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Archive for Abraham

Abraham’s Sacrifice

It was God’s will that Abraham learn to trust totally in the Giver of the covenant rather than the covenant itself.  Twenty-five years after the original promise, God finally gave Abraham and Sarah their miraculously-born son (Gen. 21:1–2). No child could have been more welcomed and loved than Isaac. Through the process of giving Isaac, God had taught Abraham that He was a God who could be trusted. God is always faithful to keep His word. He had told Abraham, “In Isaac your seed will be called” (Gen. 21:12). But did Abraham really believe God?

God gave Abraham an illustration that he could not miss. He asked him to make an offering, not of an animal, but of his most precious possession, his only son, Isaac (Gen. 22:1–2). Only son in Hebrew literally means “your uniquely born son.” Why was Isaac uniquely born? He was a miracle given to Abraham and Sarah long after they were capable of producing a child. Abraham’s uniquely born son reminds us of another uniquely born son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He was God’s virgin-born Son, a tremendous parallel!

God instructed him to take his human treasure, the object of God’s grace, and kill him. Moriah was chosen for the place of the sacrifice. Moriah means “chosen of the Lord.” God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice his son appears on the surface to be completely irrational. It had taken years for God to fulfill His promise to give Abraham a son. Would God now command Abraham to kill him? Abraham never once questioned God’s integrity. He was strong in faith. He loved his son more than anything else in life, and to obey without blinking an eye was absolutely astounding.

Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey. He took two of his young servants with him along with his son. He split the wood for the burnt offering and set out (Gen. 22:3). No delay, no reluctance, and no stress. No attempt to receive clarification of the command. There was no reference to Abraham seeking counsel from others. He simply obeyed God. Abraham was completely occupied with the presence of God. How do we know? When Abraham saw the place from a distance, he asked the young men who accompanied him to stay with the donkeys. He said, “The lad and I will go yonder and worship and we will come back to you” (Gen. 22:5). He did not say “I” will come back to you but “we.”  Isaac was still a bachelor. He had no wife and no children. Abraham reasoned that until Isaac had children, there was no way he was going to die permanently. Why? Because the Giver said, “In Isaac shall your seed be called.”

Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son and off they went. He also took the fire and the knife for sacrifice. Isaac asked the question that no doubt Abraham had expected. “Look, Dad, the fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (Gen. 22:7). Isaac’s question would have torn the heart right out of an ordinary man. But Abraham’s faith never wavered. Abraham’s response was evidently given with perfect peace and grace. He said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son” (Gen. 22:8).

Sometimes it is the little words that have the greatest effect. Notice Abraham did not say that God would provide a sacrifice for “you and me, son,” but that He would provide a sacrifice for Himself. Abraham kept the issue where it belonged. The sacrifice was God’s business. It was God’s character that was at stake. Abraham was simply saying to Isaac, “Son, we are going to put our confidence in God.” Whatever happens, we must trust the Giver. Abraham also did not say “a lamb” but rather “the lamb.” Speaking of Jesus Christ, John said, “Behold the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Abraham built the altar, placed the wood on the altar, bound Isaac, and laid him on the altar (Gen. 22:9). His security was solely in the Giver at this point. The Giver does not lie. As long as he had the Giver, he had the gift. Why? It was the Giver who had given him the gift in the first place. Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son (Gen. 22:10).  Stretched out his hand is a Hebrew completed action. In Abraham’s mind, he actually did it. He fully intended to take the life of his son. Isaac had been slain. It was with complete faith and tranquility that Abraham carried out the divine orders. He loved his son deeply, but his trust was in the Giver. It was his love and trust in the Giver that motivated this action. He was caught up in the fact that, though he may not understand, the Giver knew exactly what He was doing.

But just in time, the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and told him not to lay his hand on the boy or do anything to him. He knew that Abraham trusted totally in God, because he had not withheld his most treasured possession from Him (Gen. 22:12). But what about the sacrifice? Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught in the bushes by its horns. Just at that time and in just that place, God had prepared that ram to be caught and sacrificed. Abraham killed the ram and sacrificed it in the place of his son, and then he named the place Jehovah Jireh, which means “God will provide.” God will provide the once-and-for-all sacrifice of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Abraham and his son, Isaac, walked down that hill together that day. God spared Isaac’s life, but in Abraham’s mind, Isaac had been killed and raised again. The writer of Hebrews said, “By faith Abraham when he was tested offered up Isaac.” Abraham had received the promise from God that his descendants would come from Isaac. He reasoned that if God wanted him to kill Isaac, He would have to raise him from the dead. When they walked down the hill that day, in Abraham’s mind that is exactly what had occurred (Heb. 11:17–19).

Through Abraham’s offering of Isaac, God gave us the perfect illustration that His Son would come to die and that He would be raised again. God gave this illustration hundreds of years before the actual event. What a glimpse of God’s grace!

 

Faith Like Abraham’s

More pondering from the Ponderosa! We are given forever life – justified before God – by faith alone in Christ alone.  Where did we ever get this idea? We must go back to the very first time this amazing truth surfaced. It came through one that has been called the father of the faithful – that would be Abraham. Abram was 75 years old when God called him from a pagan lifestyle in a pagan land to go to another pagan land – Canaan. God promised to bless him, give him a great name, and make from him a great nation. He also promised to treat kindly those who treated Abram kindly and to treat with contempt those who treated him with contempt (Gen. 12:1-3). 

 

Abraham answered God’s call and launched out. His trust was solely in the word of God. I think the part of the promise that resonated in his mind was that God would make of him a great nation. A nation of people had to begin with at least one son. Abram was married to a barren wife (Gen. 11:30) and God was allowing him to grow older. The little hope that he held for having a son was beginning to vanish quickly. He became overwhelmed with worry. He reminded God that He had given him no son and his only heir was a trusted servant named Eliezer (as if God needed the information). God reminded Abram emphatically that his servant would not be his heir, but his heir would come from his own loins (his seed).

 

God set Abraham’s mind at ease with an astronomy lesson. He took Abraham outside his tent and told him to look up and count the stars if he could. Obviously, he could not! God said, “So shall your seed be” (Gen. 15:1-5). Now comes the very firm faith foundation upon which our salvation rests. “And he (Abraham) believed in the Lord (YHWH) and He (YHWH) accounted it to him (Abraham) for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). Remember that YHWH (I Am) in the Old Testament is the Ego Eimi (I Am) in the New Testament. Abram was actually believing in Jesus Christ long before God became a man to die for sin. Amazing!

 

Note the little preposition “in.” It does not say that Abram believed YHWH, as though he just believed what YHWH said. He had already done that when he left his home in Ur. It says that he believed in the LORD. “Believed” is the Hebrew word amen! It means to lean upon or to rest one’s weight upon. Abram released his total spiritual weight upon the LORD. YHWH became the object of Abram’s faith. The LORD received his spiritual weight of trust and declared Abram to be right before Him. The word “righteousness” in the Hebrew is tsedekah (pronounced se-de-kah). God did not make Abram right – that is, He did not make Abram sinless; He pronounced Abram sinless before Him. It was a judicial declaration. Abram was still a great sinner.

 

Now, ponder this! It was not the quality of Abram’s faith that declared him right before God – it was the quality of theobject of Abram’s faith. It was not the strength of Abram’s faith that justified him before God – it was the strength of the object of Abram’s faith. Could the object (the one believed in) bear the weight of the one trusting in Him and did He have the spiritual clout to declare Abraham right?  Did God have the power to justify him by his faith alone? Certainly! It would be like crossing a river bridge. The amount of faith is not the issue in crossing the bridge. At issue is the strength of the bridge. If the person crossing the bridge has great faith in a very old, weak, rickety bridge, that person will likely get wet. But if the person has a small faith in a very strong bridge, that person will surely stay dry. The strong bridge will sustain the faith – whether the faith is weak or strong. When God took on flesh in the person of Jesus Christ and died on the cross of Calvary and rose from the dead, He provided a very strong bridge to sustain the weakest of faith.  God will justify (declare right) all who believe in Christ.  Abram’s faith righteousness became the pattern for being justified before God for all of human history.

 

In the New Testament the parallel word to the Old Testament, tsedekah (righteousness) is dikaiosune (pronounced dik-ai-o-soo-nay). It is from this New Testament word that we get the word “justify,” or to declare right.  “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ” (Rom. 3:24). When Paul wanted to prove to the Galatians that justification was by faith alone and not by their works, he went back to this very truth. He said just as Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness, so it would be with them (Gal. 3:6).  Paul used the same illustration with the Romans (Rom. 4:3), and James used it with his congregation (James 2:23). It is always good to go back and remind ourselves once again of the very truth proving that we are justified before God by faith alone.

 

God’s Promise to Abraham

Let’s ponder on some heavy thoughts today. God said to Abraham, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it” (Genesis 15:7).  It is as though God was saying, “Listen carefully, Abraham. I’m not going back on this.” Abraham responded, O Lord God, how (literally, on what basis) may I know (yada, may I have the intimate knowledge) that I will possess it (the land)?” 

God responded, “Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” One animal would have been sufficient. Abraham must have thought, “This is big.” Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. These clean animals produced a blood-splattered path through which the two covenant makers were to walk – hand in hand. When the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away (Gen. 15:9-11). Birds speak of a satanic attack. They represent the obstacles that Abram’s future family would face and the evil attempts to keep the fulfillment of the promise from happening: the slavery in Egypt, the evil influence of the pagan gods from Babylon, and the opposition from the various Arab groups. At the end of the day, these “vultures” will not prevent this covenant from being carried out.

As the sun was going down, the time when the two covenant makers were to join hands, God gave Abram a divine anesthetic. Abram fell into a deep sleep. Radam is the Hebrew word for natural sleep, but here the word used is tardema. It is the word used for a supernatural sleep. It is the same word used in Genesis 2:21 when the Lord put Adam to sleep and took one of his ribs. God completely took Adam out of the picture. He did the same with Abraham, removing any possibility of him being involved in the covenant-making process. It was as though Abraham had a nightmare. He saw a glimpse of future events, and he was terrified because his descendants were in for some rough times. God, speaking of his physical death, told Abram that he was going to go to his family in peace at a good old age.

Abraham never had to worry about two things: the perpetuation of his seed or his reception of the land. To confirm the covenant, God alone walked between the sacrifices. The smoking fire pot and the flaming torch were symbols of His presence (Genesis 15:17). How could Abram (and everyone who reads these words) absolutely know that the Jews would inherit the land? Because God alone walked through the sacrifice. How conclusive is that?

On that day, the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants, I have given this land.” The boundaries of the land are from the Nile River on the west to the great Euphrates River on the east (Genesis 15:18). This includes the Red Sea and all of the surrounding country. Someone said that the Red Sea is to become a Jewish lake. The eastern Sudan region includes Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and Palestine. That is a chunk of land.

The Jews have occupied most of it but never all of it. They will not actually inhabit this land in its entirety until the kingdom reign of Jesus Christ. When the Son of David– the King – returns, He will hold in His hands the title deed (Revelation 5:1). This real estate was occupied during Abraham’s day by other nomadic groups: the Kenites (a tribe of nomads living south of the Dead Sea), the Kenezzites (who occupied the land of Judah), the Kadmonites (who lived east of the Jordan, Transjordania), the Hittites (who dwelt in eastern Turkey), the Perizzites (Canaanite giants of the northern kingdom), the Rephaim (the giants east of the Jordan), the Amorites (who occupied Iraq through Syria and all the land in between), the Canaanites (those who lived in Judah), the Girgashites, (not sure of location) and the Jebusites. The Jebusites occupied the old city of Salem (Jerusalem), the city on the hill, and it was most likely the home of Melchizedek, the priest of the Most High God.  

Abraham was familiar with those people. God has scattered the Jews all over the world (beginning in 70 A.D.). Amazingly, in 1948 they became a tiny nation again.  Israel today is in open rebellion against the living God. Has God broken or pulled away from His promise to Abraham? Not at all. Someday God’s people will occupy this land. Someday it will be the center of a kingdom occupied by the physical and spiritual children of Abraham for a thousand years. Stay safe and stay tuned!

 

The Land of Promise

A seemingly small addendum to God’s original promise to bless Abraham is “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you” (Gen. 12:3). It is no small addendum, and it is not to be taken lightly or, perish the thought, forgotten. Hebrew is a picture language. The word “bless” is barakah. It means literally “to bend the knee” or to “show honor.” God was saying that He would honor those who honor Abraham’s people. To curse, on the other hand, means to “treat with contempt.” God will treat with contempt those who treat Abraham’s people with contempt.

I want to make the case that this blessing/cursing part of the promise has not been revoked or set aside – even today.  Let’s go back and start where the promise starts – “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.” Translation: get away from everything that you hold dear in this life and go to a place that you have never seen before….a foreign land.  God assured Abraham that it was a material land; all the land which you see (Gen. 13:15).

After Lot had chosen the beautiful parts of the land, God told Abram to walk through the parts that remained (the sand, the rocks, the scorpions) and said that it would all belong to him, even the parts that Lot had chosen (Gen. 13:17). Not only did God promise Abram that He would give him a land, but He said that He would give it to him and his descendants forever (Gen. 13:15). This is an unconditional promise based solely upon the decree of God. God gave it to Abram and his descendants with no hidden attachments or addendums. It was not based upon human merit or failure. God gave solely on the basis of who He is, not on the basis of who Abraham was.

Unconditional covenants from God are always marked out with the words “I will.” “I will” means that what God says, He will do. From that point forward, the land belonged to Abraham and to his descendants through his wife, Sarah. Abraham had other children through Hagar and Ketura, but the promise did not include them. The promise was reaffirmed to Abraham’s son, Isaac (Gen. 26:3–4). The land was occupied for a time by the Canaanites, the Moabites, the Ammonites, and others, but God passed the land promise down to Isaac’s son, Jacob (Gen. 35:12). It did not stop there. The promise was passed on to Moses (Ex. 6:2–8). After the death of Moses, God renewed the promise with Joshua (Josh. 1:2).

But hold it. God did not have in mind the land that Abraham saw with his physical eyes during this life. Remember he waited for a city that has foundations, whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11:10). Paul’s words come into play here (2 Cor. 4:16-18).  We are not to lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, the inward man is being renewed day by day. Our light, momentary affliction is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. Things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

God’s original call to Abraham was to go to a land that could be seen, but Abraham was to learn to take his eyes off the gift (the land) and place them squarely on the Giver. This visible land is tied to our spiritual heritage in Abraham which is Jesus Christ, our coming King, and His kingdom – a land that goes way beyond that which is seen with the eyes. This was a magnificent truth that God wanted Abraham to see through the eyes of faith. It went far beyond the seen. It would be a land that will one day blossom like a rose (Isa. 35:1). It will be a land restored to its original garden of Eden look. “Creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom. 8:20-21). Stay safe and stay tuned

 


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