It's the fourth day of our journey to Bethlehem. Today we are continuing on to the birth place of Jesus in a 15-day series I started Monday, December 7, 2009. If you'd like to walk with us, it's never too late to catch up. You can read the previous posts or just jump on the trail right where we are today. You are welcome here as we walk through God's Word all the way to the evening that our Messiah, Jesus Christ was born.
God has promised Abraham he would be the father of a great nation. Well first he and his barren wife Sarah must produce an heir. If you remember the accounts of Genesis 15-20 you'll recall that Abraham and Sarah became impatient with this promise and tried to fix things in their own way -- as we all often do. First Abraham tried to second guess God (been there, done that!) and wondered aloud if perhaps God meant that a child born in his house to his head servant would be the promised heir. No. Then Sarah, in her impatience and waning faith, convinced Abraham to have relations with her handmaid Hagar in an effort to produce an heir. Even after the fact, no. Hagar produced an son alright, but not the promised one. God would fulfill His promise to Abraham and Sarah on His own, thank you very much.
And He did.
"The Lord kept his word and did for Sarah exactly what he had promised.." (Genesis 21:1, NLT) Quite a remarkable and comforting scripture when you think about it. The good news is, God repeats this very scenario over and over every day in our lives. He keeps His word and does exactly as He promised. Often even after we have done just as Abraham and Sarah had done - second guessing, manipulating, doubting, and giving up.
That promised child came into Abraham and Sarah's lives with such an explosion of joy and a demonstration of the miraculous that Abraham named him Isaac, laughter.
But the laughter stopped abruptly, I am sure, when some years later God tested Abraham's love and obedience and required that he take his beloved son Isaac to the mountains of Moriah and sacrifice him as a burnt offering.
You know the story and have considered it with amazement I am sure. Anyone who is a parent, especially the parent of a long-awaited child, knows Abraham's obedient journey into the mountains could not have been an easy one. And yet, for three long days he led his servants and his son to a place designated by God, preparing himself all the way for the heartbreaking act of sacrifice that would be required of him.
As Abraham and Isaac left the servants behind and journeyed on to the place of sacrifice alone, we see a glimpse into his growing faith in his God. Undoubtedly this determined faith is what enabled each step he took up that hill.
"God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son," said Abraham when questioned by his inquisitive boy(Genesis 22:8). Did Abraham believe God wouldn't have him go through with it? Or was he just hoping?
One thing we do know from Abraham's words. He knew a sacrifice was required. He wouldn't leave that mountain without sacrificing something on that altar he would build. In fact, when he and Isaac reached the place where God finally said, "Ok, this is it," he went as far as to arrange the wood, bind his son, and lay him on that altar. Was he about to hyperventilate, as I would have been? Were his aged hands shaking and his lips quivering? Were tears streaming down his cheeks? The Bible doesn't say, but we parents have a feeling.
Just as Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his precious, promised son, God called from heaven and stopped him.
"...for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me."
And God provided a ram to be sacrificed instead of Isaac. Interestingly, the Hebrew text actually says God provided "another ram." The ram was a substitute for the one who was supposed to die. And so it is only fitting that Abraham named that place Jehovah Jireh, The Lord Will Provide. And, Genesis 22:14 says, "it is said to this day, 'In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.'"
Indeed. It would be.
Romans 6:23 says that the cost of our sin is death. A death is required. Ours. And there's no way around that because, as we learned on day two of our journey, we have a holy and righteous God.
But as we journey on to Bethlehem and we pass through Jerusalem where the baby we seek will one day die a bloody death on a hill just outside of town, let's remember The Lord Will Provide, Jehovah Jireh.
"Behold the Lamb of God!"