ABRAHAM, PICTURE OF GOD - Week of August 7th
By Judy NicholsAugust 7, 2016
ABRAHAM, PICTURE OF GOD
As I’ve been studying the life of Abraham in the book of Genesis, I have drawn two conclusions. First, each successive test, each new thing God calls him to do, is more difficult than the last. And second, Abraham is a picture of God.
The first thing God calls Abraham to do is leave his home and family and go to a place that God will only reveal as he goes along. Most of us leave home at some point in our lives to strike out on our own. We may think we know where we’re going, be it college or some other further education, a job, military service, or missionary work. But the truth is, none of us really knows where our paths will lead us. This is normal life.
Then thirty-some years later, after Isaac is born, God tells Abraham to send away his son Ishmael. I can’t imagine how he struggled with this. In today’s divorce-ridden culture there are, regrettably, far too many parents who know the heart-break of not knowing how often or if they will ever see their child again. This should not be a part of normal life.
And finally, in what seems like a break from reality, God tells Abraham to take his son Isaac, the miraculously conceived son through whom God had promised to continue His covenant, and sacrifice him on a mountain. This is such a heinous thought that I can’t fathom how Abraham could have obeyed. The New Testament writer of Hebrews says he considered that God was able to raise the dead (Heb. 1:19), but I can only imagine the dread in his heart as he proceeded.
We know the rest of the story. At the last moment, when Abraham’s knife is poised to kill, God stops him and reveals a ram stuck in a thicket as a substitute. The writer of Hebrews says in this Abraham received him back "as a type." He intends that we see a deeper meaning in this episode. We are to see the death of Christ.
I see the life and work and death of Christ in all these episodes from Abraham’s life. I see God calling His only begotten Son to leave the glories of heaven and His intimate relationship with His Father to go to earth. Though present and active in creation, the Son nevertheless had not experienced life as a human. He depended on His Father to show Him where to go, what to do, and what to say. I believe He did know, perhaps not all His life but revealed to Him at some point, that the cross was where He was going.
I had never thought of how the Father might have felt about sending Jesus to earth. God knew His plan, that His Son would be returning to glory, but it still must have pained Him to send Him away. We don’t usually think of God’s emotions but the Scripture says He rejoices, He grieves, He is angry, He feels jealousy and regret.
And so the almost-sacrifice of Isaac pictures the sacrifice of Jesus. Only this time there is no stopping it; there is no ram in the thicket to take His place. This is the hardest test. Sadly, today there are people who do know first-hand the agony of losing a loved one for the sake of Christ. Elisabeth Eliot saw her husband murdered by the very tribe they were attempting to reach with the gospel. And the wives, mothers, brothers, and sisters of the Coptic Christians beheaded by ISIS are undoubtedly suffering unparalleled grief. God’s saying "Is anything too difficult for Me?" (Gen. 18:14, Jer. 32:27) says nothing about how He feels about things. The final scene of the movie "The Passion of the Christ" powerfully captures God’s emotion. As Jesus dies on the cross, a giant tear drop falls from heaven and splatters the bloody dust at the foot of the cross. God’s heart is broken.
So what’s the take-away for us? Are we to look at life as a series of increasingly difficult tests? That may or may not be the case. The point is that in every test we, like Abraham, are to trust God and obey as best we know how. And we are also to know that God did not exempt Himself from the kinds of pain and grief we experience. If anything, He experiences them to the ultimate extent, something He, in His mercy, spares us.
© Judy Nichols 2016