The Dress Rehearsal (Good Friday)
In Genesis 12, God planted a great dream in Abraham’s heart. By the time we get to Genesis 22, his dream is alive and doing very well. God has given him land, livestock, a large staff, great wealth, and, most importantly, Isaac, through whom the promise of becoming a great nation would occur. The Lord and Abraham had walked together for many years and were close friends. But the strength of their relationship would be challenged one more time. The test would be a huge one and would become the pinnacle of their relationship, proving once and for all Abraham’s amazing confidence in and loyalty to God.
This event proved to be far more than just a test, however. Hidden in it was one of the most amazing pictures of the cross the Lord ever painted. As we shall see, it demonstrated more than Abraham’s trust in God; it was also a heartwarming picture of Jehovah’s trust in Abraham.
In Genesis 22, the Lord made a shocking request of Abraham.
“Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” (Genesis 22:2)
Amazing! Ridiculous! Unbelievable! But He said it: Give me the dream, Abraham. Take that part of the dream which is the most precious to you and sacrifice it to Me. That would cause just a little bit of a hiccup in your morning devotions.
Abraham must have felt like someone slugged him in the gut. One can only imagine the thoughts and questions that began to swirl through his mind:
Do I really know God’s voice as well as I believe I do?
Do I truly know Him as well as I think I do? I don’t believe He will make me go through with the sacrifice of Isaac. If He does, I’m confident He will raise him from the dead.
With either scenario, what will Isaac think regarding my love for him? Could this so traumatize him that it wounds his psyche, maybe even permanently?
It’s impossible to know Abraham’s thoughts, but we know he was a good father and loved Isaac very much. We also know there could be no greater test than this of anyone’s faith and trust. To say that Abraham passed the test would be the understatement of the millennium. He said “yes” to questions one and two, and trusted his Friend with number three.
The challenge this presents us to emulate in our dreaming seems ridiculously small in comparison to what Abraham had to do.The principle, however, is the same and one we must always remember: When God asks for the dream, give it back to Him. Dreams are powerful. It is possible to so attach our emotions to them that a dream can become a taskmaster we serve, rather than an assignment or goal we steward.
This is precisely what occurred with Adam and Eve, and all of us contracted the virus. Stewarding the dream wasn’t enough for them; they became convinced they could own it. At that point, rather than God remaining Lord of the dream, the dream became lord. Legitimate desires became cravings, even obsessions. We humans have been serving our dreams ever since. We kill for them, abandon family and friends to accomplish and keep them, and spend everything we own to buy them. Since the fall of humanity, God’s challenge has been keeping the dream a servant and a tool, rather than us allowing it to become the master. Whether the dream is a person, money, possessions, position, or status, the only hope for its purity is keeping it tethered to Him.
It was, of course, never God’s intent to allow Abraham to go through with the
sacrifice of Isaac. The only human offering He has ever sanctioned was that of Christ on the Cross. But at the time Abraham couldn’t be certain. He was certain, however, of his complete trust in God’s character and friendship. Yahweh would either provide a viable substitute for Isaac (see Genesis 22:8), or if He did require him to go through with the sacrifice, the Author and Giver of life would not leave Isaac dead—He would resurrect him (see Genesis 22:5 and Hebrews 11:17–19). What an incredible and genuine trust this demonstrated!
Abraham actually saw his obedience as an act of worship. When addressing his servants he said, “I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you” (Genesis 22:5). This is almost mind-boggling. How many of us could consider a test of this magnitude as worship? When we worship God, we do so because of who He is - holy, true, trustworthy, and faithful. Abraham was proving beyond any doubt that He knew God. He was confident Yahweh was the Dream-giver, not the dream-stealer. I’m not yet sure what this is all about, Abraham must have reasoned, but God has something very important He is up to and it’s not the death of Isaac.
Did He ever!
The Dream-giver was Himself dreaming at Moriah. The path to the recovery of His dream would be painful and ugly, and He was about to give us a sneak preview. This entire episode was designed to paint a picture of the Cross, where God would one day recapture His dream of family. No one else knew His plan, not even the angels, but here on this very mountain He would sacrifice His Son and redemption’s song would one day be sung.
Father God was well aware that the violence of this future day would be dreadful beyond description. Creation itself would hide its eyes (see Matthew 27:45) and the very foundations of the earth would shake (see Matthew 27:57). God’s heart would break, the angels would watch in shock and horror, and the Son of God Himself would cry out in anguish (see Matthew 27:46). But this violent death would also be love’s crowning act.
When the day actually occurred, Satan believed it would be the day of his ultimate victory. This could end God’s dream once and for all. Satan did not know the details of God’s redemptive plan, but he did know it was somehow wrapped up in His Son. Kill Him, he thought. He has become human, breakable, mortal. Kill Him and kill the dream! What Satan didn’t know—no one but God knew it—was that the cross was written into the dream.
Insane, Satan must have thought when the plan succeeded.
Actually, it was brilliant. Painfully and devastatingly brilliant, yes, but brilliant nonetheless. And suddenly it all made sense. What looked like one dying Dreamer on a Cross was really a dream-seed. There were millions of dreams locked up in Him, waiting to be released. Until the Resurrection and Pentecost, Christ’s words in John 12:24 were still not fully understood: “Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Christ was the grain of wheat; we are the “much fruit.”
That the events on Moriah in Abraham’s day were a foreshadowing of Calvary can be seen by several things:
First, Isaac was referred to as Abraham’s “only” or “only begotten son” no less than four times (see Genesis 22:2, 12, 16; Hebrews 11:17), descriptions that were no doubt meant to be prophetic of God’s later references to His “only begotten Son” (John 3:16).
Moriah, the mountain on which Abraham was told to offer Isaac, was the very mountain where centuries later Christ would be offered as our sacrifice. How woefully fitting and strikingly prophetic that Isaac actually carried the wood for the sacrifice up the mountain (Genesis 22:6), just as Christ would one day carry His Cross! What must have gone through the Son of God’s mind as He watched this prophetic picture unfold!
Perhaps the most telling proof of all was the name Abraham gave the place when the episode was finished. Predictably, the Lord didn’t allow him to go through with the sacrifice. At just the right moment, Yahweh stopped him and revealed a substitute ram God had provided, caught in a thicket. After sacrificing the ram, “Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide [Jehovah Jireh], as it is said to this day, ‘In the mount of the Lord it will be provided’” (Genesis 22:14). Though I am fairly certain Abraham didn’t know he was prophesying the place of the Cross, history confirms that he was.
The poignancy of this dress rehearsal is impossible to overstate. Here was the Creator painting a picture, indecipherable and veiled to all but Himself, of His most cherished dream and horrible nightmare: recapturing His lost family through the death of His Son. And He is literally doing so on the stage where it will ultimately occur! Perhaps it was because of the pain of the plan that God wanted one of His best friends to be there with Him.
The name of the mountain where this occurred was also significant. Moriah means “seen of God.” Yahweh had taken Abraham there to show him, though in a veiled form, what He was “seeing” in the future—the Cross and the death of His Son. God must have been deeply impacted as He envisioned the pain, agony and in earth’s ultimate irony, the joy of what would one day take place there. He was also moved by Abraham’s complete faith in Him, so much so that He reiterated to him His promise of forty years earlier, reminding Abraham of his dream, also.
“By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” (Genesis 22:16–18)
God’s intentions seem fairly obvious. He didn’t want to dream alone. At this hideously evil, yet gloriously holy place, where He would eventually recapture His dream, Abba wanted Abraham to dream with Him. Two dreaming friends on a mountain, looking into the future and dreaming together. This had to have been one of earth’s most meaningful and heart-warming scenes. Wonderful. Moving. Devastating. The following paraphrase sums up the drama of this day:
Remember My promise to you, Abraham. Go ahead, dream.
Here at Moriah, the place where I am seeing My dream restored, I want
you to see yours, as well. Gaze at the stars, envision the sand and see pictures of how I’m going to multiply you.
And though you don’t yet realize it, Abraham, My dream is hidden in
yours—in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed. Our
dreams are completely intertwined, Abraham. Actually, your dream is
really all about My dream.
You see stars, I see sons and daughters. You see sand, I see a bride for
My Son. You see an altar, I see a cross. You see a ram, I see My Son.
I will bring Him here one day and I’ll build an altar. . . in the shape of a cross. Unlike you, I won’t be able to stay the knife, but through My Son’s death. . .I’ll have My dream!
A day for the ages.
A day for friends.
And a day for dreamers everywhere.
An incredibly close friendship must have been necessary for God to become this intimate with Abraham. Taking him to the place where His ultimate dream and ultimate pain would occur demonstrated their closeness. They watched the dress rehearsal together; and years later the consummation did, indeed, take place.
I’m sure these two friends were together again on that day, watching the events unfold and sharing the pain as Isaac’s counterpart hung on the cross-shaped “altar.” But the pain, excruciating as it was, was temporary. They knew it would be. Three days later “Isaac” arose, proving once and for all that the dream was alive and well. Death lost; life won. And the power of dreaming was vindicated.
I can’t prove it, but I think the heavenly choir broke out into Handel’s Messiah, not yet known on earth, but sung in heaven since earth’s creation.
Pray with me:
Father, thank You for showing us the strength of Your friendship with Abraham. We, too, want to build a relationship with You that exemplifies this type of intimacy. We want it to be strong enough that You are willing to share Your heart with us, to trust us with Your plans and desires.
On this day during which we look back at the Cross, we want to again thank You for offering Your Son to die for us. It’s hard to fathom the depth of Your love. But we accept it and we embrace it.
And Jesus, thank You for humbling Yourself to become one of us. Your love and humility are beyond words. We could never thank You enough, but we can thank You. As the song says, “You are beautiful beyond description, too marvelous for words...” We love You!
And we recommit to You and Your cause. It is our great joy to partner with You. Thank You for bringing us into Your world. Amen.
We declare that the blood of Jesus will never lose its power!
Portions of today’s post were taken from my book DREAM.