A Day For The Ages
“...‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29)
In Genesis 12, God planted a great dream in Abraham’s heart. By the time we get to Genesis 22, the dream is doing very well. God had given Abraham land, livestock, a large staff, great wealth, and most importantly, Isaac, through whom the promise of a great nation would emerge. The Lord and Abraham had walked together for many years now and were close friends. However, the strength of their relationship would be tested 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, the occasion 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 God said it: Give me the dream, Abraham. Take the portion of the dream which is most precious to you, Isaac, and sacrifice him 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 swirling through his mind:
Do I really know God’s voice as well as I believe I do?
I don’t believe He will make me go through with the sacrifice of Isaac. If He does, however, I’m confident He will raise him from the dead. But do I truly know Him as well as I think I do?
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 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.
I point out in my book Dream, that we must emulate the dreaming nature and ideals of Abraham. The principle presented in this passage is one we must always remember: When God asks for your dream, give it back to Him. (1) 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. 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 our 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 Abraham 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 27:51). 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, he thought. 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.
There is no way this just happened, satan must have thought when God’s plan succeeded.
Actually, the plan was brilliant. Painfully and devastatingly brilliant, yes; but brilliant, nonetheless. At the Resurrection, followed by Pentecost, 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 where 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 with Isaac!
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 of Isaac. At just the right moment, Yahweh stopped him and revealed a substitute ram He 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, Abraham, to be there with Him.
The name of the mountain where this occurred was also significant. Moriah means “seen of God.” (2) 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. At Moriah, Yahweh was saying:
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” (Christ) 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... .” (3)
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. In Your name, we pray, Amen.
We declare that the dream-restoring blood of Jesus will never lose its power!
Click on the link below to watch the full video.
Today’s post was taken from my book Dream.
[Dutch Sheets Dream: Discovering God's Purpose for Your Life (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group), 2012, pp. 121-127.]
Dutch Sheets Dream: Discovering God's Purpose for Your Life (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2012).
“Strong's Hebrew: 4179. מוֹרִיָּה (Moriyyah) -- mountain where Isaac was to be sacrificed.” Bible Hub, https://biblehub.com/hebrew/4179.htm. Also see – “to see, seen, surely seen” https://biblehub.com/hebrew/7200.htm. Accessed 26 March 2021. Also see – “seen by Yah, the name of God of Israel.” https://biblehub.com/hebrew/3050.htm
Mark, Altrogge. You are Beautiful Beyond Description (I Stand in Awe). Sovereign Grace Praise, 1986.