Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Binding of Isaac

The High Place at Petra

One of the strangest events recorded in the Bible is when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac.  How can we understand this strange and shocking event?  I hope, if you ever feel that God is leading you to sacrifice your child, that you will say “No!” and will quickly identify the source of this thought as the devil and not God!  But yet this is what the Bible says God commanded Abraham to do:  to kill his son.  How do we make sense of that?  How could the God of the Bible even think of such a thing, let alone command it; and how could Abraham accept that this was from God?

Now it’s true that Abraham didn’t know the command “You will not murder” as found in the Law of Moses (Exo. 20:13).  Moses lived about six hundred years after Abraham, so there’s no way Abraham could have known the commandments in the Law of Moses.  But Abraham could have known the Laws of Noah, which were given at least five hundred years before his time.

One of the Laws of Noah was that “The one spilling the blood of man, by man his blood will be spilled; for in the image of God has he made man” (Gen. 9:6).  What does this mean?  It’s a command of God that the penalty for murder is death.  This means, of course, that you shouldn’t murder. 

There’s an illustration of this sin before the time of Noah in the story of Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam and Eve (Gen. 4:1-15).  I’m sure you remember the story.  Cain was a farmer, Abel was a herdsman.  But when they brought their offerings to God, Abel’s was accepted and Cain’s wasn’t.  We don’t know how they knew that one was accepted and the other wasn’t.  The Bible just says that “the LORD looked (or paid attention) to Abel and to his offering” (Gen. 4:4).  Maybe he received a blessing from the Lord or an answer to prayer.  But whatever happened made Cain upset; so upset that he killed his brother. 

Now surely Cain didn’t think he was going to get back into God’s favor by doing that.  It was probably more like the tantrum of a kid who says ‘if I can’t win, then nobody’s going to play the game,’ and then breaks the toy so no one can play anymore.  It was an outburst of uncontrolled anger, for which Cain refused to repent.  And so God punished Cain for murdering his brother:  “And now you are cursed from the ground that has opened its mouth to receive the (outpouring of) blood of your brother from your hand.  When you work the ground, it will no longer give its strength to you:  a wanderer and homeless you will be on the earth” (Gen. 4:11-12). 

This was a harsh penalty, but not harsh enough to prevent other murders from taking place.  These soon increased so greatly on the earth that God had to send a Flood to cleanse the earth, so he could start over again with Noah and his family.  And this time, he was careful to establish the law that murder should be punished with death (Gen. 9:6). 

There’s a message here for us today.  Punishing murderers, but then allowing them to live, leads to more murders, and then to more murders, until as we can see in the United States, or in places like Mexico, you end up with an ongoing crime wave of murders that gets worse and worse.  People here in Taiwan think that crime here is bad, because every crime is published in the newspaper.  But in America, there are far too many every day to include them in the papers—about 40 murders a day.  And other countries are even worse.  Some of the worst countries for murder are places where they have eliminated the death penalty or don’t use it any more:  places like Russia, Mexico and Central America, Brazil and much of sub-Saharan Africa. 

But at least murder is against the law in these countries.  In ancient times, there was a kind of murder that was perfectly legal, and even honored and respected:  human sacrifice.  This was not a rarity or an oddity in human history, as was once thought.  Today there is an abundance of evidence that proves that human sacrifice was once widespread all over the world:  in Europe, in the Americas, in Asia, and in Africa. 

Ancient pyramids, found around the world, were often dedicated with human sacrifices.  At the consecration of the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan in Mexico in 1487, the Aztecs claim to have killed more than 80,000 people!  At their peak, the Aztecs may have sacrificed as many as 250,000 people a year!

The Japanese used to bury young ladies alive at the base of important structures to ‘protect’ the buildings against disaster or attack (known as hitobashira, which means ‘human pillar’).  Chinese legend says that thousands of people were buried in a similar way in the Great Wall of China.  Whether this is true or not, abundant evidence of human sacrifice has already been found from the Shang and Zhou dynasties.   The mummies of people offered as sacrifices to their gods have been found all the way from the Andes of South America to the bogs of Germany and Denmark. 

The Celts of Europe built big wicker images filled with captives and then burned them alive.  Human sacrifices were also found buried at Celtic Stonehenge.  And I could go on and on, talking about different people groups from around the world, including the ancient Greek and Romans, the ancient Slavic peoples of Eastern Europe, the Chinese, who made human sacrifices to river gods, and also killed slaves when their owner died, in Tibet, in India, in the islands of the Pacific, in North and South America, the list goes on and on. 

Human sacrifice was also practiced in Bible times.  The ancient Ammonites, the descendants of Lot, passed their children through the fire to their god as a sacrifice.  This has been confirmed by the excavation of an ancient Ammonite temple near the airport in Amman, Jordan.  Buried jars were found containing young human bones. 

The Moabites offered human sacrifices to their god Chemosh, a savage war god, who is described by them as “intoxicated” with human blood (on the famous Mesha Stone).   The king of Moab sacrificed his son on the walls of the city to repel an Israelite attack in 2 Kings 3:27: “Then he [the king of Moab] took his first-born son who was to reign in his place, and offered him as a burnt offering on the wall. And there came great wrath against Israel, and they departed from him and returned to their own land.” 

The Phoenicians, known as Canaanites in the Bible, also practiced human sacrifice.  The bones of children that were sacrificed have been found in a special cemetery in ancient Carthage in Tunisia:  more than 20,000 children are buried here. 

But it wasn't only Israel's neighbors that engaged in this horrific practice.  The kings of Judah themselves made their children "pass through the fire" (2 Kings 16:3, 17:17, 21:6, 23:10, 2 Chronicles 33:6).  The site of this ritual in Jerusalem was known as Topheth, a place of worship deep down in the Gehinnom Valley, just to the south of the city.  This was tremendously upsetting to the prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 7:31,32; 19:6,11-14).  This is one of the reasons Gehinnom (Gehenna in Greek) became an image of eternal punishment in the teaching of Jesus and the rabbis (Matt. 5:22,29,30; 10:28; 18:9; etc. in the original language).   

Even in New Testament times, Israel’s neighbor Edom was involved in human sacrifice.  This can be seen at the ancient city of Petra, one of the most famous tourist sites in the Middle East.  The name “Petra” means a steep, rocky cliff, which surround the city on all sides.  Into many of these are carved beautifully decorated tombs, up to a height of forty meters and more.  The apostle Paul likely visited Petra during his three years in Arabia, since Petra was the capital city of the kingdom known as Arabia at the time (Gal. 1:17,18). 

Petra was a well-known religious center.  High up above the cliffs were the city’s high places, where sacrifices and rituals took place on a regular basis.  Impressive processions once wound their way up steep steps cut in the rock to offer sacrifices to Dhu-Sharra (the ‘god of Seir’).  These are some of the best preserved of the ancient high places mentioned in the Bible.  In the main high place of Petra, there is a shallow courtyard cut into the rock facing an altar platform used for blood sacrifice.  There are drains and a basin next to it for pouring out blood and washing up afterwards.  But what where they sacrificing here? 

The scholars who first studied Petra in modern times liked to romanticize the place, speaking of its inhabitants as a noble, peaceful people.  Yes, there was an ancient historical notice that at Petra, human sacrifice was offered every year to Al-Uzza, one of the daughters of Allah that we talked about once before.  But without other evidence, it was easy to doubt that ancient report.  That was until the discovery of an inscription nearby that mentioned human sacrifice:  "Abd-Wadd, priest of Wadd, and his son Salim, and Zayd-Wadd, have consecrated the young man Salim to be immolated to Dhu Gabat.  Their double happiness."  What is immolated?  It means to be killed as a sacrifice.  Apparently, it was considered a great honor to be chosen as a sacrifice. 

This is one of the strangest things about some of the most well-documented examples of human sacrifice:  that sometimes the victims went willingly to their deaths.  Salim and his family considered it a “double happiness.”   Amongst the Palestinians today, sacrificing oneself or one’s children for Allah is considered a great honor.  Today it’s no longer done on an altar, of course, but with a pack of dynamite strapped to your body, or driving a car bomb or an airplane into a busy city.  Suicide terrorists are looked at as religious heroes by their parents and neighbors.  When they die, their family has a party celebrating their marriage to the houris (women in the Muslim paradise) in the next life.  Posters are put up after their deaths, celebrating their martyrdom. 

Many Palestinian parents have pictures of their kids taken at a young age dressed as martyrs for the faith, encouraging them to make that their life’s goal.  In the Iran-Iraq war, children were used to clear mine fields with their own bodies.  They were tied together with ropes in long lines and forced to march ahead of the tanks.  It’s easy for us to react with horror to these events, and to think of people that could do such things as being so radically different than ourselves. 

Yet modern Western and Westernized societies, including Taiwan, have sacrificed far more children than these on the altar of abortion.  This may not be done as part of a specifically religious ritual.  Yet this modern form of murder is justified by what are in fact religious ideas like atheism and evolution.  These same ideas have also been used to promote the killing of those considered inferior, including “inferior races,” such as Jews, gypsies, and different native populations (like the Tasmanian aborigines).    

Since 1973, 57 million children have been aborted in the United States alone.  That’s more than a million children every year.  Since 1980, more than 1 billion children have been aborted worldwide.  That’s more than 30 million murders a year.  In Taiwan, they say three kids are aborted for every one born.  Compared to this, all the murders and ritual sacrifices of the past were insignificant.  We’re talking about millions and millions of children dying constantly at the hands of doctors and with the consent of their own parents.  This is far worse than anything done in the past. 

Some claim that the practices of child sacrifice and abortion are radically different.  Yet in both, the parents kill their own children.  In ancient times, child sacrifice was practiced to avert potential dangers in the future or to gain success through fulfilling a vow.  It was used to terminate the lives of children born from prostitution and other illicit sex.  It may also have been used as a form of population control, and as a way of maintaining wealth in a family, by not having to divide up the family’s wealth into too many pieces.  It was also used to “exchange” a defective child for a healthy child.  Well today, women also abort their children to avoid danger to their future success in their careers, education, or reputation, or even just to avoid an interruption of their lifestyle.  This is especially the case in pregnancies that result from illicit sexual activity.  And some societies encourage abortion as a form of population control, like China.  Others use it to limit family size in order not stretch the family’s finances too thin.  Yet others use it as a means to destroy “defective” children.  So where is the difference?

And this is only one of the many sins that make our proud modern age an evil and adulterous generation in the eyes of God.  Do you remember what God did the last time that murder got so wildly out of control?  What did Jesus say?  “And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man” (Luke 17:26).  Are we there yet?  Has it gotten that bad yet?  Because when it does, God is going to bring the whole evil system to a sudden halt.    

Wherever it’s occurred, human sacrifice has been considered the highest form of sacrifice—the most powerful kind of sacrifice.  This is one of the reasons why the so-called “right” to abortion is so closely guarded by those holding the so-called “modern,” but actually ancient beliefs of atheism and evolution.  Because the essence of human sacrifice, as with murder itself, is to demonstrate power over human life, power over human moral choices.  This power to decide what is moral and what is not, including the decision to take away or not to take away human life, is correctly seen as a god-like power, since it is God himself who reserves the right to give life and to take it away. 

To claim this power is to claim to be God:  a claim to be the ultimate authority in the universe.  In ancient times, these sacrifices were offered up to various gods.  In modern times, the god-like power to determine morality and even life itself has been assigned to men and women as the ‘highest intelligences’ in the universe.  For this is what evolution offers its believers:  god-like power over the universe in which there is no power or authority greater than yourself.  Man himself or woman herself is the measure of all things.  This, they believe, is what gives them the right to make their own moral choices, and ignore or reject what the Bible says. 

As a result, abortion today is one of the most sacred rituals of evolution and its message of the survival of the fittest:  a world in which might makes right, and the powerful rule over the weak.  Just like the child sacrifice of primitive societies, it serves as a powerful blood ritual that binds its believers together in a common belief system and a common worldview.  To reject abortion means to reject evolution and secularism and to reject the exalted status of man.   

In an earlier age, the high regard for human sacrifice can be seen in an ascending list of sacrifices by the prophet Micah in the time of King Ahaz, the same king that introduced human sacrifice to Judah.  What, the prophet asks, will gain the favor of God (Micah 6:6-7)?  The burnt offering of calves?  Or better yet, the sacrifice of thousands of rams?  What about offering thousands of "rivers" of oil--will that gain God's favor?  Or better yet, the sacrifice of a child:  "Should I put my sin on my first born (as part of a sacrifice), the sin of my soul on the fruit of my body?" (Micah 6:7).  The offering of a first-born child ends the prophet's list as the most precious possession one could ever give.  Is this what would finally gain God's favor?  Some had begun to think so at the time the prophet was writing.  But what does he answer? 

He answers the question with a resounding 'No'!  "He has told you, man, what is good; and what does the LORD require from you, but to do justice and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8).  God is not looking for sacrifices.  Sacrifices do not impress God nearly so much as a righteous life:  walking humbly, doing justice.  It's difficult not to hear the Prophet Samuel's rebuke ringing in our ears:  "To obey is better than sacrifice" (1 Samuel 15:22). 

But Abraham, who lived a thousand years earlier, had no access to all this theological wisdom.  Remember, Abraham was the first of the nation of Israel.  As the rabbis teach, he was the first convert to Judaism.  He came from a pagan world, in which even his own family worshipped false gods (Joshua 24:2).  They had fallen away from the Laws of Noah.  He knew only, like everyone else at the time, that the greatest sacrifice that could be offered, and the highest sign of faithfulness to a god, was a first-born child offered up in sacrifice.  And it was on the basis of this widely-held cultural belief that God chose to test Abraham.

In later years, it became somewhat embarrassing to think that Abraham and the other patriarchs didn’t have some of the most basic insights of Mosaic religion.  So it became popular to imagine that they knew and obeyed the Law of Moses hundreds of years before it was given.  But if Abraham really knew the Law before its time, why would he even consider offering his own son as a sacrifice, something the Law itself directly forbids ("You shall not murder," Exo. 20:13)? 

Maybe this is why so many think of Abraham as a wild-eyed crazy man listening to irrational voices—the way he’s usually shown in Bible movies.  Even Christians sometimes get the idea from this story that God may ask us to do wild things that go against our better judgment.  Others are inspired to listen for voices from God, convinced that the more radical and wild the instructions they receive, the more godly or "spiritual" the communication.  All of these are horrible distortions of the Bible's message.

The simple fact of the matter is that Abraham didn’t know all the law that would come hundreds of years later.  He was raised a pagan, in a society that had abandoned the Laws of Noah.  So he didn’t know that there was anything wrong with God's request that he sacrifice his son.  It was the norm in the culture around him, the highest expression of commitment you could offer to your god.  God was dealing with Abraham according to Abraham's own level of understanding.  But God's purpose was to bring Abraham to a new level of understanding, through an experience that would impact not only Abraham, but the entire world.

Genesis calls Abraham's experience a test (Gen. 22:1:  “And it happened after these things that God tested Abraham, and he said to him, ‘Abraham,’ and he said, ‘Here I am.’”).  But if human sacrifice was so widely accepted and practiced, in what way was this a test?  Just because it was common doesn’t mean it was easy.  The next verse calls Isaac his beloved son (Gen. 22:2:  “And he said, ‘Take now your son, your only one that you have loved, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah and make him go up there as a whole-burnt-offering on one of the mountains that I will speak of to you.’”).  Isaac was the son of promise—the one Abraham had waited so many years for—the son through whom God had promised to give Abraham many descendants.  But Isaac was still unmarried.  If he was killed now, what would happen to that promise? 

Abraham had to decide what was more important:  The son he had so desperately wanted, or obedience to God.  Have you ever had an experience like that?  That the very thing you feel God is calling you to do seems to be stopped or blocked by God himself?  What are you supposed to do about that?  The ministry you felt God was giving you and calling you to do, suddenly he takes it away.  What do you do?  The relationship you felt God had given you is suddenly taken away.  What do you do?  The job you felt God was calling you to do is taken away.  What then?  Perhaps it’s a test, just as it was with Abraham; a test to see where your priorities lie.  Are you trusting your calling or trusting God?  Are you trusting the person or trusting God?  Are you trusting the job or trusting God?  There’s only one way out of that kind of bind.  You’ve got to trust God, whether that calling ever develops the way you thought it was going to or not, or that relationship, or that job.  We’ve got to put God first. 

Abraham decided to trust God.  The New Testament says that Abraham believed that God, if necessary, would raise Isaac from the dead.  As it says in Heb. 11:17-19:  “By faith Abraham has offered up Isaac, for he was tested; and was offering up his only begotten—he who received the promises [in other words, despite having received the promises], 18 to whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed will be called’ 19 –reckoning that God is able to raise up even from the dead; from which [from the dead] he also received him back as a parable [a foreshadowing of the Messiah that would be raised from the dead].’”    

This interpretation in Hebrews is probably based on what Abraham said to the young men that were with them, “We will worship and we will return to you” (Gen. 22:5).  Abraham had no doubt that God was going to fulfill his promise.  So Abraham took his son, Isaac, to offer him up as a whole burnt offering. 

Abraham's goal, according to later Jewish tradition, was the same hill where the Jewish Temple would later be built, alongside the city of Salem, later known as Jerusalem.  But the Bible makes no mention of a city.  It doesn’t mention the townspeople and fields Abraham would have met there, in a city where he was known to the king (remember his meeting with Melchizedek in Gen. 14?).  Instead the Bible mentions only that he went to the "land of Moriah" (Gen. 22:2), which seems to have been an uninhabited area somewhere in the desert.

When he arrived, Abraham had to build an altar for the sacrifice (Gen. 22:9: "Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there, and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood”).  The altars of the Bible were large, square piles of stone or earth with enough room for a man or even a cow on top.  The dimensions for altars given in the Bible are 2½ meters (7½ feet) square and almost 1½ meters (4½ feet) high (Exo. 27:1).  This means it took quite some time to build and prepare: there was lots of time for Abraham to think deeply about what he was about to do.  

When everything was prepared, Isaac was bound and laid out on the pile of wood on the altar (22:9).  Then Abraham stretched out his hand to take the knife to kill his son (22:10).  By this time, Isaac certainly knew what was going on.  But there’s no indication that he resisted, or even said anything more to his father.  He certainly knew of the tradition of human sacrifice in the desert.  But he just seems to have quietly accepted it.  This is an often overlooked part of the story.  Just as Abraham had faith in God, so did Isaac, even in the face of his own death. 

But just as Abraham was about to kill his son, the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, "Don't stretch out your hand against the boy and don't do anything to him; because now I know that you are God-fearing; and you did not withhold your son, your only one, from me" (22:12).  Abraham had passed the test.  But the lesson was just beginning.

For just at that moment, Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught in the brush by its horns, the provision of God to be offered in place of his son (Gen. 22:13: “Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son”).  The message was clear:  the God of Abraham does not require human sacrifice, but is willing to accept a substitute instead. 

Abraham's obedience led eventually to the abolition of child sacrifice not only in Israel, but later in the Christian nations of the world.  Today it is illegal even in pagan nations.  In a very real and physical way, all the nations of the earth have been blessed because of Abraham's obedience.  As it says in verse 18:  "And all the nations of the earth will bless one another by your seed because you have listened to my voice." 

There was an important insight, though, in the horrible ancient practice of human sacrifice:  that man in his natural condition is distant from God, and it requires drastic measures to maintain a relationship with him.  As the prophet Micah said, "With what will I go before the LORD, will I bow to the God on high?  Will I go before him with whole burnt offerings, with year-old calves? Is the LORD pleased with thousands of rams, with tens of thousands of rivers of oil?  Should I put my sin on my first born, the sin of my soul on the fruit of my body?” (Micah 6:6-7).  What sacrifice could possibly be great enough?  Even human sacrifice is not enough.  In fact, there is no sacrifice that we could ever possibly give that is great enough to deal with the problem of sin. 

Yet God himself came up with a greater sacrifice, a sacrifice so much greater than human sacrifice that it can deal with all sin forever.  What could be greater than human sacrifice?  For God to offer himself as a sacrifice for our sins. 

How could he possibly do that, since he is spirit and can never die?  He did it by joining himself to a creature we can see, to a man, a man who would clearly identify himself as God, a man that would reveal God’s goodness and love and care for us.  He would be a man that would awaken the love of God in us, a love even greater than the love we have for our children, a love that stretches to eternity and beyond.  He would show us a love that we would never want to be separated from.  Yet he would also be our true child, the Son of Man, as well as being the Son of God.  And then that God-man, that perfect, wonderful man, that perfect human God-child, would die at our own hands as a sacrifice to God:  the perfect sacrifice to atone for our sin. 

God did not kill Jesus.  God did not need to offer a sacrifice.  We needed the sacrifice.  And though we did it in sin and disobedience, Jesus is our sacrifice to God:  the most precious offering that anyone could possibly imagine, and a role that he willingly accepted (John 10:18, Heb. 12:2). 

Some people are confused about the nature of Jesus’ sacrifice, in part because of what he said on the cross:  “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  They think this means that he was abandoned by God on the cross.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  The words he spoke are a quote from Psa. 22:1, a psalm that goes on to talk about the victory of the one suffering:  a picture of Jesus’ own victory, despite the cross.  As it says in Psalm 22:24, “For he [God] did not despise and did not detest (was not angry at [LXX]) the affliction of the afflicted one, and he did not hide his face from him; and when he cried (for help) to him, he heard.”  The cross is not about a separation between God and his son.  They can never be separated.  They are spiritually one forever.  It’s about a separation between us and our “son,” the Son of Man, who reveals God to us.  It’s about the separation of death, the agony he went through for us, and that we feel, being separated from him.  It’s about the price he paid for us to be made right with God, for us to be freed from sin. 

In fact, Abraham’s experience was not just about Abraham.  It was pointing to this much greater sacrifice, the sacrifice of the Son of Man, God’s own Son.  Notice the details:  Isaac is Abraham’s only or "unique" son.  This is just what John 3:16 says about Jesus, that he is God's "only" or "unique" son, offered up "that every one that believes in him will not perish, but will have eternal life."  The "thicket" (or wood) in which the ram was caught by its horns is a picture of Jesus, caught on the wood of the cross.  Abraham received back his son as from the dead (Heb. 11:19), a picture of the resurrection. 

Even the ascension is pictured here.  The name of the offering requested by God is usually translated "whole burnt offering" (Gen. 22:2,3,etc.), but in Hebrew it’s called an olah (o-LAH), which means literally "that which goes up" or "that which ascends."  The idea is that the sacrifice ascends in the cloud of smoke to God.  According to Acts 1:9, Jesus also ascended in a cloud to God.  All the elements of the Christian message are here:  the promised seed which is the Messiah, the only-begotten son of the father, the cross, his death for us, even the ascension into heaven in the cloud.  

But there's more:  The Angel of the Lord spoke again from heaven, saying that God would reward Abraham for his obedience by blessing his "seed" with many descendants:  "I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand that is on the shore of the sea" (Gen. 22:17).  In other words, that singular seed, the Messiah, will be multiplied as the stars of the heavens.  What is this talking about?  The body of the Messiah, as described in Daniel 12:3:  "And those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever."  Abraham is not only the father of Israel, but of all those who come to his God by faith. 

As Paul says in Galatians:  "Know then that those who are of faith, these are sons of Abraham.  But the Scripture, foreseeing that God would make the nations righteous by faith, announced the good news in advance to Abraham that, 'All the nations will be blessed in you'" (Gal. 3:7-8).  That good news is that you, if you are a believer in Jesus, if you have accepted his sacrifice for you, you are the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham, no matter what nation of the world you come from (Gal. 3:29).  You are one of that number, like the stars of heaven, that the Angel of the Lord was talking about.  You are part of the eternal plan and destiny of mankind that God revealed to Abraham.

And the rest of vs. 17?  "And your seed will possess the gate of his enemies" (Gen. 22:17).  The Messiah, the promised "seed," will control the gate of his enemies.  What is this talking about?  In Matthew, Jesus says to Peter, "On this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it" (Matt. 16:18).  The gates of Hades, the place of death, are the gates of Messiah's final enemy.  But he will be victorious over them.  Jesus now holds the key to the gates of death, as he has proven by his resurrection.  And his victory will be complete when the dead are raised at his return.  "Then will come about the saying that is written, 'O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?'" (1 Cor. 15:55, quoting Hosea 13:14).

What an incredible revelation is contained in Abraham's experience!  Not only was it a type of things to come.  The one present with him and speaking these promises was himself the one that would fulfill them:  the Angel of the Lord who speaks as God and who is God; the Son of God, who took on flesh to become Jesus the Messiah, the Son of Man, to die on our behalf, the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. 

He is the one by whom all these things have and will come to pass.  And he is here today by his spirit to minister his light, his love, and his forgiveness to us, to make us right with God and change our sinful ways.  Amen?

Let’s pray...

No comments:

Post a Comment