Abraham said, “God will provide the Lamb, my son.”
Peter said, “(…you were redeemed) with precious blood, as of a lamb…the blood of Christ.”
Isaiah said, “Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter…”
The Apostle John said, “And I saw…a Lamb standing, as if slain…” “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain…”
John the Baptist said, “Behold, the Lamb of God…” Look! There He is!
It has been more than four thousand years (2040 B.C.) since Abraham took his young son Isaac, his only son, to the top of Mount Moriah. There, according to God’s direct instructions, Abraham would sacrifice the boy. God was about to teach them one of the richest and most profound truths to be revealed anywhere in Scripture.
God had earlier made a promise to Abraham. He told him he would have a son. Abra-ham believed God, so when He told Abraham to sacrifice his son, the very son of God’s promise, he set about to do it. In the process, the father and his boy learned a great lesson. It was that God would provide a perfect sacrifice for sin. The lesson they learned is for us as well. However, there is one all-important difference. The difference is that God has provided a perfect sacrifice for sin.
7 And Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
8 And Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.
Looking back we are able to understand the prophecy with great clarity. It is truly amazing! Notice that all of it is worked out through the unwavering faith of Abraham, an obedient believer. Consider just a few of the details in Genesis 22…
• In v. 1, Isaac is Abraham’s first and only (legitimate) son. (What about Ishmael?)
• In v. 2, Moriah is mentioned. (Many theologians believe that Mount Moriah was what is now the temple mount in Jerusalem. Others argue that the very mountain climbed by Abraham and Isaac is none other than Calvary’s hill itself.)
• In v. 5, Abraham, already knowing that he is going to kill Isaac, tells his servants they’ll both be coming back down the mountain.
• In v. 6, Isaac carries the instrument of his pending death (wood) on his own back.
Hebrews tells us that this is a typical prophecy or a prophecy of type. In it Abraham is a picture of God the Father and Isaac is a picture of God the Son.
17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested offered up Isaac; and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son;
18 it was he to whom was said, “In Isaac your descendants shall be called.”
19 He considered that God is able to raise men even from the dead; from which he also received him back as a type.
(Now turn back to Genesis 22 and we’ll continue the narrative.)
9 Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there, and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood.
10 And Abraham stretched out his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.
11 But the angel of the LORD (the pre-incarnate Christ) called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”
12 And (the angel of the LORD) said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”
13 Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son.
Someone may say, “All the references you opened with speak of a lamb. So why does God provide Abraham with a ram for the sacrifice? Is there a difference?” Actually, there is, and I think it shows yet again how truly amazing the Word of God really is.
The Hebrew word translated “lamb” in Genesis 22:7-8 is “’ayil.” It’s a masculine term meaning something of great strength. The OT uses it to describe a strong pillar such as one that would be used to support the temple. “’Ayil.” is also used to refer to a strong tree such as a mature oak. Finally, the word is used in the OT to speak of a mighty man.
So that gives us some insight into what Abraham and Isaac were looking for, doesn’t it? They weren’t looking for what you and I think of as a meek, mild, and weak little lamb at all. They were looking for strength, a pillar, a mighty man. On the other hand, the word “ram” in Genesis 22:13 is “śeh,” meaning a small young sheep or goat. That’s what God gave them for their offering. “Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter…” But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Abraham, Isaac, and their descendants remembered this encounter with God. They always knew that someday God would provide a sacrifice sufficient to take away their sins. But I don’t think they were exactly sure just how God would do it.
Six hundred years later, (1450 B.C.) God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. The Lord spoke again and shed more light on what it was that He intended to do. He would establish The Passover. God would use Moses and Aaron to paint a picture of what would be done in Jerusalem 1480 years later. Again, a lamb was a central figure.
*Exodus 12:1-3, 5-7, 12-13
1 Now the LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt,
2 “This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you.
3 “Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month they are each to take a lamb for themselves…(around March 15 to April 15 – so the 10th day is late in March and the 14th day is around April 1)
5 ‘Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old…
6 ‘And you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight.
7 ‘Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two door-posts and on the lintel of the houses…
12 ‘For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast…
13 ‘And the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you…’”
Notice some of the prophetic details that apply to the sacrificial lamb here in Exodus 12.
• In v. 5, the lamb will be young and perfect, i.e., without visible defect or deformity.
• In v. 6, the lamb will be kept around the house. Then after a short time, the family will kill it before sunset. This to be done in front of the entire nation.
• In v. 7, the lamb’s blood will be applied to your “dwelling place.” It will show your obedience to God’s commands. Then by passing through the blood and passing under the blood…
• In vv. 12-13, …eternal death will pass over you.
Notice what God has required of his people. Where faith was the key for Abraham and Isaac, obedience was the primary issue for Moses and Aaron. The lesson? Has God provided a perfect sacrifice for you? Will eternal death pass over you? If your faith is in God, and if you obey Him, then the answer to both questions is emphatically, “Yes!”
In fact, about thirty years after the crucifixion, the Apostle Peter reminded all who have saving faith and obey Christ that… (belief and obedience are inseparable – John 3:36)
*1 Peter 1:18-19
18 …knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver and gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers,
19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.
Each year at Easter we remember what God’s spotless Lamb did for us.
*Isaiah 53:1-3, 7
1 Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been extended?
2 For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
3 He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth.
God’s spotless Lamb came to be a sacrifice. He came as the One Abraham and Isaac were looking for. He came as the One Peter spoke about. He came as the One to redeem us from our sins and cause eternal death to pass over us. But it took the ultimate sacri-fice, didn’t it? As we come to the Communion table we remember that sacrifice.
God gave us His Lamb, His only Son for us as a substitutionary atonement. That simply means that Jesus did for us what we could not do ourselves. We all know what a substi-tute is, but “atonement” is a word we don’t use much anymore.
One secular dictionary, Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, defines atonement as “satisfaction given for wrongdoing (or) injury.” The word itself is derived from an Anglo-Saxon term which means “making at one.”
The Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia, defines it this way. “(Atonement) speaks of the process of bringing those who are enemies into harmony and unity, and thus it means reconciliation.”
Putting the two definitions together, we see first that, in Jesus’ sacrifice, God is satisfied, and second, that we are no longer God’s enemies. “God’s enemies?” I think it’s safe to say that most unbelievers have no idea that they are God’s enemy. But they are.
1 Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The point is that until we come in saving faith to Christ, until God has made us righteous in His sight, until we have been justified before Him, a state of war exists between us. It should be readily apparent that this is a war we cannot win.
Someone may ask, “How did I get involved in this war?” The answer is quite simple.
It’s your parents’ fault. That is to say, it’s your first parents’ fault. Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden separated them (and consequently us) from God. In order to be reconciled to God, atonement, “satisfaction for wrongdoing” must be made.
But in God’s perfect economy sin can only be atoned for by the death of the sinner. Blood must be shed. The sentence of death must be carried out. The sinner must die.
Unless there can be found a suitable substitute. In this case, suitable means perfect. And God’s perfect substitute already existed in the person of His Son.
In theological terms this substitution would be called “vicarious.” Just like the word atonement, vicarious isn’t used much any more either. But it isn’t a mystery. It simply means “one taking the place of another.”
Our Bibles clearly teaches that God’s Lamb, the Holy One of Israel, the Jewish Messiah, the Christ, fulfills that role. He is our substitute. (I want to personalize this.)
4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore, yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.
6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.
This passage is overflowing with illustrations of vicarious and substitutionary atonement.
And as with all the great doctrines that are introduced in the OT, they are reaffirmed and then they are confirmed in the NT.
1 Peter 2:24
24 He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross that we might die to sin and live to righteousness…
2 Corinthians 5:21
21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
It is here where we can see the direct application for us. We were dead in sin but we are alive in Christ. We have been made righteous in Him because He has taken our place.
The blood that Jesus spilled was spilled for you and for me. So we remember His perfect sacrifice as we receive the elements that so eloquently represent Christ’s body and blood. They are a picture of Jesus’ vicarious substitutionary atonement. But why blood? Why must blood be shed for the forgiveness of sin? Isn’t there some other way?
The answer to that question is simply, “No, there isn’t!” When God instituted the Pass- over He made it clear that when He saw the blood, He would spare the people.
So for fifteen hundred years, from the time of Moses until the Messiah came, the blood of bulls and goats and lambs was spilled again and again and again. These blood sacrifices were made literally millions of times over those fifteen hundred years. They were done so that the Jews would never forget that shed blood was the only thing that could save a man’s eternal soul.
But even in that there was a problem. There was a problem with all the animals that had been sacrificed. The writer of Hebrews tells us what it was.
4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
Now all those millions of sacrificed little lambs were a testimony to Israel’s obedience to God’s demand for the shedding of blood for the remission of sins.
11 “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.”
As is always the case the NT confirms the OT.
22 …all things are cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
All that blood from all those millions of sacrificial bulls, goat, and lambs could not remove sin or take away sin. All that blood could only cover sin – like new paint on an old car. King David fully understood the difference between sin that is temporarily hidden from view and sin that is permanently gone.
1 How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!
(“Covered” in Hebrew is the word, “kāsāh.” It means “concealed” or “unseen.” It does not mean “gone.” )
And that brings us back to John the Baptist. John, the last of the OT Prophets, was especially privileged by God to be the one to point to God’s Lamb.
29 “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (“Takes away” in Greek is the word “airō.” It means “removed” or “eliminated.”)
God’s perfect sacrificial Lamb not only rendered our sin invisible, He took it away. He removed it as far as the East is from the West.
8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.
9 He will not always strive with us; nor will He keep His anger forever.
10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkind-ness toward those who fear Him.
12 As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgres-sions from us. (example of globe – north to south, etc.)
God did this for us because He knew we couldn’t do it ourselves. Simply put, if He didn’t do it, it wouldn’t get done. Here yet again we see that salvation solely is of God. We can do nothing but come to Him in faith. Once we do and once we begin to learn His Word, we find that even our faith is a gift from Him. “By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” – Ephesians 2:8. Now look at the next two verses in…
13 Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compass-sion on those who fear Him.
14 For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.
It is because He knows us so well, that we cannot save ourselves, and that without His firm assurances we would have no hope, that He has made an unshakeable promise.
1 “Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.
2 “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you.
3 “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
Jesus cannot lie. “I will come again, and receive you to Myself.” This is our great hope. Jesus, the Lamb of God, will come as a bridegroom for His church. After the church, the Bride of Christ, has been taken to heaven, she will be rewarded and made ready for the marriage supper.
7 “Let us rejoice and be glad and give glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready.”
8 And it was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
Then Jesus’ will return to the earth along with His bride, the now spotless church, to establish His Millennial Kingdom. While we wait for Jesus to come for us, we celebrate communion. The night He established it he made us yet another promise when He said…
29 “…I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.
From then on we will be with Him forever. Christians will spend eternity in the presence of God and all the saints of all the ages, and in the very presence of the Lamb of God.
1 And he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and the Lamb,
2 in the middle of its street. And on either side of the river was the tree, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the trees were for the healing of the nations.
3 And there shall no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and the Lamb shall be in it, and His bond-servants shall serve Him;
4 and they shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.
5 And there shall no longer be any night; and they shall not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall illumine them; and they shall reign forever and ever. (absent from the body…)
It is in all of this that we remember God’s provision of His perfect Lamb, His willingness to lay down His life for us, His resurrection from the dead, the sure promise of His return to gather His church to Himself, and the assurance of eternal life in His presence.
“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
Will you join me at the table?