Vol. 10 — No. 10 March 9, 1969
And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My Father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.
In Christ Jesus, who spared not His only Son, but delivered Him up for us all, Fellow Redeemed:
Our text is the story that climaxes the faith life of Abraham. The Lord, his God, put him to a most severe test—whether in the fear of the Lord he would subordinate his own deep and very human feelings of love for his son to obedience to the command of his God. Abraham passed the test victoriously, as the father of all believers. In so doing he left us an example of what it means to fear and love God above all things.
But is this all the instruction that there is in this story—just an example of heroic faith? Many would say “yes,” but we say “no.” It is characteristic of our age of apostasy that it either discounts the Old Testament completely, considering much of it to be but mythology, or that it abuses the Old Testament by considering some of the legal institutions to be still in force under the New Covenant. What is lacking is an understanding of the organic unity of the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament was the time of anticipation, expectation, prophecy; the New Testament the era of realization and fulfillment. Immaturity characterizes the Old Testament, maturity the New. But the message is the same: the Kingdom is coming, the King at the threshold is the keynote of the Old. The King has come and the Kingdom is here are the joyous tidings of the New. The faith of the Old became the sight of the New with faith still peering into the future with ultimate realization of all prophecy expected at the end of time.
What particularly escapes many students of today is an appreciation of the pedagogical methods that God used to instruct His people of old. We hear much of visual education in our schools today. One would almost think that modern educators invented this method of instruction. A reading of the Old Testament with understanding will reveal visual education to be one of the chief methods that God employed to instruct His Old Covenant people in what was to come under the New Covenant. The Passover lamb with its message of “saved by the blood of the lamb” was a solemn annual visual instruction of what God planned to do when He would send His own Son to be the Lamb that taketh away the sins of the world. So also great personages became types or pictures in miniature that would find their anti-type or fulfillment in Christ. Thus Moses was a type of Christ in His prophetic office, David and Solomon types of His royal office, and Melchizedek a type of His priestly office. Events in the life of the nation anticipated events in the life of the ultimate goal of the nation—its King. The exodus from Egypt found its counterpart in the life of Jesus when He returned from Egypt to the land of Israel. Even events in the lives of individuals pointed ahead and instructed the people concerning that which was to come—albeit in a cloudy and indistinct way. We have just such an event in our text. This event was the climax of Abraham’s faith-life. He wanted the place and what happened there to be remembered. The name means “In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.” That name points to things to come. The name can also be translated “In the mount of the Lord provision is made.” God provided a way of escape for Abraham, but immediately following the Lord repeated with an oath His promise to send a Savior. So again the provision of the Lord was not just a thing of the past, but a promise for the future. Let us meditate on these things this morning, as we consider the name by which Abraham wanted the place and event remembered, namely—
What shall be seen? First of all—
The test for Abraham came in the form of a conflict between his natural love for his son and obedience to what appeared to be an unreasonable command of his God. The Lord said to him, “Take now thy son thine only son, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” Notice how the Lord emphasized the bonds of love between Abraham and his son: “thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest." How unreasonable was not that command, for had not the Lord God himself forbidden killing and had not the Lord promised that the Savior of the world would come from his son? Abraham overcame his emotion and brought his reason into captivity to the word of the Lord. His faith reached the height that he believed that his God would raise his son from death so that the promise could be and would be fulfilled. He passed the test in his heart. That was what the Lord was looking for.
When it was all over, Abraham named the place "Jehovahjireh," that is, “In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.” Notice that it shall be seen in the mount of the Lord—in the area of Moriah. This is the area on which Jerusalem and the temple were built. This is the very place where centuries later the events recorded in the Passion History took place. It was in this area that there was a skull-shaped hill later called Golgotha. And it was upon that hill that three crosses once stood—one bearing up God’s only-begotten Son. In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen and it was seen how the Father spared not His only-begotten, beloved Son.
Abraham sacrificed his son in obedience to a command of his God. No one commanded the Father to offer up His Son, for who is there that is in a position to command or demand anything of the Lord God? God was moved by His love, for He is love. Love compels action in behalf of the beloved. God loved the world—fallen mankind who had forfeited every claim to the love of God. Mankind had rebelled, yet the Father loved the rebels. He planned to remove the curse of death that He had in justice imposed by sending His only-begotten Son, His well beloved Son, to be made a curse for mankind and to die accursed of God and man upon the cross. The New Testament reveals in clear detail that which the Old Testament indicated in but veiled outlines. For centuries parents taught their children the story of godly Abraham and how he had named that place Jehovahjireh. God had provided for Abraham; He would provide again for His people. It shall one day be seen. We have seen it, and what we have seen has made us what we are—sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father.
In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen also—
The triumph of Abraham’s faith is the chief feature of the story, but Isaac also triumphed in obedience. Father and son walked up the mountain, Isaac carrying the heavier burden of the wood for the burnt offering and Abraham the fire and the knife. It was Isaac who broke the silence with his very relevant question: “Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” How those words must have cut the heart of his father! He couldn’t tell his son what the Lord had commanded—at least not yet. Without deception but with the anticipation that characterizes faith he said, “My son, God will provide a lamb for the burnt offering.” They continued on in silence. The narrative was not written by a Hollywood script writer but by one under the influence of the Spirit of God. And so there is a great paucity of detail. We are simply told that “Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.” From Bible story books we may have become accustomed to picture Isaac as a youth of tender years, whereas he in fact may well have been in his late teens—approaching the strength of manhood, while his father was advanced in years. The time must have come when Abraham had to look into the eyes of his son and reveal to him just what the Lord had commanded him to do. There is no report that Isaac attempted to escape his fate or that he resisted his father. He submitted in obedience. What a victory for his faith!
His father called that place Jehovahjireh: In the mount of that Lord it shall be seen. And it was centuries later when God’s only-begotten and well beloved Son submitted Himself as the sacrifice that alone could take away the sins of the world. Only this time there was no ram in the thicket. The Father had provided that way of escape for Abraham, but when His own Son prayed, “Father, if it be possible; take this cup from Me,” the Father could but send an angel to strengthen His Son in His obedience. There was no other way. The chain of sin and guilt and punishment had to be broken without destroying the justice of God. The Son submitted to the will of the Father and from that moment walked steadfastly to the cross. The dim outlines on that mountain centuries before found their fulfillment in the events that took place there on Good Friday.
In the mount of the Lord it would finally also be seen—
The angel of the Lord prevented Abraham from plunging the knife into his son. Abraham had passed the test in his heart. His son could be spared, but how was that sparing to be achieved. We read, “And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.” The ram became the substitute for the son. Salvation through a substitute—this is what was taught in the mount of the Lord. There is no other truth that the Lord so frequently held before the eyes of His people as this truth. The worship of the Old Testament people was chiefly that of sacrificing. Always the sacrificial animal took the place, functioned as the substitute for the one who was bringing the sacrifice. The innocent animal served as substitute for the guilty sinner. The daily, weekly, monthly and annual sacrifices taught this lesson again and again. What it all meant would one day be seen in the mount of the Lord.
It shouldn’t surprise us that the Lord made such an effort to impress this truth upon His people, for this is the distinguishing feature of Christianity. Dogmatically we call this doctrine the vicarious atonement, that is, atonement by substitution. He for us, the Just for the unjust, the Innocent for the guilty, God’s Son for sinful mankind. This is precisely that which distinguishes the Christian religion from all and every form of paganism.
What does paganism—ancient and modern—have to offer? Not substitution, but do-it-yourself. Ancient religions also featured sacrificing, even human sacrifices, to gain the favor of the angry gods. But it was incumbent upon the individual to appease the wrath of the gods. At times the individual would make use of the services of the priests and witch doctors who were believed to have special expertise in soothing the angry gods. But still it was up to the individual, for he had to pay the priests in some way for their services. Modern paganism takes the more refined form of moralizing with its varying formulas such as “one good deed a day” or “character determines destiny” or “be good and you are good.” The Lenten season is a time of the year when paganism asserts itself within the borders of visible Christendom by personal acts of self-denial in one form or another. People believe that if they give up something that they really like—that this will bring them merit. When churches prescribe norms of conduct—the do’s and don’ts of every day living in addition to the vicarious atonement of Christ, they are dragging paganism back into supposedly Christian churches. In the mount of the Lord? on Calvary’s holy mountain, it has been seen that salvation for man came by way of substitution—God’s Son for us! Let us cling unyieldingly to this saving truth! Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.