Lent 5 Judica 2021
March 21, 2021
Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID
This morning we heard in the Old Testament reading the familiar story of Abraham being called by God to sacrifice his son Isaac. Now, Isaac was the very son that had been promised to him for years. If you remember, God had promised that Abraham was going to be the father of many nations, that his descendants were going to outnumber the stars in the sky. Even more, one of Abraham’s descendants would be the Messiah Himself. Abraham was 100 years old when God finally made that promise flesh and brought Isaac into this world. It was from this son—this promise in the flesh—that the Messiah would come into the world. Abraham believed this. And yet… God is now commanding something crazy and horrifying. He’s commanding Abraham to put this same son to death!
It’s hard to swallow sometimes. How could God ask something like this of Abraham? If it was all just a test, doesn’t it seem kind of cruel? Sometimes this very passage is used by critics of Christianity to try to turn God into some kind of monster who would demand child sacrifices to prove faithfulness. Or maybe it would even point to divine child abuse. But this misses the entire point of what is actually going on here. Part of the point is to show us something about the nature of God’s promises. In fact, over the next two weeks we enter into the final stages of Lent, this time called Passiontide, which is all about the depth of God’s love, the lengths that He would go to see you spend eternity with Him. This account of Abraham and Isaac tells us much about the promises of God fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
Abraham heard the word of God, he believed/he trusted the word of God, and he obeyed. But what exactly did he believe/trust in? The writer to the Hebrews tells us in Hebrews 11:17-19 that he believed in the resurrection, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” We even hear Abraham proclaim this resurrection faith when he tells his servants to “wait here, and we [the boy and I] will go and worship and then WE will return.” Abraham wasn’t lying in order to not raise suspicions. He was telling the truth. That he and Isaac would return together. And it’s not that Abraham had some blind generic faith that believed that God would do something on that mountaintop, but he didn’t know what that “something” would be. Rather, it was a very specific, focused faith on God’s promise that his offspring that would outnumber the sands of the seashore and the stars in the sky would come from Isaac. God said it many times over the course of 25 years, and Abraham trusted God. If God told him to kill his son, Abraham fully believed that God would raise him from the dead, because Isaac still had children to bear. God’s promise could not and would not die with Isaac on that mountaintop.
As Abraham was poised over his son, knife in hand, the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and stayed his hand. Now, when you see the phrase “angel of the Lord” this a reference to the pre-incarnate, eternal Christ. This is what Jesus was talking about to the Jews in the Gospel account when He said, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” Jesus is claiming to be God Himself, the Great I AM, the One who made the promises to Abraham in the first place concerning Himself.
And so as Jesus calls out to Abraham and commends His faith, Abraham’s lifts up his eyes and looks and sees the ram caught in the thicket by his horns is a foreshadowing of Christ with His crown of thorns. He is showing Abraham what God Himself will do through His only Son, the One through whom the promised is fulfilled. This ram is sacrificed in the place of Isaac just as Jesus is sacrificed in the place of all the sons of Abraham.
Remember where they are. The land of Moriah where God leads Abraham to take his son is where Jerusalem and later the temple would be built. It is on this mountain that Israel would offer the sacrifice of atonement for sins every year in the temple’s holy of holies. It’s upon this mountain that the Lord would provide the sacrifice for all sins, once and for all.
So you see, this whole account foreshadows Christ. Abraham believed that God’s promises would not die upon that mountaintop in the sacrifice of Isaac, nor the sacrifice of Jesus. For our God is the God of the living, not of the dead. It is by His death of the only begotten Son of God, the Son in whom all things are promised and find their fulfillment that death is defeated. Jesus makes clear that He is the One whom Abraham waited for, the fulfillment of God’s promise to him that “in your offspring shall all the nation of the earth be blessed…” (Genesis 22:18). Abraham longed for and rejoiced to see the day of the Lord fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah. He saw it and rejoiced. He named the place “The Lord will provide” not “The Lord has provided.” He names this place in this way not just because God did provide, but also because He will provide. Abraham saw more than the reprieve of Isaac. By faith he saw the promise of Jesus. And he rejoiced. So should we. God doesn’t hold back. We should rejoice in the death of Jesus because it is by His death that Abraham and Isaac live. It is by His death that we live.
On the mount of the Lord it will be provided. What is this mountain called? Zion. There’s a reason why our congregation is named this, because this is where God meets His people, where God provides for His people. God does not withhold His Son from you. He does hold back from providing for you. Believe like Abraham. May Zion Lutheran Church always been the mount where the Lord provides forgiveness, peace, comfort, security, strength.