Life-Altering Altars: Provision

What kind of God would ask a man to sacrifice his Son?!

Early pagan cultures sought the help of their gods to provide favorable conditions for their crops to grow and their livestock to thrive.  The difficulty came in how to make sure that the gods were pleased with them and to keep the gods from punishing them.

At harvest time they would take a portion of their crop and offer it on an altar as a token of gratitude.  If conditions for survival became unfavorable for them, they would conclude that not enough had been offered.  It is obvious that anxiety was a continual feature of this “religion,” because people were never sure where they stood with the gods.  They believed the only assurance was to offer more of their possessions.  Anxiety might escalate to the point where they offered parts of flocks or herds or, in desperation, even their most valuable treasure …a child!

Consider the dramatic story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22.  When God told him to offer his son Isaac, Abraham did not hesitate.  There was no argument or protest.  This was the way things work.  He took his son, some servants, and a donkey for the journey of three days in route to Mount Moriah (which means “in the presence of Jehovah”).  When they arrived, Abraham told the servants to remain with the animal.  Then he said to them, “We will worship and then return to you.”  This should get our attention.

This event is most often applied as a father so devoted to God, that he is willing to kill his son.  But, do not miss what happened next.  Isaac naturally asked his father about the sacrifice.  Abraham answered, “the Lord will provide.” (Jehovah-Jireh)  As Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac, God stopped him and offered a ram in his place.  At this point, most of us exit the story with a sense of relief.  But watch what happened next!

The angel of the Lord (probably a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ, known in theology as a “theophany”) showed up and once again confirmed the promise made to Abraham: that he was going to be blessed and that through his descendants all the nations of the world would experience blessing.

What kind of God would ask a man to sacrifice his son?!  NOT THIS ONE!

Those people who heard this story in Abraham’s day would have been breathless.  This God requires nothing.  He gives.  He provides.  And in the fullness of time, this God provided His Son as the ultimate sacrifice.  This God can be believed and trusted!

In the next post…the conclusion to “Life-Altering Altars.”