As I previously noted, the Christmas story did not begin in the manger. It began in the Garden of Eden, when sin entered the picture. Adam and Eve, realizing their sin, saw they needed a covering for their nakedness. Furthermore, so arrived the need for Jesus to come to this earth to be born of a virgin, so that He could be the ultimate, final covering of sin through His death, burial and resurrection.
But we see the foundations of the Christmas story later in Genesis 22, where we read the account of Abraham and Isaac. As Abraham, the father, takes his only son, Isaac, to the land of Moriah, God told him that he should sacrifice Isaac there. And Abraham sets off to do as God has commanded. We can’t imagine how heavy his heart was. In verse 2, we see that God knew how much Abraham loved Isaac, but this was a time of testing. We all must go through these times.
Back to the scene in Genesis 22, we see Isaac was dismayed by what was happening, asking his father why they did not have a lamb for the burnt offering. Abraham’s response is beautiful and powerful: “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering.” In times of testing, do you trust God? When the trials of life become virtually unbearable, can you still say, “God will provide?”
We had a very unique service at Thomas Road Baptist Church recently, with my good friends Dr. Harold Willmington, the renowned Christian author and pastor, and his son Matt, who serves as director of ministries at our church, teaching about this wonderful passage in Genesis. Dr. Willmington called Isaac’s question to Abraham “one of the most profound questions ever asked.” He noted that two thousand years later, John the Baptist would ultimately answer Isaac’s question when he saw Jesus approaching, stating, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”
As for Isaac, God halts Abraham’s hand before he can sacrifice Isaac. God sees that Abraham loves Him more than his young son and that Abraham would be obedient to anything God required of him. God then provides a lamb for the sacrifice. In verse 14, we see that Abraham names this place “Jehovah-Jireh” — the Lord will provide.
Matt noted that this was Abraham’s “greatest point of testing,” and God was there. He stated also that, no matter what we are facing today, no matter what kind of fiery furnace it may be, “God is there.” This story is a beautiful foreshadowing of the coming of Jesus to become the Lamb of God who will take away the sin of the world. Isaac is a picture of Jesus and we see that both Isaac and Jesus are the only sons. Both Isaac and Jesus are obedient. Both Isaac and Jesus have wood placed on them.
But Matt said there is more to the story. We, as followers of Christ, are all like Abraham at times. Matt said, “At times, God asks us to give up something we love, or something we are holding onto childishly, or selfishly. And God asks us to give more to Him, not because He is a vindictive God, but because it’s so much better for us to put more on the altar in front of Him so He can give so much back to us.”
My friends, this wonderful story that serves as amazing groundwork for the Messiah who would later come, reminds us today that God will provide when we trust Him. Jesus left the portals of heaven so that we can have eternal life in Him. We need to be living like Abraham, serving faithfully and being willing servants of the Lord who saved us.