I don’t know about you but I am so excited that we are approaching Easter Sunday. Easter has always been one of my favorite times of the year. New life and the excitement that comes with it is in the air. It is a time that reminds us of God’s amazing love for us! Tucked away in Genesis is the Story of Abraham and Isaac. It’s the story where God asked Abraham to do the unthinkable: sacrifice his son Isaac, the promised child (Genesis 22:2). We know from what we read in both Genesis 22 and Hebrews 11 that Abraham had every intention of obeying God’s command. In Genesis 22:12 we read that God stopped Abraham, saying, “For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your only son from Me.” In Hebrews 11, we know that Abraham believed—since God had promised to form a nation from his line—God was able to resurrect Isaac after the sacrifice (Hebrews 11:19). Abraham exhibited remarkable faith, demonstrating that obeying God was more important to him than his own son’s life.
But why did God do this? Why would God ask such a thing? It seems a bit harsh at first glance. In fact, it seems crazy of God to request the murder of a son…unless you view everything through the lens of what God does with HIS Son. The events recorded for us in Genesis 22 point us to the crucifixion event recorded in each of the four Gospels. If you read Genesis 22 carefully, you will notice that Abraham truly believed God would provide for the sacrifice (Genesis 22:8). I am not sure what all Abraham was thinking, but he had faith God would provide (even if that meant providing a resurrection of Isaac)…and God did provide. The Bible tells us when Abraham looked up from his son just before slaying him, he saw a ram caught in a thicket by its horns (Genesis 22:13). A ram. Caught in a thicket. By its horns. When was the last time you saw a ram caught in anything, much less in a thicket by its horns?
What’s the point? God provided the sacrifice necessary to atone for sin in this instance. Abraham believed, and God provided. Abraham did not have to endure the horror of slaughtering his only son. God provided for Abraham what he did not have and could not give. Years later, on that same hill, another sacrifice took place. Another Father saw to it that His Son walked up the hill to be slayed. This time there was no ram caught in a thicket. There was no one or nothing to bail Him out. The Father had to endure the horror and grief and terror of having to see a Son slaughtered. No ram. No thicket. No Father. No answer. Completely forsaken.
Why? God the Father was doing for the world what He did for Abraham in Genesis 22—providing the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. What God graciously prevented Abraham from having to experience, He endured Himself out of sheer love for you and me. The ram in Genesis 22 is a pointer to something remarkable: Our God loves us and has provided everything for us in and through Jesus Christ—the Son who was slaughtered. Now, when someone asks us “What has God done to show you His love?” Or, “How can you be so sure of your eternity?” Or, “Where is your faith?” Or, like Isaac asked his dad in Genesis 22:7, Where is the sacrifice necessary to appease God’s wrath against sin? We can answer the same way Abraham did (by his faith), God Himself has provided the Lamb…He is Jesus, the Lamb of God who has taken away the sins of the world (John 1:29)! This Sunday at South Side we will unpack more parallels between this story and the story of the cross. Jesus is the better Isaac who became the perfect sacrifice for us all! Elevate Worship begins at 10:45, and we will have a cup of fresh coffee waiting for you before we start! I hope to see you then!
Barry Pettit is lead minister at South Side Church of Christ in Washington Court House.