Near the Cross, Near to the Heart of God

Lent is the time when Christians prepare for Easter by thinking of Christ’s sufferings and reflecting on their past conduct. As we approach Good Friday and Easter, let us take a closer look at Genesis 22 which narrates Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac on Mount Moriah. When we meditate on this, we usually focus on the sacrifice of Isaac as a type of Christ, and on his submission to his father. His attitude is indeed commendable and worthy of our emulation. However if we only focus on Isaac, we will miss the deeper insights into the very heart of God. Many liberal scholars accuse God of being unjust and cruel by demanding that Abraham kills his son to prove his loyalty to Him. This demand of God also goes against the fact that Isaac was a child of promise and the future heir of God’s covenant with Abraham. How could we resolve this contradiction? The answer lies in the way we read the passage. We must look at it from the perspective of God. The tie between the command for Abraham to offer up Isaac and God’s offering His own Son on the cross provided insight into why God tested Abraham in this manner. It informs us that God was just in making this request of Abraham, for God asked him to do what God Himself would do in offering up His own Son at Calvary. God displayed justice also in providing a ram as a substitute for Isaac. In the case of the death of His Son Jesus, God proved His justice by raising him from the dead. Second, Paul probably had Gen. 22 in mind when he said in Rom. 8: 32, “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave him up for us all.” With this statement, then, he put the suffering of Christ into the broader context of the suffering of God. God has suffered because He too gave up His Son for the salvation of mankind. Twice in Gen. 22: 12, 16, the angel of the Lord said to Abraham, “You have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” The verb ‘withheld’ in the Greek Old Testament is the same verb used in Rom. 8: 32, “did not spare.” In the light of what God has done for us, is it unjust for Him to ask that we give our all to Him? For the test of Abraham is a test of loyal devotion to God who is his Sovereign Lord and Provider. And the God who demands our total allegiance is the same God who also provides for all our needs. He will not withhold any good thing from us. As children of Abraham, let us search and examine our hearts to make sure that we follow in his footsteps of faith and obedience. As we think of Good Friday and Easter, may we take the time to draw nearer to the heart of God. “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"--and he was called a friend of God” (Jas. 2: 21-23).

Rev. Mark Tay