In the last post we saw that the New Testament teaching is contained in the Old Testament which in turn is revealed and explained in the New Testament. The Old Testament is full of allusions to the New, and in our study of the meaning of Genesis for Christians we find the most essential doctrine of the faith encapsulated in just one chapter, chapter 22.
Chapter 22 of Genesis recounts the story of God’s instruction to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac to God – literally sacrifice Isaac as if he were a lamb or goat. Now firstly a word of caution. This is not to be taken literally; the only exception may occur when evil, anti God people or authorities oblige you to renounce Jesus Christ on pain of death. Never renounce Christ !
God told Abraham to take Isaac – his son of promise remember, born to Sarah in old age – to take this same son and literally sacrifice him to God. Abraham obeyed and went as far as laying Isaac bound upon the altar of wood, and lifting the knive to slay Isaac when suddenly an angel commanded him to stop. God had proved Abraham’s loyalty even to the point that he would give up his most treasured son to God. Instead a ram was found nearby and offered on the altar.
Let us note 3 vital meanings to this story.
Firstly, God our Creator has rights over all life to do just as he pleases, as and when he pleases. His word and will are paramount, and it is not for us to second guess God or disobey him. In our sin and rebellion, we deceive ourselves into believing that we know better than God, indeed that we can replace God’s law with our own versions. The foolishness of reinventing morality and law around human beings wants and desires is all around us today, along with all the disruptive consequences for normal traditional life.
In a world obsessed with Rights, we must understand that before God, we have no rights – God has all rights. Before God, we have duties and responsibilities to obey Christ, first and foremost.
Secondly, we have in the story recorded in chapter 22 a foreshadowing, a prefiguring, a type of the crucifixion events to come several hundred years later. This is a remarkable picture of the cross of Christ and its meaning, spelt out to us centuries before it actually came to pass. This is but one of many allusions in the Old Testament to later New Testament events; it is compelling evidence of the foreknowledge of God and of his divine provision and protection of the sacred Scriptures which we call the Bible.
In the events recorded in chapter 22, we find a direct parallel with God the Father and God the Son and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross of calvary. Abraham is the father, and Isaac represents Jesus. But in this account, the human father and the human son are not required to go through with the sacrifice. At the cross of Christ, both God the Father and God the Son went through with the vital sacrifice on the Cross.
Please note here, that the whole idea for Abraham to sacrifice his son came from God in heaven. It was God’s initiative, not the initiative of a human being. Note too, that God also provided the sacrificial ram to take Isaac’s place. The sacrifice God wants must be God’s desire and God’s plan – never ours ! For sample verification, see Hebrews chapter 11.
Which brings us to the third point. The nature of the Christian life. How we must live the Christian life. This is the very essence of Christianity, yet it is so often perverted or neglected. I refer to the critical and vital process of SANCTIFICATION.
The Christian life is not in essence a life of obeying rules. Certainly we must endeavour to obey the Ten Commandments, for example. But every Christian discovers that such obedience is impossible in our own sinful human resources. We must instead live by the continuing forgiveness and grace of God. We are dependent on God. We rely totally on the sacrifice which Jesus Christ made at the cross. Not on ritual observance, or on belonging to a particular church; but by totally relying on Christ.
We soon find that we are incapapble of living up to God’s law when God places us in circumstances which challenge us to live as Christians and not react in the natural as the world about us does.
A practical example. When the boss at work demands we do something dishonest and implies we could lose our job if we don’t do as he or she says, then we must obey God and disobey man. We must trust God for the consequences, even bad and difficult consequences. We must not obey sinful human beings demanding that we sin. It requires siding with God against our apparent interests; against our human instincts to protect ourselves and what we need. Instead we are to prove God’s faithfulness and provision by doing the very thing which could deprive us in the natural of what we need or want.
This is at the heart of the Christian life, and it is so woefully neglected, if not in preaching, certainly in the daily lives of so many professing believers who remain just babes in Christ, never maturing, never getting beyond living by their natural, fleshly resources. Living like the world, instead of like Christ – in the grace and power supplied by the Holy Spirit to those who are obedient to God, prepared to disobey this world’s evil values in order to remain faithful to Christ.
The story of Abraham and Isaac on mount Moriah should always be with us to remind us. Or as the apostle Paul taught in Romans chapter 12:
PRESENT YOURSELVES A LIVING SACRIFICE, HOLY ACCEPTABLE UNTO GOD
We must confess Christ when threatened with death. We must willingly deny sinful self to ensure we obey God.