And behold, the Lord passed by, & a great & strong wind rent the mountains & brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: & after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the eathquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: & after the fire the thin sound of silence. 1 Kings19:11 & 12

Saturday, April 21, 2012

What Abraham saw.

The Fire & the wood are here, but where is the the lamb for the burnt offering. Genesis22:7

When Sarai was 90 years old she conceived & bore a son, Isaac.  The child of promise.  The one the Angel of the Lord foretold.  Their only begotton child.  The one they had so given up hope of having that Sarai laughed when she was told about it.

Can you imagine how loved this child was?  Doted on.  Indulged.  Rejoiced over. 

So what was Abraham thinking when he took off into the wilderness with Isaac for the sole purpose of sacrificing his son to God?!

What was God thinking?  We know from other passages God abhors child sacrifice, yet here He is asking Abraham to to do just that.

The answer begins before Isaac's birth when the two of them are having a chat under the night stars.

"Look," says God.  "As many as the stars in the sky, so will your offspring be."

That's a goodly amount by anyone's estimation.  There was only one fly in this little jar of ointment ~ Abraham was childless.  Abraham was childless but still he believed the Lord & it was counted unto him as righteousness.    He believed the Lord for the hard thing.  After all Sarai was past the age of child~bearing but when it came to accepting that God would give the land he & his descendants were to inherit into his possession Abraham balks. 

"How can I know,"  Abraham asks, "that I will gain possession of it?"

And  God says the strangest thing.  "Bring me a heifer..."  & a goat & a ram & a dove & a pigeon.  What is going on here?

Now nearly every culture has a fundamental understanding that the life of a sentient being is in the blood.  Scripture has strong taboos against the unwarranted spilling of blood so that even the very earth cries out in protest, as it did for Abel.  The strongest ties are not those of family, tribe, nation but those forged in blood.  It is called cutting covenant.  In Africa those entering into covenant make cuts on their arms & mingle their blood.  Other cultures drink the blood.  However it is done it indicated that there is a mingling of two life streams into a single unit.  To fight one covenant brother is to fight the other as well.  Once entered into the terms of the covenant are absolutely binding.  They can neither be altered nor changed, added to nor detracted from.

In the middle east an unblemished animal was cut in half & the covenant parties passed *between the blood*.  Now the thing to note is that it is not Abraham *cutting covenant*, it is God.  When darkness falls a smoking fire pot with a blazing torch passed between the pieces.

What has this to do with the sacrifice of Isaac?  Everything!

When God tells Abraham to head off into Moriah & sacrifice his son,  Abraham doesn't even quibble.  He saddles his donkey.  He has the wood for the fire.  He has the fire. He has his knife.   And Isaac knew what was up because he suggests good old dad has forgotten the lamb for the sacrifice.

Abraham gets as far as laying his hand on the knife preparatory to slaying his son before God intervenes & provides the ram.  We do know the story.  Sighs of relief all round, no doubt.  But the question remains:  Why?  Why did Abraham agree to this?  After all, he's only got the one son; one son to inherit.  One son to provide descendants as numerous as the stars.  One son from whom God has promised to forge a great nation.

The answer lies in the covenant God cut.  Remember the terms of that covenant are so legally binding that they can neither be altered nor changed once the covenant has been entered into.  Abraham knows that God is obligated to raise his son from the dead in order to fulfill His promises because of the terms of the covenant!  Abraham walked in the uttermost assurance that God was irrevocably bound by the terms of the covenant He had cut.

In a deeper sense this provided a gateway for Jesus.  Could God do less than Abraham?  If Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his only son, then so too must God.  For Abraham God provided a ram, but there was no sin sacrifice, no blood than could be shed for sin except the perfect blood of Christ.

So when we speak of *The New Covenant* that God has entered into with us through Jesus Christ we need to understand the terms & conditions of that contract are irrevocable, unchangeable, unbreakable.  If we accept that Christ died for us then the terms of that covenant are ours.  We are buried in Christ.  We are made new.  Our iniquities will be remembered no more.  The life of Christ is ours. 

Abraham saw this very clearly.  He understood covenant.  He understood that the covenant promises of God are unalterable.  Because of that he could act in confident faith.  So too can we.

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