Sunday, March 12, 2017

connecting the dots (pt. 1)

(by Pastor Joe)
The Word for Today: Genesis 21:22-22:24
(Today begins a 2 part article centered on the classic story of Abraham & Isaac.)
Connect the dots only works if you want to connect them. We know that the human mind does very well at filling in the blanks. You had no trouble reading the picture above, even though, technically speaking, it consists of dozens of dots and no actual letters. But one could also connect the above dots in a totally different manner that has no resemblance to any words at all. It would be foolish and against the obvious intent of the original author, but it always remains an option.
In this hugely important story of Abraham and Isaac, God has not only given us the details of these patriarchs from 4000 years ago, He has also carefully shown us the details of His plan of redemption. He has given us the "dots" here that we can make the connection to His Son. That is, unless you choose not to see it that way. That is, unless you don't really want to believe in His Son.
The entire purpose of the Bible is stated concisely in the first verse of the last book: "The Revelation of Jesus Christ." In Him, every story, every law, every psalm, every prophecy, every gospel and every epistle holds together. He is the centerpiece and the cornerstone and the capstone. You could have the teachings of Confucianism, or Buddhism or Islam without having an actual Confucius or Buddha or Muhammad. But if you remove Jesus from the Bible, the entire thing collapses. (Maybe that's why so many are so keen on debunking Him.) There is a reason why every heresy has been an assault on the character or person or nature of Jesus.
But in today's passage, God provides a vivid picture to point us to Christ. To help us out, we will examine some of the verbs found here today, and look at the nouns tomorrow.
Abraham was tested. So was Jesus Christ. In fact, He was tested in every way, just as we are-- yet was without sin (1).
Abraham was told to offer up or sacrifice his only son. God presented His Only Son as a sacrifice of atonement for our sins (2).
Abraham set out on a journey that he knew would not end well. In the same way, when His support was waning and his disciples were running around like a bunch of scared Cub Scouts, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem, knowing full well what lay before Him (3).
Abraham placed the wood on Isaac, who dutifully carried it up the mountain. Jesus likewise was forced to carry His own cross to the top of a mountain (4).
Isaac spoke out to his father and question him about this event. Jesus also spoke and questioned His heavenly Father, calling out "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" (5)
Abraham trusted that God would provide a substitute, and He did. Two thousand years later, God again provided purification for sins through a substitute- Jesus Christ (6).
Abraham bound Isaac- who, as a young man, was a willing participant. Likewise, Jesus was also bound, and willingly lay down His life (7).
But here is where the parallels diverge. At the very moment that Abraham strikes down to slay his son, the Angel of the Lord yells "Stop!" Isaac is spared, a substitute is found. Our Lord chooses a different path. At the moment of decision, when one word would have summoned 36,000+ angels in His defense (8), there is no intervention, the Son is not spared, rather He becomes our substitute.
Ultimately, this passage not only gives us numerous dots to connect to point us to Jesus Christ, it also further confirms God's good character. Why? There is no double standard. He asks Abraham to do nothing that He Himself was unwilling to do. His only Son was likewise offered up, but unlike this story, there is no mercy, no angel interference. God follows through on His commitment to love us, even though it costs Him everything. I hope that picture is clearer and clearer to all of us.
(1) Hebrews 4:15
(2) Romans 3:25
(3) Luke 9:51
(4) John 19:17
(5) Matthew 27:46
(6) Hebrews 1:3
(7) John 10:8
(8) Matthew 26:53

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