Readings: Genesis 22:15-18 (text); Galatians 3:16, 28-29
December 23, 2012 • Pasig Covenant Reformed Church • Download PDF sermon
The first time God revealed himself to Abraham, he was a 75-year-old pagan worshiper in Ur of the Chaldees. God commanded him to leave his home and his people and go to a strange land. God did not even tell him where in the world that land was, but God promised to bless him and make him a great nation, and to bless all the families of the earth through him. It’s a great promise! (Gen 12:1-3)
Through many trials, Abraham proved God’s faithfulness. There was famine in the land. There was war in which his nephew Lot was captured by enemies. There was the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah where Lot and his family barely escaped. But after 25 years—Abraham and Sarah were in their 90s!—God was finally done with testing Abraham’s patience: Isaac was born.
Abraham’s walk with God was a life of testing. In the opening verse, it says, “God tested Abraham.” But this was not like any of the others, it was a horror of horrors, “Offer Isaac on the mountains of Moriah as a burnt offering.”
Once again, Abraham passed the test. He promptly responds to God’s command. He sets out early the following morning with no complaints, no arguments, no bargaining. He acts on God’s word quickly, showing his true and strong faith. And God declares to him afterwards, “because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you.”
What blessings will God bestow on Abraham? They are three-fold. First, he will have innumerable descendants. Second, he will conquer his enemies. And third, all the nations of the earth will be blessed through his faith that was evidenced by his obedience. “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” (Gal 3:6). He believed because God has sworn by himself that he will fulfill his promises, and God had always proven himself faithful.
It will benefit us greatly if we always remember how firm and strong Abraham’s faith was as evidenced by his works of obedience to God. If he was dedicated to obeying God’s command to sacrifice his son, why would he say this to his servants that he and his son will be back (Gen 22:5)? Hebrews 11:19 has the answer, “He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” Abraham believed in the resurrection! After Isaac was killed, his body cut into several pieces, and burned as an offering, Abraham believed that the Almighty God is able to raise his son from the dead!
This heartrending scene unfolds in the words of great affection exchanged between them before the sacrifice, “My father!” “My son!” This reminds us of the loving and trusting Trinitarian relationship between Father and Son. The Father calls his Son “my Beloved” and “my only begotten Son,” and the Son calls the Father, “Father” and “my God.” The Father loves his Son, and the Son loves his Father in obedience to his will.
Though the main point of the story is how the faith of Abraham was counted as righteousness by God, the secondary point concerns Isaac his son. In commending Abraham, God said, “because you have not withheld your son, your only son …” We hear echoes of these words in John 3:16: ”For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son …”
Through Isaac, a son was born to Abraham, a son who became King David (Matt 1:1). God promised David an everlasting kingdom through another Son, “I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son” (2 Sam 7:13-14; Heb 1:5) The prophets looked forward to this Son who would be born of a virgin woman, who would be called wonderful Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, and the Prince of peace. He would be a great light of salvation for people in all nations who walked in darkness (Isa 7:14; 9:2, 6; 49:6).
In the fullness of time, God fulfilled the prophets’ longing for the coming of this Son. He was born in a humble manger, born of a virgin woman who descended from King David (Gal 4:4). But he has many more names: Jesus, for “he will save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21); Immanuel, because he is “God with us” (Matt 1:23); “the Son of the Most High,” because he is God himself (Mark 5:7); and the heir of “the throne of his father David” forever (Luke 1:32-33).
All of these pointed back to Abraham’s only son Isaac and all his descendants. Just as Isaac was created by the Spirit in the womb of a barren woman, Jesus was also conceived by the Spirit in Mary’s “barren” virgin womb. Jesus, born under the law, fulfilled all the requirements of the law. Like Isaac, Jesus was led as a lamb for slaughter, yet opened not his mouth. Isaac carried his own wood for the altar, and so did Jesus carry his own wood to Calvary. Isaac was willing to be laid down by his father on the altar, while Jesus willingly laid down his life on the cross. Figuratively, Isaac came back from the dead, but literally, Jesus was raised from the grave. In his resurrection, Jesus conquered Satan, sin and death (1 Cor 15:54-56).
By his death on the cross, Jesus the Messiah fulfilled God’s promise to Abraham of innumerable descendants. He is Abraham’s “offspring … the Christ” (Gal 3:16) who has fulfilled the law for all those the Father has given him (John 6:39). How did they become Abraham’s children? “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us … so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles” (Gal 3:13-14). Now, the blessing of Abraham has come, not only to Jews of old, but to all the nations! You and I are now heirs of God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal 3:29). The Israel of God has expanded from believing Israel unto all believers in all the nations.
After he ascended into heaven, Christ sent his Holy Spirit to be with us. Immanuel helps us through the Spirit who indwells us (John 14:15-17). From heaven, he comforts and intercedes for us, making our worship, thanksgiving and petitions known to “Abba, Father” by his Spirit (Gal 4:6; Heb 5:7). Moreover, he rules over his Church with his Word and Spirit through his ambassadors, the pastors and elders of the churches (Eph 4:11-12).
In the fullness of time, when his kingdom is complete, Jesus will return, this time not as a lowly baby in a manger, but as a mighty, conquering King who will put all his enemies under his feet. Then, he will give his people the new heaven and new earth, where, as Immanuel, “He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,and God himself will be with them as their God.”
So be comforted with these words, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Rom 8:32) AMEN.