“I will bless those who bless you , and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” -Gen 12:3
One day when Isaac had grown to be a young man, the LORD commanded me to do something that absolutely stunned me. I mean, what would you think? Here I had waited until age 100 to receive the son He had promised, a son through whom all His commitments to me would be fulfilled. Now, calling Isaac my only beloved son, He asked me to take this son of mine to a place He would show me and offer him as a sacrifice. In other words to kill him, before even one of the LORD’s promises to me had come true. Needless to say I was in shock and spent the entire night wrestling with the idea, trying to make some sense of it, trying to reconcile this command with the character of the God I knew and had come to trust.
Finally toward morning I reasoned that the LORD’s character would not permit Him to break a vow He had made to me. We were in a covenant relationship after all, and He had promised that through Isaac I would have descendants as numerous as the sands on the seashore and the stars in the sky. All the nations of the world would be blessed through my descendants. And now with only one son left and me over 100 years old, He expects me to kill Isaac? The only thing I could figure is that there had to be more to this than met the eye. God could not break His covenant with me and still be God. If He wanted me to sacrifice Isaac, then He was going to have to bring him back to life again. That’s all there was to it. On the strength of that reasoning I decided to obey Him.
So with a heavy heart, and fearing that Isaac was as good as dead, we set out at sunrise for a place called Mount Moriah, a three-day journey. I tell you, those were the longest three days and nights of my life. What did God intend? How was He going to resolve this conflict without destroying His integrity? I swear I had so many more questions than answers it was almost overwhelming. I just clung to His promise hoping that any moment now He would call the whole thing off and explain the mistake.
When we reached Moriah, I told the servants who had come with us to wait at the foot of the mountain while Isaac and I went on alone. To reassure them I said we would both be back. I didn’t want them thinking I was actually going to sacrifice my only son.
On the way up to the summit, Isaac carried the wood we were going to need for the fire but almost broke my heart when he asked where the lamb we would need for the burnt offering was. All I could tell him was that God Himself would provide the sacrifice.
At the summit I built an altar, arranged the wood on top, bound Isaac and placed him on the wood. As I was about to slit my son’s throat, the LORD stopped me. He said, “Don’t harm Isaac. You have shown me that you love me more than anything, even more than your own son. There’s a ram caught in the thicket nearby. Sacrifice it instead.” Then He opened my mind to understanding.
Through my actions, the LORD was demonstrating that one day He would actually do in full what He had me do only in part. On that very same mountain He would offer His only beloved Son as a sacrifice for sin, showing just how much He loved the world. And just as I had figuratively received Isaac back from the dead after three days and three nights of terrible anguish, so would He also receive His Son back from the dead after the same interval of time.
The shock of this revelation was even greater than the one accompanying the LORD’s commandment to sacrifice Isaac. The God of Heaven and Earth, the King of the Universe, would offer His own Son as a sacrifice for the sins of the world? It was preposterous! Why would He do it? Then I remembered. It was to show how much He loved His creation. The pain of losing all of us was greater than the pain of losing His own son. He wanted us back.
Throughout this entire ordeal, Isaac was a willing participant. And just as his willingness was rewarded by the sparing of his life, the willingness of God’s Son to die for the sins of the world would be rewarded by His resurrection, for in that case it would require the actual death of the Son to reconcile the creation to the Father. And just as my faith in the promise of God was rewarded with the fulfillment of His covenant commitments to me, so the faith of any who would accept the death of His Son as payment for their sins would be rewarded with the fulfillment of His covenant promise to them; everlasting life. The Son’s resurrection would be proof of that.
The LORD then confirmed His promise to me, repeating the blessings He had in store for my descendants, and I understood that the way all nations would be blessed through me was that somehow the Son of God would also be a descendant of mine.
For my part, I named the place where we stood “Jehovah Jira,” or in your language “the Lord will provide.” From then on people understood that on the mountain of the Lord the remedy for their sins would be provided. Years later the Jebusites built a city there and named it Shalom, or Salem to you. The word means peace. And so Jehovah Jira became Jira Shalom, literally “Providing Peace.” In your time it’s pronounced Jerusalem, but the meaning’s the same. It’s the place where the Son of God came just as He promised to give His life to provide peace between you and your Creator and grant you eternal life. You need only trust in the promise of God and your faith will save you. Believe me, I know. It’s the Gospel in Genesis.