During the four weeks of Advent, I want to explore four pictures of Jesus in the Old Testament.
As I shared last week, my pastor (Nathan Franckhauser) teaches that, “Old Testament believers looked to a Messiah, the Seed of Abraham, who was coming. We look to a Messiah who died on a cross and was risen three days later and will return.”
Having looked at Jesus as Creator and how He modeled redemption through creation, now I want to look at the Akedah. Arguably the most important scene in the Old Testament. The binding of Isaac. The moment where love drove Abraham to sacrifice his only son.
My oldest son is an anomaly in my home. He is quiet obedience. Chore-after-chore, from spider killing to vomit cleaning, I’ve come to take it for granted that he will say ‘okay’ and head off to do whatever I ask of him.
Considering the fact that he is sandwiched between two headstrong sisters who employ a host of theatrics to voice their dissatisfaction, I probably take advantage of his compliant attitude too often.
He does have his limits though. And I’m sure I’d see an immediate spark a rebellion if I asked him to lug a pile of wood up the hill out back so I could sacrifice him.
Just a sneaking suspicion.
I’ve always wondered about Isaac. Was he oblivious? Too young to understand? Unquestioningly obedient to authority? Blindly stupid? What would compel him to traipse alongside his dad, obediently carrying the bundle of wood he was going to die on?
In Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus, the Jewish historian, claimed that Isaac was twenty-five years old at this point. The 18th-century British theologian, Adam Clarke, commentated that it was more likely Isaac was thirty-three at the time of his sacrifice.
Thirty-three. That puts a different filter on the picture.
The Only Son – The Loved Son
Now the picture I see is that of an obedient and fully cognizant son in the prime of his life, willingly submitting to his father.
Why a burnt offering? When Jesus would later be nailed to a Roman cross, why would God direct Abraham to offer Isaac as a burnt offering? Leviticus 3:1-5 instructs the Israelites on the Peace offering. This offering would be slayed outside the tent of meeting and after, it was to be sacrificed and burnt. The aroma would symbolically rise (or ascend) to the Lord as a pleasing, soothing fragrance.
In Genesis 22:3, God instructed Abraham to travel to the land of Moriah, to a specific mountain,to offer his son as a burnt offering.
The temple mount in Jerusalem is traditionally recognized as the location of Abraham’s sacrifice. Jerusalem means City of Peace. God instructed Abraham to travel to the City of Peace where the Son of Promise would be slayed on a hill outside the tent of meeting after which he would ascend to God—the ultimate sacrifice for our peace.
The Obedient Son
It was Jesus who said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these [the Scriptures] that testify about Me” John 5:39.
As the fully cognizant and completely obedient Son, he understood the type of his sacrifice and his ascension. He had commanded Abraham to portray it. He had inspired Moses to record it.
In Luke 9:5, Luke records, “When the days were approaching for His [Jesus] ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem.”
The Journey to Jerusalem
Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. Genesis 22:3
As they approached Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples, and said to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here...They brought the colt to Jesus and put their coats on it; and He sat on it. And many spread their coats in the road, and others spread leafy branches which they had cut from the fields. Those who went in front and those who followed were shouting:
Three Days of Death
What other details now enter our picture—besides the son, two servants, and a donkey? We see Abraham, a man obedient to God. A man who the writer of Hebrews writes about in this way, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, “In Isaac your descendants shall be called.” He [Abraham] considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him [Isaac] back as a type.”
Abraham who received the command of death, took Isaac on a three-day journey of death to Jerusalem, steadfastly believing that God would raise his only begotten son back to life.
From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. Matthew 16:21
The Wood & The Wine
Isaac willingly carried the wood for his sacrifice up the hill where Jerusalem would later stand. To the city where Jesus would complete the picture. Mount Moriah has fascinating entymology. Moriah can connect to the Hebrew word marah which means bitter. It can also connect to the Hebrew word for mor (myrrh).
It is interesting to note that in Mark 15:23, Jesus was offered a cup of wine mixed with myrrh (mor) as he hung on the cross. This was an ancient narcotic-like painkiller. He did not take it, choosing instead to bear the full brunt of our sins. He did later take the bitter (marah) wine they offered, this was given as a refreshment, not to dull or ease pain.
God Alone – God, Alone
Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there;and we will worship and return to you.” Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Genesis 22:5-6
I’m not smart enough or brave enough to touch the idea that Abraham carried the knife and the fire and that the father and son walked that hill alone. However, I do see the picture of Jesus, bleeding and bruised, abandoned by all friends, but walking that road with his Father.
God Provides Himself, the Sacrifice
Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.
Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless,the blood of Christ. 1 Peter 1:18
When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
Our Sacrificial King
Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
Jesus, the horn of our salvation, was caught in a thicket of thorns himself and then bound instead of Isaac—to die in our place.
On a mountain, in the land of Moriah, Jesus provided Himself for our salvation, our forgiveness, our righteousness, our redemption, our freedom. What can we do but respond as Abraham and Isaac would, in loving obedience to our King?
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:14-16