Christ in all the Scriptures: Genesis and the Sacrifice of Isaac

Christ in all the Scriptures: Genesis and the Sacrifice of Isaac from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

Jesus said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself… Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:25-27; 44-45)

“Christ in all the Scriptures” That is the theme and title for our morning sermon series this Autumn. Please pick up a programme card if you don’t yet have one to see what treasures are in store. This is going to be an exciting and revealing series. We won’t finish it this term – we will only get from Genesis to Ruth. But over the next few years we are going to dip into every book of the Old Testament to see what is said in all the Scriptures concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. We will see that every central character, every key event, every prophecy, every Feast and Festival reveals ever more brightly the person and work of the Messiah, God’s anointed Son.  We will see conclusively that His coming was no accident but part of God’s redemptive plan, revealed from the very beginning and progressively through history and Scripture. And if you would like to read the book that inspired the series, it is appropriately called Christ in all the Scriptures. Written by A. M. Hodgkin, and first published in 1909, it has rightly become a classic. I would also commend Vaughan Robert’s book, God’s Big Picture. We are also commending the Home Group study guide Full of Promise

Hodgkin observes, in his introduction,

“Abraham rejoiced to see My day.” ”Moses wrote of Me.” ”David called [Me] Lord.” (John 8:56; 5:46; Matthew 22:45). We have in these words of our Saviour abundant authority for seeking Him in the Old Testament … To those of us who believe in Christ as truly God, as well as truly Man, His word on these matters is authoritative.”

In the Gospels, Jesus refers to 20 Old Testament characters and quotes from 17 Old Testament books. In Genesis, for example, Jesus refers to creation, the institution of marriage, to Noah, Abraham, Lot, to Sodom and Gomorrah. From Exodus, Jesus speaks of Moses, the burning bush, the Mannah in the wilderness and the Ten Commandments. From Leviticus, the ceremonial and moral law. From Numbers, the bronze serpent. From Deuteronomy, the law of Moses. Then there are references to David, Solomon, Elijah and Zechariah. He confounds his critics not just by quoting Scripture but by identifying himself as the one the Scriptures are speaking about.

“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21).

“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me.” (John 5:39).

Finally three of his last seven sentences from the cross are quotations from the Old Testament. Hodgkin says,

“From a careful study of the Gospels, we cannot fail to see that the Old Testament Scriptures were continually upon Christ’s lips, because [they] were always hidden in His heart….”

Let us pray that the Lord will open our minds, as he did the Apostles, to understand how everything written about Jesus in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms has indeed been fulfilled and accomplished for us. Then this good news will not only be hidden in our hearts but always on our lips.

Today we begin with Genesis, probably the most important book in the Hebrew Bible. In Genesis the Lord Jesus is revealed in prophecy and in type. Here are just a few examples:

Prophecy Fulfilment
Offspring of the woman (Genesis 3:15) Hebrews 2:9-14
Offspring of Abraham (Genesis 22:18) Galatians 3:16, 28-29
The Lion’s cub, Judah (Genesis 49:9) Revelation 5:5
The sceptre will not depart from Judah Luke 1:32
Type Fulfilment
Adam tempted and failed
(Genesis 3)
Jesus the new Adam triumphed (Romans 5:19)
Noah and Flood (Genesis 6-8) Compared to Jesus (1 Peter 3:18-22)
Melchizedek the Priest and King (Genesis 14:17-20) Jesus like Melchizedek but perfect (Hebrews 7:1-28)
The offering of Abraham’s son Isaac (Genesis 22) The sacrifice of God’s son (Hebrews 1:1-4; 10:5-10)
The Incarnate Lord who wrestled with Jacob at Peniel (Genesis 32) The Lord Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory (Hebrews 1:3)
Joseph betrayed by his brothers for silver (Genesis 37) Jesus betrayed for silver (Matthew 26:14-16)

This gives us a panoramic, wide angle sweep of how Genesis introduces us to God’s redemptive plan revealed in the Lord Jesus.

What I want us to do now however, is zoom in on one passage and look in more detail at how the person and work of Christ is revealed through Genesis. Please turn with me to Genesis 22.

When Michael was born, he was five weeks premature. As I held that little bundle of life in my hands for the first time, I didn’t know whether the Lord, who had given us a son, would take him back again. Although I wasn’t quite as old as Abraham, it was the first time I could really identify with him in this passage. Seventeen years later, Mike is taller, more intelligent and more attractive than me. But every time I read Genesis 22, I come to understand a little more of what God was doing to and through Abraham that day.

1. The Necessity of Substitutionary Atonement: The Father’s Sacrifice

Sometime later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. 2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” 3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” (Genesis 22:1-5)

The necessity of substitutionary atonement – the Father’s sacrifice. Abraham understood the need for sacrifice to atone for his sin. But on this day, God would teach Abraham (and us) the true cost of sin.

God would show Abraham the necessity of substitutionary atonement. Someone must take his place to die for his sin.

Like Abraham, our faith is not really tested until God asks us to consider what seems unbearable, to do what seems unreasonable, and to expect what seems impossible. Consider how unreasonable God’s request was. Isaac was Abraham’s only son, and the future of the covenant rested in him. Isaac was a miracle child, the gift of God to Abraham and Sarah in response to their faith. Abraham and Sarah loved Isaac very much and had built their whole future around him. When God asked Abraham to offer his son, He was testing Abraham’s faith, hope, and love. It seemed like God was wiping out everything Abraham and Sarah had lived for. But faith does not demand explanations; faith rests on promises. Read 22:3.  Abraham believed God and obeyed Him when he did not know where (Heb. 11:8), when he did not know when (11:9-10, 13-16), when he did not know how (11:11-12), and when he did not know why (11:17-19) God was asking him to sacrifice his son.

The necessity of substitutionary atonement – the Father’s sacrifice.

2. The Means of Substitutionary Atonement: The Son’s Submission

I want us to see how graphically the story of the sacrifice of Isaac, prefigures and anticipates the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus.

2.1 The Son’s Voluntary Submission

“Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife.
As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.  (Genesis 22:6-8)

There is a moving phrase tucked into verse 6 and verse 8.
It is easy to overlook it but the fact that it is repeated suggests we should take note. “and the two of them went on together” (22:6, 8).
In our evangelism we often emphasize the Father’s love for lost people (John 3:16) and the sacrifice of Jesus to save us (1 John 3:16), but we don’t always mention that in the gospel we see the Son voluntarily submitting to his Father’s will.  In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed, “not my will, but your will be done.” (Luke 22:42). Father and Son acted together out of love. Isaac submitted to his father and Jesus submitted to the will of His Father. The son’s voluntary submission.

2.2 The Son’s Vicarious Sacrifice

“When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.” (Genesis 22:9-10)

Abraham carried a knife and a torch, both instruments of death. The knife would end Isaac’s physical life, and the fire would burn the wood on the altar where his body lay. In Isaac’s case, a substitute died for him; but nobody could take the place of Jesus on the cross. He was the only sacrifice that could finally and completely take away the sins of the world. The answer to the question Isaac asked, “Where is the lamb?” was given by John the Baptist: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  The cross was the physical instrument of death; but at Calvary, Jesus experienced much more than death. He experienced the judgment of God for the sins of the world. Isaac felt neither the knife nor the fire, but Jesus felt both. Isaac’s loving father was right there, but Jesus was forsaken by His Father when He became sin for us.
The Son’s voluntary submission. The Son’s vicarious sacrifice.

2.2 The Son’s Atonement  for Sin

“But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. (Genesis 22:11-13)

It is interesting that the wood is mentioned five times in the narrative and that Isaac did not start carrying the wood until he arrived at Mount Moriah. Moriah is an interesting place. It is only mentioned twice in the bible. Once in this account and once in 2 Chronicles 3:1 as the place where Solomon built his temple. So, the place where Abraham met God and offered a sacrifice was the place that later God’s people met with God and offered their sacrifices, until the day when, not far from Mount Moriah, Jesus carried his own wood on which he would lay. Abraham took the wood and “placed it on his son Isaac.” (Gen. 22:6), and Isaiah predicted,

“the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6).

Isaac did not actually die.  But Hebrews tells us, “in a figurative sense” (Heb. 11:19) he died and was raised from the dead. Jesus, however, really died, was buried, and was triumphantly resurrected. Abraham had offered Isaac back to God and God gave him back to Abraham, back from the dead. Once more a prefigurement not only of the death but also the resurrection of God’s Son.
How do we know that Abraham was trusting in God’s promise to make his descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky? Because when Isaac asked where the animal sacrifice was, Abraham replied, “God will provide the lamb.”(Gen. 22:8). That word ‘provide’ is the Hebrew word ra’ah and is where the word Jireh comes from. It actually means ‘to see’. Abraham was saying ‘God will see the lamb’. What Abraham means is that God will see what we need and will provide for us. He is God after all, he sees everything, he forsees everything, he knows everything and foreknows everything and therefore as God he will provide.
As he climbed Mount Moriah with his son, Abraham was confident that God would meet every need. On what could Abraham depend? He certainly could not depend on his feelings, for there must have been terrible pain within as he contemplated what God has commanded him. He loved his only son, but he also loved his God. Abraham had already experienced the resurrection power of God in his own body in supernaturally giving him a son in old age (Rom. 4:19-21), so he knew that God could raise Isaac from the dead if that was His plan.

The necessity of substitutionary atonement: The Father’s sacrifice.
The means of substitutionary atonement: The Son’s submission.

3 The Wonder of Substitutionary Atonement: The World’s Salvation

God did indeed provide the sacrifice that was needed, and a ram took Isaac’s place on the altar (Gen. 22:13). God blessed Abraham because of trusted God to provide.

3.1 A New Approval from God

“Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” (Gen. 22:12). He obeyed God’s will and sought to please God’s heart, and God commended him.

3.2 A New Name for God

“So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.” (Genesis 22:14)

The place where God provided a substitute for Isaac, Abraham called “The LORD Will Provide” – Jehovah-jireh. Centuries later, outside the walls of the city of Jerusalem, a city built on that very same mountain, Christ was crucified and the prophecy of Abraham was fulfilled. At Calvary “It was provided” and provided for all generations. What Christ accomplished on that cross, no one else could have. What he accomplished was the opportunity for us all to be forgiven completely of all our sins. We don’t need to offer guilt offerings ever again, because the one offering of the perfect Lamb of God. A new approval from God. A new name for God.

3.3 A New Assurance from God

“The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring (or seed) all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” (Genesis 22:15-18)

Abraham had heard these promises before, but now they took on fresh meaning, beyond his understanding. Jesus said “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” (John 8:56). I wonder if, as Abraham saw the ram caught in the bush, or heard the angel’s assurances, God gave him an insight into how this promise would ultimately be fulfilled.
Some today believe this promise was fulfilled in the return of the Jewish people to Palestine after 2000 years, in their military victories and conquest of territory formerly belonging to Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinians, in their influence, industry and their prosperity which is out of all proportion to their size as a people.  What ever we think, we must let Scripture interpret Scripture. And here the New Testament is quite explicit.

“The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ… There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:16, 28-29)

The Lord Jesus Christ is the ‘seed’ – Jesus is Abraham’s offspring referred to in Genesis 22. And through the Jesus, all who trust him literally become the seed of Abraham. This promise is therefore not primarily about Isaac or his physical descendants, the Jewish people. The promise has and is being fulfilled in and through the Lord Jesus Christ and his people made up of every language, every tribe and nation, the universal church, living and departed.

In Genesis 22, we have begun to see how the Lord Jesus is central to all of Scripture. That from the very beginning, God had a plan to redeem this world from sin, death and judgement. And as we shall see in the weeks to come, that plan of redemption would be progressively revealed, through Scripture until God’s appointed time when he would send the Messiah, his anointed son to be our Lord and Saviour.

The necessity of substitutionary atonement: The Father’s sacrifice.
The means of substitutionary atonement: The Son’s submission.
The wonder of substitutionary atonement: The World’s salvation.

Abraham came to know the Lord as Jehovah Jireh. Have you?
Do you trust him to provide just what you need, when and where you need it? Do you trust in his provision enough to worship him now whatever your circumstances? And are you willing, if necessary, to give up what you cherish, to gain what he wants to give you? May you be able to say with confidence, like Abraham, through the Lord Jesus Christ, God is “my provider.”
Lets pray.

Sources used with thanks:

A.M. Hodgkin: Christ in all the Scriptures
Robert Reymond: Jesus Divine Messiah
Vaughan Roberts: God’s Big Picture
Gene Getz: Abraham: Men of Character
Warren Wersbie: Genesis 12-24: Be Obedient
David Elvery: Getting to Know God: Jehovah Jireh