Christianity 201

March 1, 2021

The Test of Faith Was Both Abraham’s and Isaac’s

Could a familiar Biblical narrative had played out differently? We often consider the faith it took Abraham to be obedient to a horrid request, a demand concerning the child of promise given to him and Sarah. But Isaac was old enough that he could have rewritten the ending…

If you’re unfamiliar with Abraham’s test of faith in Genesis 22, click this link to read it in the Common English Bible (CEB).

by Ruth Wilkinson

Why did it have to be at the top of a mountain on a hot day, carrying all that wood?
His father wasn’t young anymore (had he ever been?) so Isaac took the load of wood himself.
Abraham went ahead, finding the path, carrying the fire for the altar. This was a long, long way
to come to make a sacrifice.

Isaac had seen his father make sacrifices to his god before, and it was always the same.
He’d build an altar, stone on stone ‘till it was right,
lay it with wood – first the tinder, then the kindling, then the fuel.
He’d choose the very best lamb he could find,
sometimes that took hours, talking to the shepherds, looking at hooves and skin.
If he couldn’t find the one he wanted, he’d buy one from a neighbour. That could take a day or two.

Once he’d found the one he wanted, he’d tie its legs with rope, lay it on the altar.
He’d cut the lamb’s throat quickly so it wouldn’t suffer and light the fire.
A complete waste, except it wasn’t.
It was a gift, a symbol of how nothing was more important to Abraham than his god.

But this one was different, not only the journey, but especially the fact that there was no lamb.
Abraham was always so picky about choosing just the right one, surely he didn’t expect it to
just be waiting there for him at the top.
Isaac had asked about that, but Abraham didn’t really answer,
so he dropped it.

Abraham was unusually quiet.
Anytime they’d sat or eaten or traveled together Abraham was full of stories
the time he’d tried to trick Pharaoh and his God had ratted him out,
the time he’d gone to war to rescue Uncle Lot and his God had given him victory,
the time his god had wiped a couple of entire cities off the earth,

and over and over and over again, the story of the son, the only son, the son their God had
given them, the son they loved, their miracle son.
The first star in his father’s sky of children and children’s children and
children’s children’s children.

Isaac had heard volumes about Abraham’s god. Sarah’s god.
But not today.

Today he was lugging a load of wood up a mountain, eyes on where he was putting his feet,
glancing at his father’s back.

Lots of time to think.
This god of his father’s was a strange one as gods went.
He didn’t seem to follow the same rules.
The other gods, the ones that ruled the lands around them, the ones that came into the family
compound with slaves from other places…
The other gods were tied to one particular nation or tribe or family. This one seemed to be
everywhere, involved with anybody he chose.
Isaac wasn’t sure whether he went ahead, or if he was following Abraham, but he had been
everywhere.

The other gods were distant and people did extravagant things to get their attention…
shouting, dancing, extreme sacrifices – even killing their own children to get their noticed.
His father’s god seemed to be waiting around every corner,
with something to say,
to ask,
something to offer
– kind of like Abraham was with Isaac.

But Isaac had never heard the voice his father heard.
Everything he knew, he’d learned from his parents’ lives and stories.
He’d lived his whole life from before he could remember by the words and ways
of his father’s god.

Abraham stopped walking. He looked around and said,
“We’re here.”
He told Isaac to sit down and have a drink while he built the altar.

Stone on stone ‘till it was right,

Then, he opened the bag of tinder,
untied the rope that held the bundle of wood,
arranged the altar, – tinder first, then kindling, then fuel.

He stood still, looking at it.

Isaac said, “Perfect! Now all we need is the lamb.”

There was a long silence. Abraham trembled, sat down beside his son, his only son,
the son his god had given him, the son he loved, his miracle son
the first star in his sky of children and children’s children and
children’s children’s children and told him about the lamb.
What he said cut Isaac open like no knife ever could.

Isaac was to be the lamb.

No.
That can’t be right.
All his life he’d been told how special he was.
His life was a miracle, an answered prayer, a promise kept.
He couldn’t die now!
It was too soon!
That can’t be right.
No.

His father was old, confused. Isaac was stronger, he could take him, maybe tie him up with the rope from the wood and get him home somehow. (On the donkey. That would work.)

To Sarah. Sarah would know what to do.
Isaac snatched up the rope, jumped to his feet ready for anything and in that moment,
he heard it.

He heard the voice – whispering somewhere inside him, behind him.
Whispering his name
“Isaac”

The whisper took over his heart and his mind and whispered to him in that split second every story his father had ever told him.

Every step of his father’s journey,
every promise made and kept,
every tear,
every laugh,
every surprise,
every demand,
every moment of forgiveness and starting over again and redemption.
Every star in his father’s sky.

And in that moment, Isaac knew he had a choice to make. A line to cross.

He had lived his entire life from before he could remember by the words and ways of his father’s god and
now
now
now he had to decide whether this god was his own.
Isaac had to choose.


“All the nations of the earth will be blessed because of your descendants, because you obeyed me” (God, v18)

December 15, 2017

The Lamb of God

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
Tags: , , ,

This is a first-time visit to Vicki who writes at the blog Homeward Bound. The article below is part one of two, at the bottom is a link to the second part which provides the New Testament resolution to the sacrificial system. Click the title of each if you wish to read at source.

The Lamb of God: Old Testament

I used to watch a show called Lonely Planet, where the guide went to different countries and around the world, where the culture was different from North America. Quite often there were lambs killed, and one thing I noticed was that they never made a sound..they go to their death without struggle. Often it moved the guide to tears. And so I have been dwelling on the Lamb of God, who went to the cross without struggle, going to complete the work He came into this world to accomplish, to pay the penalty for sin and to shed His precious blood, and die on the cross.

There are many references to lambs in the bible, but these are a few specific ones that came to my mind in dwelling upon this subject. The first one is in Gen.3:21 “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” Adam and his wife had tried to cover themselves with fig leaves after their disobedience to the command of God, but this covering was by their own works. God covered them with the skins of animals, requiring the shedding of blood. Nothing could cover the sins of Adam and Eve but that which God gave them, just as our sins are covered by the precious blood of Christ, Romans 4:6-8..2 Cor 5:19, 1 Peter 1:19 “But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

The next instance that comes to my mind is that of Abel, “he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering” (Gen 4:4) Abel’s offering was acceptable being that which was not of the work of his own hands, but desired the sacrifice of one of the firstlings of his flock. And we know that because Abel’s offering was accepted by God, and Cain’s was not, Cain in a fit of rage murdered his brother. And still today, this old world tries to find its way to heaven by doing good works, and not by faith.

Next is Abraham and Isaac, that wonderful story of trust, obedience and grace. When God required Abraham to sacrifice his only begotten son (that which was promised by God- Isaac, and not his son by the will of the flesh which was Ishmael) Abraham did not hesitate, but took Isaac to Mount Moriah where he completely trusted that “I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.” (Gen 22:5). Even though Abraham knew that he was to sacrifice Isaac, he believed that somehow Isaac would return with him. And when Isaac inquired of his father “…where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (Gen 22:7) Abraham said these words “…my son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering” (Gen 7:8), and of course, the animal was provided at exactly the right moment “…and Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns…”(Gen 22:13) and so the animal provided by God is slain in Isaac’s stead, Abraham’s trust and obedience were shown grace, and Isaac fulfilled his destiny.

A very graphic example of the Lamb of God is given in Exodus 12, during that fateful night when the firstborn of Egypt would die..there is a wonderful progression here, Verse 3 “…in the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb…..a lamb for an house.” one of many, a lamb. Then in Verse 4 it becomes more selective “and if the household be too little for the lamb… Now it is narrowed down to the lamb. no longer one of many, it is the lamb. And finally, it is made personal – Verse 5 “your lamb shall be without blemish…” Now it is not just “a” lamb, nor “the” lamb, but “your ” lamb. Just as the Lord Jesus Christ is not “a” Saviour, one of many, He is “the” Saviour. But even though He is “the” Saviour, our salvation is not accomplished until He becomes “your” Saviour.. we must believe the gospel and receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour.

And so the little lamb is killed, and its blood was to be placed “on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the house” (Exodus 12:7) And “the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you….” (Exodus 12:13) The firstborn were saved by the blood of the lamb as long as they were in the house protected by it. Just as we are saved by the precious blood of the Lamb, The Lord Jesus, and when God sees us, He sees us righteous by the blood of the Lamb.

The last instance in the Old Testament in this little meditation is found in Isaiah 53: 6-7 “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.” Even those many years before the birth of the Lord Jesus, when he came from heaven to cloth himself in human flesh, the prophet Isaiah spoke of him as the Lamb. But it was not as a little baby in a manger, no, it was the lamb to the slaughter, the death of the Lord Jesus on the Cross…

Worthy, worthy, is the Lamb
Worthy, worthy, is the Lamb
Worthy, worthy, is the Lamb
That was slain.

click the link below:

The Lamb of God: The Lord Jesus Christ

to read a short New Testament conclusion to this article.

June 8, 2015

On the Brink of Surrender

Genesis 22:

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

If you don’t know the story, read it in full at Genesis 22: 1-19

James 2:21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?

The story of Abraham and Isaac is certainly unique in scripture, if not in all of human history. Isaac was a child of promise, was he not? And now God is wanting Abraham to kill him? What’s up with that?

Think of the years of father and son bonding over the years. Think of Sarah finally having a child after years of barrenness and all the joy that brought. And now God asks this?

(Is Sarah in on this latest development? The text doesn’t say.)

Of course, we have the advantage that Abraham and Sarah didn’t; we know how the story ends. They did not, and yet Abraham is willing to do whatever it takes to obey God.

So the question today is fairly obvious: What does God want you to surrender? What are you holding on to that God wants to see if you’re willing to give it up?

By contrast of course we have this story in Acts 4 & 5:

4:33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need…

5:1 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died…

One man wants to do whatever it takes to please God, and the story ends in life. Another decides to hold back and not fully surrender everything to God, and the story ends in death.

Today, God doesn’t ask people to kill their children; in fact some feel the story is necessary to the Bible so that people are clear that the God of Israel doesn’t ask for child sacrifice. Similarly, despite what an evangelist on television might say, no one is compelling you to sell your house and give all the proceeds to the Church. Rather the questions for us are:

  • Are you willing to do whatever God asks, even if it doesn’t make any sense?
  • Do you really trust God?
  • What are you holding back from God that, once surrendered, would bring life?

C201 New LinkMission Statement: Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of Christian blogs and websites. Sometimes two posts may follow on consecutive days by authors with very different doctrinal perspectives. The Kingdom of God is so much bigger than the small portion of it we can see from our personal vantage point, and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading.

Scripture portions from various translations quoted at Christianity 201 are always in green to remind us that the Scriptures have LIFE!

 

March 20, 2015

The Lord Promised, The Lord Came, The Lord Acted

HCSB Gen. 21:1 The Lord came to Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what He had promised.

NLT Gal. 4:28 And you, dear brothers and sisters, are children of the promise, just like Isaac.

Today’s devotional is from a source that’s new for us, it’s called Barenuckle Bible. I really like the clarity with which the author, John Myer writes. Click the title below to read at source, and then take a few minutes to look around the site.

Going the Distance Into the Depths of Grace

Stats.

That’s a scary word for college students.  I remember the class.  A few of us picked up the concepts quickly.  The rest prayed and stayed up late with homework and energy drinks.  We went to tutors who confused us a little more. We bought extra books—Stats Whiz! Become a Statistician in an Hour—that didn’t help much.  We went to prep sessions for quizzes and figured we might want to choose a different major, like police sketch artist, or well…anything that didn’t intersect stats.  In a vulnerable moment one guy even told me he was close to tears.  He’d probably never admit to it today, though.

The point is, everybody had the same material to learn, but different experiences while learning it.

The Christian life works the same way.  Yes, we’re all going through different things at different times, but we’re learning the identical subject matter enclosed in 66 books.  Consider Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Their lives are actually a template for all believers.

Of the three, the story of Isaac’s life occupies the shortest space in the book of Genesis.  The Bible focuses less on what he did and more on what he was.  Isaac is typically known as the “child of promise.”  He embodies grace, which means God’s free act of giving.  Free. That’s attractive sounding, but difficult to grasp.  We don’t trust the concept of “free” very much.  At my house, anything that arrives in the mail saying “Free” on it, earns a trip straight to the trash.

But the grace of God is real.

In Genesis, God had promised a son to Abraham and Sarah.  They were old, past the age of childbearing, so this baby was supposed to be a free gift to them.  But it was difficult for them to take the promise at face value.  After all, from the human perspective, reproduction looked impossible.

Since it began to take a long time, both Abraham and Sarah decided to do various things to “help” God’s promise come true a little faster.  At one point Abraham tried to name his servant as legal heir of his estate.  Abraham probably thought that’s what God meant when He promised me offspring—it was just a figure of speech.  But God further clarified by telling Abraham that his heir would actually come from his physical body.

Still, grace is tough to believe.  Since Sarah was nursing home age, she assumed that the baby would be Abraham’s, but not hers.  No way.  She went and got her servant woman, Hagar, and gave the woman to Abraham as a surrogate.  Sarah thought, “The child will be mine by adoption.”  Abraham agreed with the arrangement.  The result was a son, but not the one God promised.

Then the Lord did His work of grace—a miracle apart from their manipulations.  Genesis 21:1 said the Lord promised, the Lord visited, the Lord did. The old lady had a baby.  In v. 6 Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me.”  That’s the result of grace—happiness, refreshment, relief, amazement.  Sarah added, “All who hear will laugh over me” because grace is catching.  It spreads.  Once it gets into a person, it affects the whole environment.  She even named the boy Isaac, which means laughter.

Galatians 4:28 says we believers, as Isaac, are children of promise.  Your second birth was a miracle because at some point in your life, three things have taken place:  God visited, God promised, and God did.  Hopefully, you rejoiced.

First, God spoke a promise.  It was through others, no doubt, but He promised salvation to you in the name of Jesus.  When you believed, then He visited.  He came to your heart with his Holy Spirit, and then He did something—He regenerated you, gave you new life.  It was the second birth.

In a manner of speaking, I tried to pull this off a few times—the whole “make yourself a good Christian guy.”  It would never stick past a week.  Then I ran into grace and God did what I couldn’t do. That was thirty years ago.

But Isaac’s story doesn’t end with his remarkable birth. The grace of God keeps going.  Isaac was born into wealth, so we don’t seem him working, struggling, to gather riches.  They were his from the start.  That’s grace.  This is like Ephesian 1:3 where it says God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

We all start in the position of incredible glories (read all of Ephesians chapter 1).  We don’t try to earn them.  Sometimes believers focus on stuff they don’t have, and spend a lot of time trying to gather it.  We don’t know or appreciate what already belongs to us.  If we did, the anger and bitterness would subside.  We’d laugh because we could.

Grace creates a lot of odd juxtapositions.  That’s why we can laugh while crying, rest while working, be filled while wanting, and hope while in the pit of disappointment.

And that’s why, regardless of what’s on your driver’s license, your name is always just Isaac.

November 7, 2011

Faith of My Father

Why did it have to be at the top of a mountain on a hot day, carrying all that wood?
His father wasn’t young anymore (had he ever been?) so Isaac took the load of wood himself.
Abraham went ahead, finding the path, carrying the fire for the altar. This was a long, long way
to come to make a sacrifice.

Isaac had seen his father make sacrifices to his god before, and it was always the same.
He’d build an altar, stone on stone ‘till it was right,
lay it with wood – first the tinder, then the kindling, then the fuel.
He’d choose the very best lamb he could find,
sometimes that took hours, talking to the shepherds, looking at hooves and skin.
If he couldn’t find the one he wanted, he’d buy one from a neighbour. That could take a day or two.

Once he’d found the one he wanted, he’d tie its legs with rope, lay it on the altar.
He’d cut the lamb’s throat quickly so it wouldn’t suffer and light the fire.
A complete waste, except it wasn’t.
It was a gift, a symbol of how nothing was more important to Abraham than his god.

But this one was different, not only the journey, but especially the fact that there was no lamb.
Abraham was always so picky about choosing just the right one, surely he didn’t expect it to
just be waiting there for him at the top.
Isaac had asked about that, but Abraham didn’t really answer,
so he dropped it.

Abraham was unusually quiet.
Anytime they’d sat or eaten or traveled together Abraham was full of stories
the time he’d tried to trick Pharaoh and his God had ratted him out,
the time he’d gone to war to rescue Uncle Lot and his God had given him victory,
the time his god had wiped a couple of entire cities off the earth,

and over and over and over again, the story of the son, the only son, the son their God had
given them, the son they loved, their miracle son.
The first star in his father’s sky of children and children’s children and
children’s children’s children.

Isaac had heard volumes about Abraham’s god. Sarah’s god.
But not today.

Today he was lugging a load of wood up a mountain, eyes on where he was putting his feet,
glancing at his father’s back.

Lots of time to think.
This god of his father’s was a strange one as gods went.
He didn’t seem to follow the same rules.
The other gods, the ones that ruled the lands around them, the ones that came into the family
compound with slaves from other places…
The other gods were tied to one particular nation or tribe or family. This one seemed to be
everywhere, involved with anybody he chose.
Isaac wasn’t sure whether he went ahead, or if he was following Abraham, but he had been
everywhere.

The other gods were distant and people did extravagant things to get their attention…
shouting, dancing, extreme sacrifices – even killing their own children to get their noticed.
His father’s god seemed to be waiting around every corner,
with something to say,
to ask,
something to offer
– kind of like Abraham was with Isaac.

But Isaac had never heard the voice his father heard.
Everything he knew, he’d learned from his parents’ lives and stories.
He’d lived his whole life from before he could remember by the words and ways
of his father’s god.

Abraham stopped walking. He looked around and said,
“We’re here.”
He told Isaac to sit down and have a drink while he built the altar.

Stone on stone ‘till it was right,

Then, he opened the bag of tinder,
untied the rope that held the bundle of wood,
arranged the altar, – tinder first, then kindling, then fuel.

He stood still, looking at it.

Isaac said, “Perfect! Now all we need is the lamb.”

There was a long silence. Abraham trembled, sat down beside his son, his only son,
the son his god had given him, the son he loved, his miracle son
the first star in his sky of children and children’s children and
children’s children’s children and told him about the lamb.
What he said cut Isaac open like no knife ever could.

Isaac was to be the lamb.

No.
That can’t be right.
All his life he’d been told how special he was.
His life was a miracle, an answered prayer, a promise kept.
He couldn’t die now!
It was too soon!
That can’t be right.
No.

His father was old, confused. Isaac was stronger, he could take him, maybe tie him up with the rope from the wood and get him home somehow. (On the donkey. That would work.)

To Sarah. Sarah would know what to do.
Isaac snatched up the rope, jumped to his feet ready for anything and in that moment,
he heard it.

He heard the voice – whispering somewhere inside him, behind him.
Whispering his name
“Isaac”

The whisper took over his heart and his mind and whispered to him in that split second every story his father had ever told him.

Every step of his father’s journey,
every promise made and kept,
every tear,
every laugh,
every surprise,
every demand,
every moment of forgiveness and starting over again and redemption.
Every star in his father’s sky.

And in that moment, Isaac knew he had a choice to make. A line to cross.

He had lived his entire life from before he could remember by the words and ways of his father’s god and
now
now
now he had to decide whether this god was his own.
Isaac had to choose.

~Ruth Wilkinson