Advent 6: The Lord Will Provide
“And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, ‘By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
A Contradicting Command
You’ll notice that the Scripture for today is really encouraging, but the trip from the beginning of the chapter to the end of the chapter is an emotional rollercoaster. During the past couple of days, we have been focused on how God is going to fulfill his promise to Abraham through Isaac. He has been very clear on that.
But here, we get one of the most confusing commands in all of the Bible.
In verse two, God says to Abraham,
“Take 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.”
What?! How could this be happening?
Doesn’t this contradict what God told him about Isaac?
Well, sort of, we are actually really blessed to have more information about what God is doing than what Abraham had in this situation. When we look at the immediate context of this verse, we see that verse one gives us a huge hint as to what is going on. It says, “after all these things God tested Abraham.” Whew. So we know this is a test, but Abraham doesn’t. After all, what kind of test would it be if he knew he was being tested?
How is Abraham going to respond to this? God has promised him that he is going to keep his family line going through Isaac, and now that same God is telling him to sacrifice Isaac. I couldn’t imagine what Abraham was going through.
But Abraham passes the test. He takes his son up the mountain, ties him down to the altar, and as he raises the knife to take his son’s life, God tells him to stop. Then God graciously provides a ram for the sacrifice to take Isaac’s place.
An Act of Faith
As we look over this, it would be easy to get really mad at Abraham. I mean, how could he be prepared to kill his own son? What father could do that? The short answer is because he trusted God. What’s crazy is that even after he walked up that mountain and tied Isaac to the altar, he still believed that God was going to keep His promise to and through Isaac. How do we know that? I’m glad you asked. Look at what God tells us in Hebrews 11:17-19.
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.
So you see, Abraham believed that God was going to use Isaac still. Even if Abraham killed him, God would bring him back from the dead. Let’s not forget Abraham himself was “as good as dead” when Isaac was born. God had already proven to Abraham that he could do the impossible. Abraham just needed to believe.
We don’t have to look to Hebrews to see signs of Abraham’s faith. There are several signs in Genesis 22 where we can see his confidence in God. First, look at what Abraham said to his servants.
“Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”
Do you see that? He says that they are both going up the mountain, and they are both coming back. Now he could have just been saying that so as not to tip Isaac off, but I think it’s because he believed they were both actually going to come back down.
Look also at what he says to Isaac. Isaac ain’t no dummy. He notices that they have wood and fire but no sacrifice. When he asks his father about this, Abraham replies, “God will provide.” Again this could be a way of avoiding the obvious, but I think it’s showing us that he really believes that God will keep his Word.
Sands and Stars
At the end of this episode, God repeats His covenant to Abraham. This is the first time we see this combination of promises. He promises him lots and lots of descendants all through Isaac. There will be so many that he has to use crazy examples like stars in the sky or sand in the sea. In case you’re wondering, in 2012, some researchers in Hawaii actually tried to calculate the number of grains of sand in the world. They estimated that the Earth has roughly 7.5 x 10 to the 18th power grains of sand…or seven quintillion, five hundred quadrillion grains. Not only that, but they estimate that there are multiple stars for every grain of sand, which in their words is “an unbelievably large number.” No kidding! The point is God is going to give Abraham many, many descendants. And look again how God reminds Abraham that every nation in the world is going to be blessed by him.
At the end of this episode, God repeats his covenant to Abraham. This is the first time we see this combination of promises. He promises him lots and lots of descendants all through Isaac. There will be so many that he has to use crazy examples like stars in the sky or sand in the sea. In case you’re wondering, in 2012, some researchers in Hawaii actually tried to calculate the number of grains of sand in the world. They estimated that the Earth has roughly 7.5 x 10 to the 18th power grains of sand…or seven quintillion, five hundred quadrillion grains. Not only that, but they estimate that there are multiple stars for every grain of sand, which in their words is “an unbelievably large number.” No kidding! The point is that God is going to give Abraham many, many descendants. And look again how God reminds Abraham that every nation in the world is going to be blessed by him.
Let’s highlight two aspects of this passage that will help us reflect on the coming of Jesus. First, we need to see that it is through Jesus that God fulfills the promise that every nation is going to be blessed. As we’ve talked about before, God’s covenant has always been intended to go beyond just the people of Israel and Abraham’s biological descendants. This blessing will be open to all people regardless of nation, tribe, or language. And the only way that we can be recipients of this blessing is through Jesus.
The advent of Jesus is a promise not just to Adam, not just to Abraham or Isaac, but to the world. God sent Jesus to bring salvation to people all over the globe.
Secondly, we need to think about the way God is doing this. When we look back and remember what God called Abraham to, we need to see that this sacrifice was cut short. God asked Abraham to be willing to offer his son on the altar but didn’t make him carry it out to completion. He wanted to test his faith to see if he would do it, but in the end, he didn’t have to.
We need to feel this tension. We need to realize what a meaningful sacrifice it is to give your own son up as an offering. This should lead us directly to the cross of Jesus.
As we think about the fact that God promised to send Jesus, we need to also remember the mission that Jesus was sent here to accomplish.
He didn’t come here just to be born a baby or even to live a perfect life.
He came here to lay down His life as a sacrifice for our sin.
Ultimately, the Christmas season we are celebrating is more than just commemorating the moment Jesus was born into the world but also a reminder that he came to be our Savior.
Let’s Talk About It:
- Obedience to God is often very difficult. What are some things that you know God wants you to do that are really hard? What is keeping you from obeying?
- Do you really trust God? What are some practical ways that you need to trust God today?
- Have you ever stopped to think about the fact that God didn’t make Abraham actually sacrifice his son but stopped him before he completed the sacrifice? And not only that but that he was willing to take the ultimate sacrifice upon himself to pay for our sins?
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