sky. So many stars. He had tried to count them once. It seemed like a lifetime ago. Abraham had felt old at the time. Certainly too old to leave home, to fight wars, to start a family. Tonight, though, he was ancient. He was one of the stars, having no beginning and no end, his origin long forgotten and his future uncertain. So many stars, but he was only one of them. A lonely and dim star at that.

Ever since the Promise, death had hounded his steps. Every day in this life of faith was a new death. Death to dreams, death to safety, death to nations. Death to sons.

But there was no other way. Abraham knew it, as sure as the approaching sunrise. The God who gave the Promise would fulfill it. God was unpredictable and even dangerous, but He was true. For four decades, Abraham had watched his own life unravel, with a mixture of awe and despair. Despite everything Abraham had lost, God remained his only provider, the only Living God. So there was nobody else to trust. The gods of Chaldea were safe, but they were impotent. The God of Abraham was often terrifying, but real. There was nobody else to trust. So he had to kill the boy.

Abraham knew in his heart that death was not the end. He would slay Isaac, but God would raise him. But it was the slaying that troubled him. Before the next sunrise, he had to raise the knife and plunge it into the heart of his beloved son. Resurrection would console Abraham’s grief, but would it assuage his guilt? What would he say to Isaac in the moment before the knife entered his chest? How could he even look at him during the long and quiet climb up Mount Moriah?

God had promised him descendants as numerous as the stars. He had promised blessing and land and life. Abraham would be the father of a great nation, a nation that would multiply like the stars and bless every nation on earth. Abraham knew that God’s word was true, but the pain was still so real. Did he have the strength to endure this terrible death, for the sake of the life God had promised?

Enough. The dawn was approaching and Abraham needed to prepare. What do you take to a human sacrifice? Water. Wood. Rope. Isaac.

The sun was rising. The stars were disappearing now. Maybe they were an illusion all along.

Time to get moving.

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