Let us pray: Lord, today as we begin our walk to Your cross with this season of self-sacrifice, grab our hearts and shake them! Focus our entire being on the meaning of genuine self-sacrifice and what it entails. For only then will we be able to truly appreciate what You did upon that cross for us. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR SUFFERING SAVIOR
TEXT: Genesis 22: 1-8 excerpts
Fellow Redeemed In Our Suffering Savior:
Everyone knows, or should know, that the season of Lent mirrors Christ’s 40 days of temptation by Satan in the wilderness. Hence, the Gospel for the 1st Sunday in Lent is always about Christ’s temptation. Just as He was introspective during those 40 days, we need to be self-searching too. Just as He faced up to temptation, we should too. And just as He overcame Satan’s temptations; armed with His power by focusing upon Him, we can too. So Lent really is all about strengthening our faith through Christ’s almighty power. With all that in mind, I have a question for each of you. That being:
IS LENT OLDER THAN CHRIST?
The obvious answer is: No! How could Lent, which finds definition in Christ’s ministry and culminates with His victory over Satan on the cross, be older than He is? It defies logic. It’s an impossibility. Ah, but is it?
Abraham, the father of God’s faithful, was an old man—probably about 120. During his long life God had promised him many things and always delivered, even when Abraham didn’t know how it would be possible. God had told him to leave his native land and set out for an unknown country that He would show him. Abraham did so until he reached the promised land. There God told him to stay put. Abraham started out with a few servants and a little money. God told him to be faithful to Him and that He would provide blessings. He did! And Abraham became very, very rich. God also promised Abraham a naturally born son through whom, eventually, the Messiah would be born. But that promise was slow in coming. Abraham waited and waited. Sarah, his wife, waited and waited until menopause occurred.—And no son was born. She laughed when the Angel of the Lord appeared in their camp and said: “Next year at this time, Sarah will give birth.” She laughed because she was 90 years old and no other 90 year old of her time had ever done so. And yet, God delivered and Isaac, whose name means “laughter” was born. In all these long trials of life, Abraham believed. He clung to God’s promises. And we’re told throughout the Bible that: “Abraham believed and God credited it to him as righteousness.” Yes, his faithfulness to God’s faithful promises made him right with God, just like it does you and me. Faith alone saves!
No one was nearer and dearer to Abraham’s heart than Isaac. He was Abraham’s living future—really truly. That’s because via Isaac, Abraham’s key, his ticket to heaven, the Christ would eventually be born. So, we can say that Abraham’s life was entirely wrapped up in Isaac, wasn’t it?
But now, God decides to test this faithful follower’s faith, one more time. Exactly whom does Abraham love more: God or Isaac? So, God devises a test to find out. He sends him off with Isaac and 2 servants to Mt. Moriah, the area where Jerusalem eventually would be built, the area where the future temple would be built, the area where Golgotha would eventually be assigned for crucifixion. God says: “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to that region. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”
Talk about getting hit with a 2 by 4! Abraham is to kill Isaac, through whom Abraham’s eternal soul would be saved because Isaac’s seed would eventually produce Jesus Christ. Then Abraham is to burn Isaac’s body up as a total sacrifice to God! Talk about ripping out his heart!
And yet, what happens? Abraham obeys. He doesn’t argue with God, doesn’t quote the 5th commandment at Him, and doesn’t wait. He leaves the next day. When they arrive at the site, they cut enough wood for a burnt offering. You know, I’ve dug two graves for 2 of my dogs the day before the vet came to the house to “put them down.” Emotionally it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. You dig that grave hearing them barking and seeing them tottering around knowing in a few hours their cold body will lay in that hole in the ground. Imagine how Abraham must have felt?
Then comes an interesting comment by Abraham to his servants: “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”
“We will come back to you.” Was that a lie? What did this hero of faith mean by that comment? Did he believe God would somehow change His mind at the last minute? Did he believe God would somehow give him another son after Isaac, even in his advanced years? Or did he mean that somehow God would resurrect Isaac after his body was burned up? Well, I guess you’ll find out in heaven.
Anyway, they built the altar together, without Isaac knowing exactly what would occur. Finally, his father binds him and lays him on the altar. Now Isaac knows! But note well that this strong, rugged young man of 20 years doesn’t fight his aged father. He could have resisted, but doesn’t. You see, he trusts in his father’s love just as Abraham trusted in God’s love for him. When Abraham is ready to plunge the knife into Isaac, God intervenes! “Do not lay a hand on the boy!…Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Abraham looks around and there in the thicket is a ram caught by its horns. He unties Isaac, takes the ram, offers it up instead, and christens the mountain, which many believe to have been Golgotha: “The Lord provides.”
Then the angel of the Lord, calls to Abraham a second time and pronounces a blessing upon him. That “angel” begins His words by saying: “I swear by myself, declares the Lord,” announces the blessing, and then ends with “because you have obeyed me.” So, exactly who was that angel? Our text is clear. The angel is God, specifically the pre-incarnate Christ. And this little, or should we say, this huge story, is a forerunner of what would occur on that spot centuries later. That being: God the Father not withholding from any of us the life of His Son to save our lives everlastingly!
So, Is Lent Older Than Christ? I believe so. At Abraham’s time Christ wasn’t yet born and wasn’t yet fully human. And yet, here Christ is intimately involved in teaching him the true meaning of what self-sacrifice and faith really meant. And now as you walk the days of Lent, you know too. It is about total self-surrender to God, born of Christ’s total self-surrender to His Father, for us! Amen