Lent V – Midweek
“God Keeps His Promise”
Paul Norris, Seminarian
06 April 2022
During the Lenten season, many of us have the practice of giving up something as a “sacrifice”. This is a good and pious practice, and when done in faith it is pleasing to God. This personal sacrifice serves to keep us mindful of the great sacrifice of Jesus and to prepare us for Easter.
May the Lord grant us His blessing as we experience a small portion of the depth of Jesus’ obedience and the great love of God to redeem a world that desperately needs salvation.
Since the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden a blood sacrifice was needed as a substitute, a payment, for the sin of mankind. The scriptures tell us that when God provides Adam and Eve with animal skins to cover their shame of sin and nakedness, the shedding of blood was necessary to cover this sin. Only blood can satisfy the judgment of God for sin and restore mankind’s relationship with God. God made Israel his own people and He promised to be their God and to dwell with them. For this reason, the sacrificial system was established so that God’s holy presence could abide among his people, sinners.
In our reading tonight, God blesses us with a detailed foreshadowing of the future crucifixion of His only Son. God tests Abraham’s faith and commands him to sacrifice his son Isaac. God tells Abraham to take his “only son” to the mountains of Moriah and offer him as a burnt offering. Abraham has two sons, Isaac, and Ishmael. But Isaac was special, he held the honored place of “only son”, that is, the unique one. Ishmael, born of a slave, had been sent away with his mother Hagar. But Isaac was born of a promise from God to Abraham and his wife Sarah. Isaac was the only son who was Abraham’s heir.
Abraham is obedient in faith and he prepares for the sacrifice of his only son. He cuts the wood needed for the burnt offering and travels to the mountains of Moriah with Isaac and two of his servants. Abraham tells his servants that he will return with his son later after worshiping the Lord. Abraham gathers the fire, and the knife for the sacrifice and Isaac carries the wood. Then, as any father of a son would attest to, Isaac calls out to his father and makes an obvious observation followed by a question. Isaac sees that they have wood, fire, and the knife, and asks his father “where is the lamb for the burnt sacrifice”? Abraham answers, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering my son”. Abraham speaks in faith but also perhaps it is a prayer that God would spare his only son.
Abraham builds the altar and places the wood on top of it. He binds Isaac and places him on top of the wood. In obedience to God, and in faith Abraham raises the knife to kill Isaac. But just as Abraham is about to plunge the knife into his only son, the angel of the Lord, the pre-incarnate Son of God, calls out “Abraham, Abraham!” Abraham replies, “Here I am.” The angel of the Lord says, “Do not lay a hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing that you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” Isaac, Abraham’s only son, has been graciously spared by the Lord. And then, Isaac’s question and Abraham’s answer of faith is answered by God. God himself provides a ram, a male sheep, who is stuck in a thicket by its horns. Abraham sacrifices this ram in the place of his own son and names the place of blessing “The Lord will provide”.
The pre-incarnate Son of God again addresses Abraham, “I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” God blessed Abraham as his obedience to God was an external sign of true faith. By the example of God’s command for Abraham to sacrifice his only son, this was God’s way of saying, “This will be necessary”. Blood must be shed for your salvation.
Now, this is not in the text, but maybe we could imagine that Isaac had some questions for Abraham as they were coming down from the mountain. He might have asked his father, “just exactly what was that all about?!” Well, it’s all about Jesus. Abraham understood the promise that was made to him by God. God made it clear that the necessary blood sacrifice, the seed promised to Eve who would crush the serpent’s head, would come through Abraham’s lineage. Indeed, the Lord will provide, and our Lord has provided. God fulfills his promise to Abraham in Jesus Christ.
Just As God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his only son, God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ to be the once and for all sacrifice for the whole world. Like the ram caught in the thicket by the horns, Jesus is beaten, whipped, and forced to wear a crown of thorns. As Isaac carried the wood upon which he would be sacrificed, Jesus carried his cross of wood. As Abraham placed Isaac, his only son, upon the wood of the altar, Jesus is laid upon the altar of the wooden cross.
But this is where the similarities change. God stops Abraham as he raises the knife to sacrifice Isaac. But for Jesus, the Father does not intervene. The Roman soldiers raise the nails, place them upon Jesus’ hands and feet, and hammer them through the flesh of our Savior. God has provided the sacrifice. The cross is raised and Christ the crucified one is lifted for all to see. Jesus’ scourged and bloody body hung from the cross. He suffered as he took on the sin of the world and became the curse for all mankind. And in his death, after Jesus utters the word “It is finished”, a Roman soldier pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, and blood and water flowed from the side of our beloved Savior, the only Son of God.
Abraham told the young men on the third day, “…I and the boy will go over there and worship and come to you again.” God promised Abraham that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through him and that his offspring would “possess the gate of his enemy”. God kept his promise in Christ Jesus.
On the cross, the water and blood flowed from the crucified Christ’s pierced side. So also the water of Holy Baptism floods from Christ’s side and washes over you, claiming you and marking you as His own in a birth from above. Your baptism is your eternal status before God as St. Peter writes, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”.
The word of God in and with the baptismal waters, gives you the forgiveness of sins, rescues you from sin, death, and the devil, and gives you eternal salvation. In your baptism, you were buried with Jesus into his death, and you will be raised from the dead on the day of the Lord to eternal life with Christ.
On the cross, Jesus’ blood poured from His side. He continues to come to us with His true body and blood at the altar. With His body and blood, we join with angels and archangels, all the company of heaven. Mothers, fathers, grandparents, family, children, and beloved friends in Christ, all the saints who have gone before us in the faith. Jesus’ true body and blood give you the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation in the Holy Supper. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation. Jesus gives you his own body and blood so that He may strengthen you and preserve you in body and soul to life everlasting.
Certainly, we all would fail this test of faith that Abraham endured and passed. Sometimes we lack faith and even doubt in God. But thanks be to God the Father who in His infinite love and mercy gave His only beloved Son, Jesus Christ to be the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! The Sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross has won for you forgiveness even in the times you don’t have the steadfast faith of Abraham. His death has atoned for all your sins, and by His resurrection, he has conquered sin, death, and the devil forever.
God kept his promise to Abraham, to you, and the world by sending His only Son to die in your place. The required price of blood has been paid in full. Jesus, the precious and Holy Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, is the once for all sacrifice, reconciling you to God forever.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.