All Posts Tagged: sacrifice
It’s a long story, but here’s the crux. Sarah had been barren throughout her marriage to Abraham. To the 75 year old Abraham God promised a son. Twenty five years later “God visited Sarah exactly as he said he would… Sarah became pregnant and gave Abraham a son. Abraham named him Isaac. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born. ” (Genesis 21:1-7)
When Isaac was a teenager, Abraham received a strange command from the Lord. “God he spoke to him. Abraham answered, ‘Here I am, Lord.’ The Lord said, ‘Go get Isaac, your only son, the one you dearly love! Take him to the land of Moriah, and I will show you a mountain where you must sacrifice him to me on the fires of an altar.‘” (Genesis 22:1-2)
Did it happen? “They arrived at the place to which God had directed him. Abraham built an altar. He laid out the wood. Then he tied up Isaac and laid him on the wood. Abraham reached out and took the knife to kill his son. Just then an angel of God called to him out of Heaven, ‘Abraham! Abraham!’ ‘Yes, I’m listening.’ ‘Don’t lay a hand on that boy! Don’t touch him! You didn’t hesitate to place your son, your dear son, on the altar for me.‘” “Abraham looked up. He saw a ram (male sheep) caught by its horns in the thicket. Abraham took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.“
The story of Abraham, Sarah and Isaac is a symbol, pointing to a reality!
The moment Jesus came up out of the baptismal waters,
the skies opened up and he saw God’s Spirit. And along with the Spirit, a voice: “
This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life.”
This is how much God loved the world: enough to give his only, special son,
so that everyone who believes in him should not be lost
but should share in the life of God’s new age.
After all, God didn’t send the son into the world to condemn the world,
but so that the world could be saved by him.
Going a little ahead, Jesus fell to the ground and prayed for a way out:
“Papa, Father, you can—can’t you?—get me out of this.
Take this cup away from me. But please, not what I want—what do you want?”
God sent him to die in our place to take away our sins.
We receive forgiveness through faith in the blood of Jesus’ death.
Notice! As Abraham, the Father loved his one and only Son! Consequently, it’s not surprising that the Son pleaded with his Father for a way out. Abraham was given an “exit strategy“. Not so with the Father. So, He sacrificed his Son on the altar, the Cross. Now, here’s the question! WHY would a loving Father act in such a hideous fashion? The answer of the scriptures is straightforward: so that His broken and fractured daughters and sons (cf. Adam and Eve) could be forgiven so as to be healed. “It was our sins that ripped and tore and crushed him! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed“. (Isaiah 53:6)
“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “LOOK, the Lamb of God. He takes away the sins of the world!” (John 1:29) Have you “looked” at the Lamb of God?
Whereas the whole earth was given to humankind to inhabit and rule (Genesis 1:28), the Garden of Eden was specifically designed as a Meeting Place for God and man. “The truth is clearly set forth that Life comes from God, that for man Life consists in nearness to God and that it is the central concern of God’s fellowship with man to impart Life” (Geerhardus Vos).
The Creator’s plan was diverted. Disobedience produced disconnection. Fellowship was fractured. Consequently, “God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden and stationed angel-cherubim and a revolving sword of fire east of it, guarding the path to the Tree-of-Life.”
Fortunately, the story didn’t end there. After God delivered His people from 430 years of Egyptian bondage He gave this order: “Let them make a Dwelling Place for Me, so I may live among them. Make the meeting tent like the plans I will show you.” The design called for three sections oriented to the east: the Courtyard, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, the latter two separated by an ornate curtain. “Make a curtain of blue, purple, and scarlet material and fine twisted linen. Have a design of angel-cherubim woven into it by a skilled craftsman” (Exodus 26:3-33).
Did you catch it? Just as at Eden angel-cherubim guarded the eastern entrance (the curtain) to the place of God’s Presence, the Holy of Holies. So, how would disconnected humankind be able to have face to face fellowship with God? How was God able to have a Dwelling Place in the midst of disobedient traitors? It seems as if God changed His standards!
Once a year on the Day of Atonement (see last Lenten post) the High Priest entered God’s Dwelling Place with the blood of a slaughtered lamb. The High Priest walked around the throne (i.e. the Mercy Seat) of God’s Presence seven times, sprinkling blood on it as he moved. So, for a brief period the High Priest had fellowship with God because of the blood. God and sinful man were ONE through the blood. OOPS! Don’t forget this: The High Priest bore on his shoulders and over his heart the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. One might say that the entire nation was in long distance fellowship with God during that period.
Centuries later the real Lamb of God was dragged to Calvary to be slaughtered. As His blood oozed out, His life was depleted. Finally, Jesus said, “It is finished!” After that “the curtain in the Temple was torn into two pieces. The tear started at the top and tore all the way to the bottom” (Matthew 27:50-52). “Brothers and sisters, because of the blood of Jesus we can now confidently go into the Most Holy Place. Jesus has opened a new and living way for us to go through the curtain, His own body” (Hebrews 10:19-22).
The door is open! Just walk into Father’s Presence via the blood of the Lamb of God!
The activities on the Day of Atonement took place around and in God’s dwelling, the tabernacle. Though many priests were involved, the High Priest played the central role. I want to concentrate on two objects that the High Priest wore when he walked into God’s presence.
The ephod was similar to a pair of suspenders. “Have the Ephod made from gold; blue, purple, and scarlet material; and fine twisted linen by a skilled craftsman. Give it two shoulder pieces at two of the corners so it can be fastened. Next take two onyx stones and engrave the names of the sons of Israel on them in the order of their birth, six names on one stone and the remaining six on the other. Then mount the stones in settings of filigreed gold. Fasten the two stones on the shoulder pieces of the Ephod. The High Priest will wear these names on his shoulders as a memorial before God” (Exodus 28:6-13).
The breastpiece was similar to a baseball catcher’s vest, though much smaller. “Now make a Breastpiece, using gold; blue, purple, and scarlet material; and fine twisted linen. Make it nine inches square. Mount four rows of precious gemstones on it. Set them in gold filigree.
“The twelve stones correspond to the names of the Israelites, a name engraved on each. The High Priest will carry the names of the sons of Israel over his heart as a memorial before God when he enters the Sanctuary” (Exodus 28:15-30).
Now, let’s proceed to the “main event.” A spotless lamb is slaughtered. Its blood is drained. The High Priest takes the blood into the Sanctuary of God’s presence. God observes the stones (names) through the efficacy of the blood. He views the names over his heart—the symbol of love, compassion, mercy and grace. In a similar fashion He observes the names on his shoulders—the symbol of responsibility (as in, “he shouldered the whole task”).
Who is Jesus? He’s the Lamb of God who was slaughtered so that His blood flowed profusely. He’s the Great High Priest who presented His own blood to the Father for our redemption. Ah yes, what about the stones? Jesus bears on His shoulders and over His heart the name of every person who has received Him as Savior!
In a single sentence Paul beautifully summarizes the meaning of the Ephod and Breastpiece: “I am absolutely convinced that there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:30-32).
The Father did not hesitate to spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all. Can we not trust such a God to give us, with Him, everything else that we can need? (Romans 8:32)
To understand this episode one must know one historical fact: “The request to sacrifice Isaac was 100% in keeping with all Abraham knew and believed about the gods of his culture. However, its conclusion turned those beliefs upside down and revealed a loving God.” Don’t move on until and unless you understand this cultural fact!
“God did for Sarah exactly what He had promised. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son for Abraham in his 100th year” (Genesis 21:1-2). Think of the excruciating anguish of a young couple today that desperately wants children but all efforts have failed. Well, Abraham and Sarah went through an entire marriage of barrenness (viewed as a curse in ancient cultures). So, it’s impossible to exaggerate the ecstatic delight that the birth of Isaac brought to the old couple!
Sometime later (Isaac carried the wood so he was a young lad) God said, “Take your only son, Isaac, whom you love deeply, and offer him to Me as a burnt offering on one of the mountains.” Astonishingly, Abraham obeyed immediately! “When they arrived Abraham built an altar and laid out the wood. He tied up Isaac and laid him on the wood. He reached out and took the knife to kill his son.”
Suddenly the austere silence was broken. “Abraham! Don’t lay a hand on that boy! You didn’t hesitate to place your only son, your dear son, on the altar for Me.” Abraham looked up in the direction of the Voice and spotted an entangled ram. After retrieving the ram, he “sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.”
FATHER ABRAHAM SPARED THE LIFE OF HIS DEEPLY LOVED, ONLY SON!
It’s centuries later—
“The moment Jesus came up out of the baptismal waters a Voice declared: “This is My Son, marked by My love, the delight of My life.” (Matthew 3:16-17)
“Jesus knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, remove this cup from Me. But please, not what I want.’” (Matthew 26:39)
“Carrying His cross, Jesus went out to the place called Skull Hill, where they crucified Him.” (John 19:17)
“Around mid-afternoon Jesus groaned, crying loudly ‘My God, My God, why have You abandoned Me?’” (Matthew 27:46)
“Jesus said, ‘It’s done . . . complete.’” (John 19:30)
GOD THE FATHER DID NOT SPARE THE LIFE OF HIS DEEPLY LOVED, ONLY SON!
“The Church simply must get deeply in touch with what the Gospel actually means in regard to how we are now to relate to God and man. Jesus invited people into a connection with Him, not a religious reform program. He showed up in the midst of our brokenness with compassion and healing, shocking everyone by how fearless He was about keeping His love on with sinners. Jesus didn’t create distance with broken people; He created connection. But this shouldn’t surprise us, because we know that His entire mission was to finally remove sin—the source of all relational disconnection—through the Cross.
“When He served as a sacrifice for our sins, [Jesus] solved the sin problem for good—not only ours, but the whole world’s (1 John 2:1-2). Other translations use the word ‘propitiation’—‘He Himself is the propitiation for our sins….’ Propitiation is the completely satisfying sacrifice that closes the gap between God and His children. Only Jesus Christ could serve as this sacrifice, and He did. He solved the problem of sin. He solved it for everyone, for good. It doesn’t matter who has or has not ‘prayed the prayer.’ Sin has been handled, and everyone has access to the Father.” —Danny Silk