Lent 5 Judica| Genesis 22:1-14; John 8:56-58| Pastor James Preus| Trinity Lutheran Church| April 3, 2022
After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” Genesis 22:1-2
Abraham is known as the man of faith. In our Old Testament Lesson, God tests Abraham’s faith by instructing him to sacrifice his own son. This command from God seems to contradict God’s own word. In Genesis 9, God declared, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” So, this command of God certainly forbids a man from killing his own son. And with regard to Abraham personally, God promised to him, “through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” That means that God would make Abraham into a great nation through Isaac. He would give the descendants of Isaac the land of promise. And he would bless all nations of the earth through Isaac. Every one of these promises depended on Isaac living and having children. If Abraham kills Isaac, that would make God’s promise impossible.
Yet, Abraham continues to believe in God’s promise and to obey God’s command to offer Isaac as a burn offering. How can this be? Did Abraham figure out that God was just testing him? No. Abraham believed that God would fulfill his promise no matter what, even if he needed to raise the dead (Hebrews 11:19). Death cannot undo God’s promise. Abraham believed that God could do the impossible.
This is the example of faith God wants us to follow. Jesus instituted a meal for us. He took bread and said, “This is my body.” And he took the cup of wine and said, “This is my blood.” Now, you don’t have to be a scientist to know that bread is not a body and wine is not blood. And many have been very offended by these words of Jesus. “Does this mean that our teeth tear Jesus’ body apart? Is Jesus telling us to be cannibals? That is gross and disturbing. How could we eat Jesus’ body without destroying his body?” And so, people have simply refused to believe Jesus’ words and have assumed that Jesus was speaking a parable or some other figure of speech. But God’s Word calls us to believe that he can do the impossible, even more than we can imagine. Jesus certainly can present his body and blood as food and drink without destroying his body, because he is true God. We do his body no harm when we receive the Sacrament, rather, we receive the benefits of his death and resurrection.
So, faith does not tell God what is impossible. Faith clings to God’s promise and obeys his word. Abraham exemplifies this for us. And he passed the test. God did not let Abraham kill Isaac. It was only a test. And through the test, Abraham showed himself to trust in God and to love him even more than his own son. And Abraham learned that God will indeed provide.
God indeed would not let Abraham sacrifice his own son. In fact, throughout the Old Testament God adamantly forbids anyone from sacrificing his own son or daughter (Leviticus 18:21; 20:2-5; Deuteronomy 18:10; Jeremiah 7:31). Yet, this is what God does for us. God does sacrifice his own Son! In this story of Abraham and Isaac, we see a prophecy of Christ and the sacrifice he would make for us.
Abraham goes to sacrifice his only Son, whom he loves. God so loved the world, that he sent his only begotten Son whom he loves to die for our sin. Isaac carries the wood for the sacrifice up the mountain. Likewise, Jesus labored under the wood of his own cross on Mount Calvary. Abraham was one hundred years old when Isaac was born. Now, Isaac is a youth strong enough to carry a load of wood up a mountain. There is no way Abraham was going to outmuscle Isaac. Yet, somehow Abraham manages to bind Isaac and lay him on top of the wood on the altar. This could only happen if Isaac went willingly. And so, Jesus goes willingly to the cross to suffer for our sins. No one takes his life from him. He lays it down of his own accord.
Yet, there the similarities end. Abraham does not slaughter his son. The angel of the Lord stops him. Rather, the Lord provided a ram stuck in the thicket by his horns. Abraham offers the ram instead of his Son, and then confesses with us, “The LORD will provide.”
And what does the LORD provide us? Not a promise that our children will become a great nation, however nice that might be. Not that they’ll inherit some land on this earth to farm and tend until they die. No, he provides a Redeemer from all our sins, who gives us everlasting life. Listen to what Jesus says to the Jews, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” This is what the LORD provides. He provides the Lamb of God, who grants eternal life to all who believe in him.
The unbelieving Jews mocked Jesus for saying this, pointing out that Abraham died. So, Jesus declared, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” Yet, this made the Jews mock him even more. “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
So, did Abraham see Jesus’ day? And did Jesus, who was only about thirty-three-years-old at the time see Abraham, who had died nearly two thousand years before Jesus was born? Yes, and yes. First, Abraham indeed saw Jesus’ day and rejoiced over it. On the mountain where he thought he would slaughter his own son, the Angel of the Lord stopped him and provided a ram. In that ram, Abraham saw God’s promise not only to make Isaac into a great nation, not only to give his descendants the land of Canaan, but Abraham saw the promise to bless all families of the earth through Isaac’s seed. And this blessing was not a temporary blessing. It is an eternal blessing. The Jews kept repeating that Abraham and the prophets died. They were dead. No more! But that’s not what Abraham believed. Abraham did not trust in a God who ruled over the dead. Abraham trusted in the God of the living, the God who could even raise his son from the dead. Abraham indeed saw Jesus’ day through faith in the promised Savior, who would grant eternal life to all who believed in him.
And Jesus indeed saw Abraham. His human flesh was not yet fifty-years-old as he stood before his Jewish opponents. Yet, Jesus is not only a man. He is truly God. Before Abraham was, he is. In Hebrew, that is the holy name of God. In Exodus 3, Moses saw the Angel of the LORD appear in a flame of fire in the midst of a bush. This Angel of the LORD called Moses and said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” So, the Angel of the LORD is the LORD God. When Moses asked God what his name was, he said, “I AM WHO I AM. Say to the people of Israel, ‘I Am has sent me to you.’” And so, the people of Israel called God, Yahweh, which is Hebrew for, He Is. So, when Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I AM”, he was declaring himself to be the LORD God. This was an even greater moment in history than when God revealed himself to Moses in the burning bush. Here, they can see Jesus’ face. And Jesus is He Who Is.
The Angel of the LORD called to Abraham on the mountain in Moriah saying, “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.” Did you catch that? The Angel of the LORD said that Abraham did not withhold his only son from “me.” Just as in the burning bush, the Angel of the LORD proves himself to be the LORD himself!
So, who is the Angel of the LORD? The Angel of the LORD is the second person in the Holy Trinity. He is the preincarnate Christ; Jesus, before he became a man. So, when Jesus’ opponents laugh at him and say, “Have you seen Abraham?”, they do not know what they are talking about. Jesus indeed saw Abraham. Jesus is the Angel of the LORD who stayed Abraham’s hand, so that he would not slaughter Isaac. Jesus is the Angel of the LORD, who provided Abraham with a ram to slaughter instead of his son Isaac. And Jesus is the Angel of the LORD, who looked at that ram caught in the thicket by his horns, and knew that he would one day wear such a crown of thorns and be sacrificed to save not only Isaac’s descendants, but all people everywhere.
How is it possible that this thirty-three-year-old man is the same Angel of the LORD, who is the LORD who called Abraham? Faith does not ask that. Rather, faith believes that God provides such a Savior for us, even though it seems impossible.
In Sunday morning Bible study, we’ve learned that horns are a symbol of power, which is obvious if you look at a ram’s horns. In fact, the Hebrew word for horn is often translated as strength or power. So, when we see this ram trapped by his horns in the thicket, we learn a lesson about our Redeemer. He is trapped by his power. Well, what is Jesus’ power. What is his greatest attribute? The answer is his Love. Jesus came to be our Savior, because he loves his Father and he loves us. His love brought him to do the impossible, to become a man, to die for the sins of the whole world, to rise again, and to offer eternal life to all who believe in him.
Our faith does not figure out how all this can be. Our faith clings to the promise and believes that God’s love can accomplish all he promises. And we see that it does, because we see that Jesus has died and rose for us. God has provided for us. On Calvary, the Mount of the LORD, it has been provided. Amen.