“Then He (God) said, ‘Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you…And he (the Angel) said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.’ Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son” (Genesis 22:2,12-13).
Anyone who has ever seen a picture of the holy city of Jerusalem has most likely seen the golden-domed Mosque of Omar, more commonly referred to as the Dome of the Rock, sitting center stage and glistening in the bright middle eastern sun on the summit of Mount Moriah. It was on, or very near, the same spot where Solomon’s Temple once sat in all its magnificent glory. The Temple’s massive foundation stones, quarried from the northern side of the mountain, shaped and then moved to the summit, are an architectural marvel to this very day. The Temple’s construction materials consisted of 3,000 tons of gold and 30,000 tons of silver. There, the Jews from around the world would make their pilgrimage for the annual sacrifice during their High Holy Days.
An Altar of Sacrifice
But centuries before a Muslim Mosque or a Jewish Temple sat on that site, one lone man accompanied by his only son scaled the summit of that same mountain and constructed a simple altar of sacrifice. God had promised Abraham that He was the chosen one to be the father of a great nation whose descendants would be numbered as the stars of the heavens. But there was a bit of a problem. He was already an old man, and his wife, Sarah, was decades beyond childbearing years. As though that were not problematic enough, she was also “barren,” unable to produce a child over the course of her entire life. Then came a miracle birth, not a virgin birth, but a miracle all the more. Isaac, through whom the world would be blessed by the eventual appearance of the Messiah, was born to Abraham and Sarah.
Times of blessing in life are often followed by times of testing. And so it was for Abraham. Isaac, this only son, was to carry forward God’s own promise to Abraham. But, God now instructed the father to sacrifice his only begotten son as a test of his trust. God was testing Abraham’s faith to see if His trust was in Isaac or in the promise of the living God. Times have not changed much across the centuries. Many of us who have been blessed by God with so much can be tempted to transfer our trust from the Blesser Himself to the blessings we have and hold.
Abraham’s response to this hard challenge was one of faith, faithfulness and trust in His God. There was no doubt… no defiance… no delay. He simply took God at his word, and the New Testament writer of Hebrews framed it thus: “By faith Abraham obeyed… therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude —innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore… By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son” (Hebrews 11:8,12,17).
Father and Son Ascend the Mountain
This trek of Father and son up Mount Moriah is replete with one picture after another of a journey 2,000 years later to the same mountain taken by our own Heavenly Father accompanied by His only begotten Son and our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Upon arriving at the foot of the mount of sacrifice, Abraham instructed his servant to stay there, saying, “the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.” (Genesis 22:5). What was about to take place on that summit was a transaction between a father and son alone. The same would be true at Mount Calvary (the northern extension of Mt. Moriah). During those three hours of darkness God the Father and God the Son did business alone. The agony of those hours is indescribable. When the final sacrifice for the sins of the world was being made, God closed the door to all human eyes and turned out the lights of heaven. He closed the curtains, and for three hours the eternal transaction for your sin and mine was between the Father and the Son alone.
Look closely at Abraham. He “took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son” (Genesis 22:6) as they journeyed up the mountain. This is a portent, a foreshadow, of the divine side of Calvary. Much of our thoughts concerning the cross are from the human side, what it means for us. But think of the divine side. Look at the Father’s heart as He places the wooden cross upon the bruised and bloodied back of His own Son and watches as He carries it up the way to Golgotha, the place of execution.
As they journeyed along together, Isaac, bearing the wood for the sacrifice upon his back, makes an inquiry of his father, “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (Genesis 22:7). Quick came Abraham’s response, “‘My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb’…so the two of them went on together” (Genesis 22:8). Yes! God, Himself will provide the lamb. In fact, God will Himself be the Lamb, the sacrifice for our sin. It was of this very event and to these very words that Jesus addressed the Jews, saying, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56).
The Ram of God
Arriving at the summit of Moriah, Abraham meticulously built an altar, arranged the wood for the burnt offering upon it, then bound his only son, Isaac, and laid him upon the altar. Then he “stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son” (Genesis 22:10). Immediately, the Angel of the Lord (the pre-incarnate Christ Himself) called to him from heaven, “‘Do not lay your hand on the lad… for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.’ Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up… instead of his son” (Genesis 22:12-14).
Our imaginations can only wonder what must have been racing through Abraham’s mind that day. Fifty years before, God had promised him a son. Thirty years had passed, and God repeated the promise. It would take a miracle. And Abraham believed. Paul would later say, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3). And God kept his word. Isaac was born and grew up. Now God tests Abraham, and when he keeps the faith, God provides a substitutionary sacrifice, a ram. And that ram is a beautiful picture of our Lord Jesus. You and I deserved to die, but Jesus provided Himself the lamb. He rushed out to Calvary and took our place, bore our sin, died our death so we could live His life, took our sin so we could take His righteousness. What a substitutionary sacrifice and all-sufficient Savior.
“And Abraham called the name of the place, The-Lord-Will-Provide, as it is said to this day, ‘In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided’” (Genesis 22:14). If there is any doubt that Abraham understood what was happening that day, Jesus settled it two millennia later when, traversing those same dusty roads, He said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56).
Behold the Lamb
You and I have a God who can and will provide… who, in fact, provided Himself as our very own substitutionary sacrifice. No wonder when he burst from the obscurity of the carpenter’s shop and appeared in the Jordan valley, John the Baptist thrust a pointed finger in His direction and shouted, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Yes, we can find Jesus in every book of the Bible, sometimes in type, sometimes in shadow, sometimes in prophecy. And here in Genesis? He is that ram at Abraham’s altar… our own substitutionary sacrifice.
Taken from The Bible Code by O.S. Hawkins. Copyright © 2020 by Dr. O.S. Hawkins. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson.
- S. Hawkins has served pastorates, including the First Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, for more than 25 years. A native of Fort Worth, Texas, he has a BBA from Texas Christian University and his MDiv and Ph.D. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. For almost a quarter of a century, he has served as president of GuideStone Financial Resources, with assets under management of $21.5 billion, serving 250,000 pastors, church staff members, missionaries, doctors, university professors, and other workers in various Christian organizations with their investment, retirement and benefit service needs. He is the author of more than 40 books, and regularly speaks to business groups and churches all across the nation. All of the author’s royalties and proceeds from the entire Code series go to support Mission:Dignity. You can learn more about Mission:Dignity by visiting MissionDignity.org.
Read more articles by Dr. O.S. Hawkins at: https://www.goodnewsfl.org/author/o-s-hawkins/