Sunday, February 28, 2016

Nothing Withheld

When viewed through our 21st century lens, no Biblical story seems stranger or more difficult to understand than Abraham going to Mt. Moriah to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God.  Abraham had waited twenty-five years for this son of promise to be born.  God had promised Abraham many descendants and the old centurion patriarch surely knew that Isaac was the one through whom it would happen.   But, in that moment God spoke saying, "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..." (Genesis 22:2)  Though he must have gone to the edge of not doing this unthinkable thing being asked of him, Abraham finally did what he had been doing for a lifetime.  "So Abraham rose early in the morning...and went." (Genesis 22:3)
It was only in that final moment when Isaac was on the altar and Abraham's knife was in the air about to come down into this only son whom he loved that God stayed the old man's hand and then provided a substitute offering from the nearby tangled bush.  The blood of Isaac was not necessary.  Abraham had made it absolutely clear that nothing was more important to him than his relationship of obedience with God.  He would withhold nothing in order to prove it. 

Fast forward to another high place where an only Son, much loved by His Father was put on the altar of sacrifice.   This time, however, it is the Son of the One who stayed Abraham's hand on Mt. Moriah.  Even as Abraham was willing to withhold nothing from God, so did God speak to sinful humanity saying that there was nothing He would withhold in order to express His love.   Not even an only Son whom He loved was withheld.  And this time there was no deliverance for the Son on the altar.  Instead, through His death came deliverance for each one of us.

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