Genesis 22 & Matthew 21

Genesis 22

    After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 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.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.

    When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “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.” And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”

    And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 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.” So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba. And Abraham lived at Beersheba.

    Now after these things it was told to Abraham, “Behold, Milcah also has borne children to your brother Nahor: Uz his firstborn, Buz his brother, Kemuel the father of Aram, Chesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph, and Bethuel.” (Bethuel fathered Rebekah.) These eight Milcah bore to Nahor, Abraham's brother. Moreover, his concubine, whose name was Reumah, bore Tebah, Gaham, Tahash, and Maacah.

(Genesis 22 ESV)


Matthew 21

    Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

    “Say to the daughter of Zion,
    ‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
        humble, and mounted on a donkey,
        on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
    
        The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

    And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”

    And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,

    “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies
        you have prepared praise’?”
    
        And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.

    In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.

    When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

    And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.

    “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

    “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”

    Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

    “‘The stone that the builders rejected
        has become the cornerstone;
    this was the Lord's doing,
        and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
    
        Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

    When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.

(Matthew 21 ESV)



Something to Consider

Genesis 22: Up to this point in the Genesis narrative, Abraham was undoubtedly proved himself as a man of incredible faith. And now after the birth of the impossible son Isaac, Abraham had experienced firsthand God's own faithfulness to deliver on what He promises. However, now God would push the limits of his faith to levels completely beyond belief with a request that seems to be completely irrational. God asks Abraham to sacrifice the child He promised him. His only son.

Think about what is being asked of Abraham. Not just the loss of your only child, but a brutal horrific slaying of your only child. And worse yet, you are the one who has to slay him!
    
God tells him to carry this out in the land of Moriah which is a three days journey from where they were. Imagine those three days. Abraham must have been so confused. "God promised to bless the world through my miracle son Isaac, and now he wants me to kill him? Isn't this command of God completely overriding and destroying the promise He made? Can I still trust a God who seems to contradict His own Word?" It would've been fairly easy for Abraham to try and back out of this command by simply assuring himself that surely God doesn’t really mean this.

However, Abraham decides that if God can perform the impossible in giving him a son then God can perform the impossible of giving him his son back. On the way up the mountain, Isaac asks, “Hey dad, we got everything here for a sacrifice, but where’s the lamb?” Imagine Abraham’s emotions as he attempts to explain to his son that somehow God will provide. 

Although Isaac had reached adolescence, the Bible records no struggle. So more than likely Isaac helps construct his own alter and then allows his dad to tie him up in order to brutally slay him with his knife as a sacrifice to God. The silence of any struggle implies that Isaac willingly laid down his life as a sacrifice. Perhaps here we have the promised son foreshadowing the greater Promised Son and His future greater sacrifice. It's no small coincidence that Mount Moriah would eventually be the exact location where the Lord's Temple would stand and the same mount where Christ would suffer the cross.  

As Abraham places his one and only son upon the alter, God suddenly intervenes and provides a substitutionary sacrifice to take the place of Abraham's son. The lesson is unforgettable, and Abraham understands it. He properly names that place "The Lord will provide", and His faith now looks to God as the God who intervenes for His people. God would one day do what Abraham didn't have to do. The true realization of what God was asking of Abraham finds its deeper fulfillment in God's ultimate sacrifice of His one and only Son. In Christ, the Lord will provide the ultimate substitutionary sacrifice that takes the place of all men.   

 

Matthew 21: As I have grown in my understanding of the Scriptures, this simple truth continues to become even more apparent - True followers of Christ hear and seek to do all that He has commanded. It seems like such an obvious statement, but for many years, I was like the second son in the parable who said he heard his Father but yet failed to do the things He commanded. This leads me to fear the kind of faith that does little more than say a prayer and claim belief in some Biblical doctrine.    

Now, it's clear that neither of these two sons acted appropriately to their father’s command. Hesitancy and slowness to obey is certainly not an admirable action, but the Word of God is clear that this delayed obedience is forgivable whereas the outright hypocrisy of a hot-air holiness is dishonest and disgraceful. I've certainly been guilty of both these offenses. 

It's a strong statement, but one I believe to be honest and true - If I am not attempting to obey God's Word then He is not the Lord of my life. And to not be submitted to His Lordship is the equivalent of putting myself in opposition to Him and His Kingdom. Following Christ embraces something much greater than a small prayer and agreement to the truth of Christian doctrine. True faith is the higher calling of renouncing myself and devoting my whole life to Christ as the Lord over my life.