From the Garden to the City, Trees along the way
Series
The Ram Caught in the Thicket
Genesis 22, Mark 15:33-37
 

(c) Copyright 2007 Rev. Bill Versteeg


Genesis 22
1Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”
3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”
6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.
9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”
15 The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”
19 Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.

“Abraham, do you love me?”
“Yes Lord, I love you.”
“Abraham, do you love me?”
“Yes Lord, You know I love you. I left Ur of the Caldeans just because you called me to.”
“Abraham, do you love me more than these? Sarah and Isaac?
“Lord you know I love you.”
“Abraham, do you love me more than even your future in Isaac, the son of promise?”
“Lord you know I love you...”
“Then take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering...

God decided to test Abraham, to test him if he would love God first, above all else with heart, soul, mind and strength, seek God’s will first, above all else, even above all the other things in his life, even his one and only son.

We need not get distracted by the morality of the test God gave. After all, Abraham lived in a time, age and culture where child sacrifice was common, just like we do. Except our altars are a little different. Our altars have the inscriptions “absolute right over he own body” and “convenience” engraved on them. At least this altar had far more noble purposes - to test the depth of a man’s love for the one true God worthy of worship and offerings.

And besides, it was a test.

A test of love in the context of faith. You see, faith has its own logic and faith acts on that logic. Abraham reasoned in faith that God would raise his son from the dead, return his future to him because the future is what God had already promised. He had come to believe that God’s promises were entirely trustworthy. God would not break a promise by this test.

So Abraham set out toward the region of Moriah, hills in Palestine that would later be regarded as sacred. Seeing the place in the distance, he laid the witnessing wood on the shoulders of his son to obediently carry it up the mountains. Leaving his servants and donkey behind, he told his servants “We will worship and then we will come back to you.” We will go by the action of faith to demonstrate how much God is really worth to us.

As his one and only son walked behind his father carrying the heavy load of wood, Isaac asked “where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

“God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”

When they reached the place that God pointed out in the region of Moriah, Abraham built his altar there. He took the heavy load of wood from his one and only son’s shoulders and arranged it upon the altar and then tying up his obedient son, he lifted him onto the altar, strapping him to the wood. His son would be the sacrifice. In faith he raised his knife to slay his son before the fire was lit but just then he heard a voice

“Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

The test past, Abraham lowered his knife and even as he did, he heard the bleating of a Ram whose horns were caught in a thicket, a mess of entwined thorns that pierced its head even as it struggled. Abraham went over, took the Ram and offered it as a sacrifice instead of his son. And he called that place, “The Lord will provide.” or as we say it “Jehovah Jirah.”
And when God saw that Abraham had passed that test, that he sought God’s will first, his kingdom first, he reaffirmed to Abraham that all the things that he had promised would be given to him without a doubt.

Centuries passed. And throughout the centuries, even to the present, the cry has been heard throughout the world
“God do you love me?”
The cry came again and again through the tears of the forsaken, the anger of the grieving, the hunger of the depressed, the struggle of the lonely, the defencelessness of the oppressed, the hopelessness of the exiled.
That to is today’s cry to. We live in a world where families are to busy, fathers and mothers to preoccupied with careers, and children in their hunger for love cry out
“God do you love me?”
Hasn’t it been your cry, your request for an answer too? God may say he loves you, but hasn’t your heart put God to the test for proof, convincing proof that could move your heart to love without reservation in return.
“God do you love me?”

God was put to the test.
And so 2000 years ago, he sent his one and only son, whom he loved and after 30 years of life and 3 years of ministry, he said to his son,
“Come, we must show them how much they are worth to us.”

So they journeyed toward the region of Moriah, toward the mountains of Jerusalem because they are one and the same. There Jesus was tried for sins he did not commit in his perfect obedience. There the world rejected him. Soldiers placed a thicket of thorns on his head, pressed them down until the blood flowed freely.

There he was condemned and as the father led him, the heavy wood of sacrifice was placed upon his shoulders to be carried up the mountain of Moriah called Golgotha. There they took the wood from his shoulders, bound him, no nailed him to it and then they raised him up to be crucified.

This time there was no messenger in the wings to cry out “Lord, Lord.” This time there was no man or women to cry out “Stop this.” 12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you love me, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

And this time, there was no substitute Ram for the lamb of God was caught in the thicket of the cross, thorns piercing his head. This test was for keeps. In this test, the Father offered his son as a once and for all sacrifice making atonement for our sins. The Father demonstrated his love for us in that while we were still sinners, he offered his one and only son whom he loved to died for us.

Now I have just one question for you.
You have wondered if God loves you. And he has answered your questions by giving his one and only son, whom he loved in your place on the cross.
Have you been to Moriah, to Golgotha to see his love for you?
Have you seen the son carry the wood of offering all the way up the hill? Have you seen him nailed to the wood of the offering that witnessed his sacrifice?
Have you seen God follow through, not restraining his hand against his son, but forsaking him to the very end so that you might know he loves you?
Have you responded by bowing before that cross and in faith placing God first in your life knowing that as you do, all his blessings will be added to you?

I ask you these questions because they are the questions that Lent confronts us with, the cross confronts us with, Moriah and Golotha confront us with.

What is your response?

When I Survey the wondrous Cross.

 

 


From the Garden to the City - Trees Along the Way
Immanuel CRC's Theme for 2006-2007
The complete Series

  1. Acts 10:34-48, text vs. 39 FROM THE GARDEN TO THE CITY:
    TREES ALONG THE WAY: Introduction

  2. Genesis 2:4-9, 15-17, 3:1-24 There was more than one Tree in the Garden

  3. Genesis 12:1-9 The Great Tree of Moreh

  4. Genesis 13:14-18, 18:1-5 The Evolution of the Presence of God

  5. Isaiah 6:1-13 Jesse's Stump (Advent #1)

  6. Isaiah 55 The Pine and the Myrtle

  7. Isaiah 11:1-5 Jesse's Shoot (Advent #4)

  8. Galatians 3:1-14 Those who Hang on Trees (Lent)

  9. Luke 19:28-40 The Trees Bowed Before Him! (Palm Sunday)

  10. Genesis 22, Mark 15:33-37 The Ram Caught in the Thicket (Good Friday)

  11. John 20:10-18 They Met Under the Trees in the Garden (Easter Morning)

  12. Acts 2:1-4, 42-47 Pentecost - the City has Arrived

  13. Matthew 6:13 (footnote)  “For Thine is the Kingdom, Power and Glory - the New Jerusalem - Focus of Desire”

  14. Revelation 17, 18 The Great Babylon

  15. Revelation 21 The Bride has Made herself Ready

  16. Revelation 22 The Tree Stands in the City









 


(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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