[Genesis 22:6-14] And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”
Jesus Is What’s Needed and Provided
God called Abraham to offer up his son, “his only son, Isaac”, as a sacrificial offering. How could Abraham do it?! Abraham does not proceed with a cold, unfeeling obedience. Abraham instead obeys only in a confident and trusting faith: Even if Isaac dies, yet will he live.
God had made promises about Isaac. God promised Abraham that through Isaac his offspring would multiply – and that through Isaac’s offspring that one promised offspring, the Christ, the Savior, would be born.
Abraham knew, by faith, that his young son Isaac would live and mature to beget offspring even if today he died. Abraham knew because of God’s promise. Abraham proceeds in faith.
This is no speculation. Scripture tells us this about Abraham. Hebrews 11:17-19 tells us: “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.”
Abraham, in faith that Isaac will live, proceeds to offer him. In fact, Abraham even assures Isaac, “God will provide for Himself the Lamb.” God, in mercy, does not make Abraham proceed all the way but halts him by the voice of an angel, “Abraham, Abraham! … Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him” [Genesis 22:11-12].
Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. Abraham then proceeded to offer this ram, provided by God, as a burnt offering in place of his living son Isaac. Abraham then called the place, “The Lord will provide”, and it became a saying that “on the mount of the Lord it will be provided.” [Genesis 22:13-14]
A ram from God was provided for Abraham. Now the Lamb of God has been provided for you. “God will provide for Himself the Lamb” and that Lamb is Christ.
This Lamb of God is the one thing needed and the thing provided by God. On the mountain of the Lord it has been provided.
Brothers and sisters, this strange time in our lives is a time to assess our needs. If we’re following the “stay-at-home-home” rules, a heap of life’s unnecessary distractions has been removed from us. Does this help us to recognize more clearly those things which are necessary?
On the other hand, we have been asked to refrain from some things that are very necessary for us. Work. Time with family. Fellowship within our church together. Does this time away show us the greater importance of these necessary things of which we’ve been deprived?
We should never deprive ourselves of what is necessary. But sometimes our God, through circumstances, takes what is necessary away from us, to show us in sharper relief (more vividly) what our priorities ought to have been.
God works through hardship and deprivation to make clear to us what is most necessary and to encourage us to remove much of the rest of the baggage. In God’s mercy, may this strange time, in this way, be a fruitful Lent for each of us.
What is clearly the one thing most needed? Many things can give partial and temporary relief. But what can give peace in death and even endure for us through and beyond our mortality?
There is a reason for man’s mortality. There is a “making sense” out of death. Death is not the natural end of man’s life – God did not create us to die. Death is a very brutal and wicked thing. God did not create death. Death is said to be God’s enemy – “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” [1 Corinthian 15:26].
Death did not come from God, but death is the result of man’s ungodliness – man’s un-God-likeness. Man was created in God’s image and there was no death in that image of God. But man – each one of us even – has corrupted God’s image in himself.
Man’s fall away from being God’s image is a fall into death – a fall away from God. Man’s sin, which is a movement away from God who is our life, is the cause of death in human nature.
And each of us are born from someone else’s human nature, right? You came from the human nature, the flesh, of your parents. In fact, we all trace back to one man. This one man brought sin into human nature, and death through sin. [Romans 5:12,18-19]
Now all the human nature we are each formed from (in our conception and birth) is a human nature that has already been corrupted with sin and death. So, we are born this way. We are shaped and formed and born from a broken nature that is already fallen from God’s image.
So, brothers and sisters, what is necessary? The one thing necessary is that this situation of sin and death be fixed in us. Doctors and nurses can sometimes cure a sickness and can sometimes delay death. But, in truth, they witness all around them death’s overwhelming nature and power.
Who can cure death? Who can make our nature one of life? Who can bury death forever? God, our Life and our Light, has done it by offering up His one-and-only Son, Jesus, as a sacrificial offering. On the mountain of the Lord it has been provided.
Jesus Christ is the one Man, being God’s Son, whose nature is holy and incorrupt. Jesus is the express and perfect image of God [Hebrews 1:3]. Jesus is man in God’s image and without sin, uncorrupt. On mount Calvary, God’s true holy mountain - a small heap where the cross stood on which Jesus was nailed - there the sinless and incorrupt Son of God was provided as the Lamb sacrificed in the place of us all.
Jesus – the only man on earth with an uncorrupted human nature – the only man on earth who wasn’t dying – died in the place of all the rest. Not with the result that we no longer die, but with the result that even though we die yet do we live through Him.
Death was cured when the Son of God died death for you. The same with the suffering that accompanies death. The Sinless Man died for sin-corrupted man and suffered.
The Sinless Man carried all of mankind’s wounds and grief and sorrow to the cross in His flesh [Isaiah 53:4-5].
On that cross, all of mankind’s sin – so, your sin - was atoned for and fully forgiven by this sacrifice of atonement offered by God for our sins in His Son’s death.
“On the mount of the Lord – mount Calvary – it now has been provided.” Jesus is the sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world [John 1:29].
Brothers and sisters, and all people, you have what you need in Jesus, and you have Jesus by faith in Jesus. Just as Abraham proceeded by faith in God’s promise, you too can now proceed by faith in what God has done through His Son’s death and resurrection.
We give thanks to God who has provided us what is necessary in His Son. And we thank God for this hard and strange time which brings into sharp relief what our true needs really are. Amen.