God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.
(Genesis 22:8 ESV)
In Genesis 22, we have the story of Abraham being commanded by God to sacrifice his son—his only son. This is at once a fascinating and bewildering story, considering that Abraham only has one son from Sarah, the one son he waited twenty-five years to have. God promised Abraham at age seventy-five that he would someday make him a great nation. Then at age eighty-five that he would have a son from his own body who would give him children as numerous as the stars in the heavens. He then had to wait until he was one-hundred years old before actually having that son, and now God wants him to take him atop of Mt. Moriah and sacrifice him.
In an amazing act of obedience, Abraham obeys. “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” (v.3). Yet, as they approach the mountain, Abraham takes the fire and the knife and then loads his son up with the wood for the burnt sacrifice, and Isaac, who’s about thirteen years old at this point, is quite perceptive and asks the obvious question: “My father...Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (v.7). Uhm, dad, aren’t you forgetting something? Abraham responds to his son with a prophetic answer: “God will provide for himself the lamb" (v.8).
Throughout the Bible, God makes clear that someone must die for sins committed against him (Ezek. 18:20). This is God’s holy standard. Thus, throughout the Old Testament, all the animal sacrifices that were offered for the sins of God’s people were simply designed to remind the people of their sins and of their need for a genuine sacrifice (Heb. 10:1-4). Animals could never atone for our sins because animals were not the ones who brought sin into the world--humans did! (Rom. 5:12-14). Thus, Christ comes into the world to be the one, true, and perfect lamb of God to die in the place of sinners. This is how John the Baptist identifies Jesus when he sees him. “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1:29). This is what Christmas is all about! Celebrating the Lamb of God who came into the world for sinners!
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