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Bible Search
I Can See Clearly Now
Focus
Genesis 22:1-14
 
As we make our way toward Easter, our Sunday morning messages are designed around the idea that the resurrection is critical to our understanding of everything else we read in the Bible. 
 
Last week we used the word perspective to think about the fall of man and what happened in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned.  That's where we find the very first promise of a Messiah who would one day come and fix everything that was broken there in the Garden. 
 
And in reality, the biggest consequence of what happened there was death. God told them that because of their sin, they would die. Since that time, death has been a part of the human experience.  Paul described it as the last enemy. And ultimately, the Seed that would crush the head of the serpent struck His most fatal blow when He overcame death and came out of the tomb. 
 
And we have the privilege of bringing to bear that perspective on every event of our life, whether good or bad. We've read the end of the story, and we know the "Good Guy" wins, therefore we can endure and even praise Go, no matter what is going on.  
 
Today I want to talk about focus.  The human eye is an amazing part of God's creation and not just human eyes, but any eyes found in nature. The human eye belongs to a group of eyes called "camera-type eyes."
Just as a camera lens focuses light onto film, a transparent structure in the very front of the eye called the cornea focuses light onto a light-sensitive membrane called the retina by allowing the light to pass through a crystalline lens.
 
And it is an amazing process.  In fact, in an article called The 7 Biggest Mysteries of the Human Body,  Dr. Mark Fromer, an ophthalmologist and retina specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City says, "The cornea focuses most of the light, then it passes through the lens, which continues to focus the light."
 
And the details are unbelievable in the process! The pupil in the iris expands and contracts to control the light. Ciliary muscles relax to pull on and flatten the lens so we can see objects that are far away. If we need to see something up close, those same muscles contract in order to thicken the lens.
 
The eye is filled with a jelly-like tissue called the vitreous humor. Once light passes through the lens, it travels through this substance to get to the retina where if reaches millions of light sensitive cells, which come in two main varieties: rods and cones.
 
Rods are used for monochrome vision in poor light, while cones are used for color and for the detection of fine detail. Once light strikes either the rods or the cones of the retina, it's converted into an electric signal that is relayed to the brain through the optic nerve. The brain then translates those electrical signals into the images a person sees.
 
 
 
Now, without oversimplifying the amazing miracle of sight and focus, I take note of two necessary components that have to be in place before we ever get to the inner workings of the eyeball itself that allow us to focus on what we see. And what is true in the physical world is also true in the spiritual. 
 
First, in order to focus, we need
 
- light
 
Now as you know, light is a very frequent topic in the Bible. Scripture is referred to as light. The Psalmist said God's Word was a light to his path. 
Jesus is called the Light of the world and He passed that title on to the church as He tells us to let our light shine so people can come to glorify God. 
 
In fact, God Himself is identified as the Father of lights from Whom comes every good and perfect gift and eventually we're going to live in a place called heaven that needs no sun or moon because the Lamb is the source of its Light. 
 
So when it comes to understanding the Bible, I think it safe to say we need light to understand its message.  Not only do we need light, we need a
 
- lens 
 
It is the lens that enhances the focus so that eventually what we see makes its way to our brain to form the picture. In Biblical terms, the lens through which the light of God's Word passes that helps us to understand the message of God is the resurrection.  
 
 
That means no matter where I'm reading in God's Word, whatever the subject, if I will view it through the knowledge and impact of the resurrection, I will be able to understand it much more clearer.  It will come into focus.
 
With that in mind, turn with me to Genesis 22 as I read verses 1-14
 
Genesis 22:1-14
 
I read the true story of a woman who told of the time she was teaching the toddler-age Sunday school class. Part of the reason she taught there was that her daughter was in that class.  During one lesson on creation she was trying to make the concept as understandable as possible, so she asked like questions like, "Who made the trees?"
 
And the children would respond by saying, "God did."
Then she'd ask: "Who made the sun?" "God did!"
"Who made the animals?" God did!  "Who made you?"  God did!
 
Later that week at home she walked into the living room and found her daughter's toys scattered everywhere. That upset her and she got really frustrated and said, "Who made this mess?"
 
She said her daughter looked at her with a proud smile and said, "GOD DID!"
 
Now obviously God didn't make the mess, but to that little girl that was the right, or at least the convenient answer.  But it was the wrong answer.   
 
 
I'm afraid there is a tendency, when we come to things we don't fully understand about God, such as this story of Abraham being told to kill his son, we just read it and go away from it not fully understanding what it's teaching.  We say it's too hard to understand or it just doesn't make sense.
Or we could say it's out of focus.  It's fuzzy and hard to make out. 
 
And the truth is, this story is like that. In fact, if you didn't look at this story through the lens of the resurrection, it would seem totally irrational. But when viewed through the resurrection, it comes into clear and complete focus.  
 
Let me show you what I mean.  Let's begin with
 
1.  The Story
 
Years before Isaac's birth, God made a promise to Abraham.  He said Abraham was going to be the father of many nations.  Now obviously, in order for that to happen, Abraham needed to have a son, which he didn't have at that time. 
 
To complicate things, his wife, whose name we know as Sarah, was unable to conceive.  But the day came when God said to Abraham (Genesis 17:15-16) "I will bless (Sarah) and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her."
 
Now it's well and good to have a promise from God, but Abraham was a 100 years old and Sarah was 90 and even in that day of extended age spans, people didn't have kids when they got that old.
 
But God had made Abraham a promise, and true to His Word, God gave them a son in spite of their age and Isaac became the fulfillment of God's promise.
 
Now, fast forward about 25 years or so and you arrive at Genesis 22. Isaac has now grown to be a young man and he is the apple of Abraham's eye. Isaac is a great kid and Abraham loves him deeply.
 
Then one day, God stops by for a visit.  We read about that visit in the first two verses of the chapter.   
 
Genesis 22:1-2
 
And amazingly, Abraham does it! He offers up his son.  He passes the test! And, at the last minute, when he's about to plunge the knife into the heart of his son, God steps in and says:
 
Genesis 22:12
 
So significant is this demonstration of faith and trust in God, centuries later, the New Testament writer of the book of Hebrews would say of this event:
 
Hebrews 11:17-19
 
In fact, that is not the only time Abraham is praised in Scripture as an example of faith in God.  Paul mentions him in his letter to the Romans.
 
Romans 4:3
 
So all's well that ends well, right?  Everything works out and Abraham honors God and Isaac becomes instrumental in the formation of the Jewish people and the New Testament writers praise God for it. 
But let me just ask this. Does it bother anyone besides me that God asked Abraham to kill his son?  Doesn't that seem a little bit out of character for God? God's not supposed to do stuff like that.
 
We've already seen what happened to Cain for killing Abel earlier in this same book! And before long, God will tell Moses to write on the rock a law forbidding murder. And more specifically, in Deuteronomy 18:10, God declares: "Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire"
 
And in Leviticus 18:21 God warns His people "Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molech, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the LORD."
 
Repeatedly throughout the Old Testament God condemned this kind of behavior. In fact at one point God said this about the whole nation of Israel:
"They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practiced divination and sorcery and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger." 2 Kings 17:17
 
Over and over and over again God cries out "don't you go sacrificing your children as the pagans do. It'll profane my name. It will make me angry, and you're not going to like Me when I'm angry."
 
And I will tell you, it just strikes me as odd that God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son! That "Thou shalt not kill" thing just kind of sticks in your throat when you read Genesis 22. 
 
 
 
So what's going on here? How could the God who so hated child sacrifice ask Abraham to sacrifice his only son? I know some of you more intellectual types are saying, "Well He was never going to let him do it anyway."
 
But that's not the point!  The point is, He told Him to do it and He shouldn't have told him to kill his son unless there's something deeper going on here and of course, that's precisely what happening.
 
Obviously there's something going on here that goes deeper than just whether or not Abraham had faith in God. Obviously Abraham had faith in God and that is a beautiful part of the story.  In fact, it is so significant that it is celebrated in the New Testament. 
 
But that's not all that's going on.  In fact, what we're seeing here in Genesis is the foundation for the resurrection.  So let's see if we can bring it into focus.
 
Throughout the Old Testament God paints pictures for us. One of His favorite ways to bring attention to Jesus is through Old Testament types and images.  And the images and pictures He provides are images of Who the Messiah is going to be and what the Messiah would do when He came.  For instance, you can see those pictures painted in the Law where many of the laws portrayed some aspect of Christ's ministry.
 
You can see those pictures in the Tabernacle where every part of that tent and the furniture and the activities said something about what Jesus would be like and what He would do when He came.
And you can see those images portrayed in the stories of various heroes in the Bible such as Noah and Joseph and one of those picture is the one before us here in Genesis 22 as we see a picture of Jesus in Isaac. 
 
Allow me to point out some of  
 
2.  The Similarities
 
Right off the bat, we know
 
- they both fulfilled promises
 
Isaac was the long-promised son of Abraham just as Jesus was Jesus was the long-promised Messiah of God.  (Genesis 3:15; 13:3)
 
And by the way, both were
 
- the only son of their father
 
I know Abraham tried to play God and had another son by another woman, but Isaac was the only son of Abraham and Sarah and he was the only son of promise. 
 
And to underscore that, notice what God said to Abraham in Genesis 22:2. He calls Isaac, “Your son, your only son, whom you love…”. How reminiscent of what God said of Jesus in Matthew 3 when He said, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased!”
 
There we see that not only were both boys the only son of their father, both of these boys were
 
- loved by their fathers
But the similarities don't end there.
 
- both Isaac and Christ were called to die as sacrifices
 
Here in Genesis 22 we're told that "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."'
 
Jesus also went up on a mountain, and according to Hebrews 9:28, "Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people"
 
- both had a 3-day experience
 
Genesis 22:4 tells us it was on the third day that Abraham and Isaac arrived at their destination after travelling three days to get there.    
 
In like manner, just as Isaac had a 3-day journey to Mt. Moriah, Jesus travelled three days also to reach His destination from the cross to an empty tomb.
 
- both were accompanied by 2 men
 
Notice the little detail in verse 3 about Abraham taking two of his young men with him. I don't want to read too much into the story, but I find it interesting that Jesus was accompanied by two thieves while on the cross. 
 
- both carried their own wood
 
Verse 6 tells us that Isaac carried the wood for his own sacrifice, and we know Jesus carried the cross.
- both asked a question of their father
 
Isaac asked Abraham “Here is the fire and the wood, Father, but where is the lamb?, verse 7 of Genesis 22 and Jesus cried “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” from the cross.
 
Then, there's
 
- the place of sacrifice
 
Genesis 22:2 tells us that "God said, 'Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about."'
 
Later, when God supplied the ram for the sacrifice, Abraham was so moved that "(he) called that place 'The LORD Will Provide.' And to this day it is said, 'On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided."' Genesis 22:14
 
Now that's interesting.  I had never really thought much about the mountains of Moriah so I did a little research on the subject and what I discovered was that it was on Mount Moriah where Solomon built the Temple. 
 
2 Chronicles 3:1 tells us "Then Solomon began to build the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to his father David. It was on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the place provided by David."
 
 
 
So the Temple was built on Mt. Moriah, the very place where Isaac was to be sacrificed, the place Abraham called, "The Lord will provide".
 
So all these similarities come into focus as Isaac rises from the pages of the Old Testament to tell us about Jesus. He was a son of promise, the only beloved son of his father, who travelled for three days, accompanied by two men, carrying his own wood to the mountain called "the Lord will provide" and there asked a question of his father. 
 
It's a pretty accurate picture, don't you think?  However, the stories make a very deliberate separation at one critical point.  And that is at the point of
 
3.  The Substitute
 
Isaac wasn't sacrificed was he? In fact, when Isaac asked his father "where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son."
 
And that's exactly what God did at Calvary.  He provided Himself a sacrifice."
 
Genesis 22:13 tells us that 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."
 
Note the phrase, "instead of his son" because it is at that point the similarities cease and the picture suddenly changes.  No longer is Isaac a picture of Christ. He is now a picture of us. Isaac didn't die; a substitute died in his place. 
Now think about that: God supplied the substitute for Isaac and that substitute died in his place and that's exactly what He did for us. God Himself provided a substitute for us and that substitute was Jesus. And just as the ram died in the place of Isaac, Jesus died in our place.  
 
It's interesting, isn't it that Isaac was saved from death, whereas Jesus saves us through death."
 
And one final detail allows everything to come into focus: 
 
Hebrews 11:17-19
 
Now get this picture. Up yonder on Mount Moriah, old Abraham stands above his son, with a knife ready to plunge into his son's heart. Isaac is at the very point of death. He was moments away from leaving this world.
 
Abraham was about to kill his only son in obedience to the command of God.  Even though it will mean the end of the promise, he is obeying the same God that made the promise of nations and sons and children and offspring that would number as the stars in heaven and the sands on the seashore.
 
And there stands Abraham, convinced that God would not lie to him. So convinced is He of the promise of God that even if he killed his son, God would bring him back to life to keep his promise. 
 
And in a sense, and this is what the writer of Hebrews is telling us, in one way of looking at it, that's exactly what happened. 
 
Isaac was as good as dead and Abraham received his son back from the dead and now he lived.  By contrast, Jesus did die, but He didn't stay dead either! In an even greater show of the power and promise of God, Jesus really did die and really came back from the dead.
 
And Jesus did that so we would know that because He now lives, we shall live also. And that's where everything comes into sharp focus. He wants you to know that just as surely as God's promise to Abraham was fulfilled through Isaac, so is God's promise to us fulfilled through Jesus. 
 
Jesus said: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.
 
In fact, the confession of faith that is required to be saved focuses on one primary fact that must be believed.  Paul said to the Romans, in 10:9-10, "that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."
 
In Genesis 22 God painted us a portrait of Jesus so that we would know Jesus' death, burial and resurrection had been planned for centuries. And that Portrait was painted so that we might believe.
 
Abraham was willing to let his son die because he believed in God's promise. God was willing to let His Son die so that you could be saved. Do you believe His promise today?  If so, we ask you to come and make a public declaration of that faith today. 
 
Let's pray.
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