Jehovah Jireh

The Sacrifice of Abraham

Yesterday, I blogged about Eid-Al-Adha – The Feast of the Sacrifice which Muslims celebrate as a great festival in commemoration of the unselfish act and willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son by Hagar, Ishmael, to the One God, Allah. For the Jews and Christians, the child in this story is Isaac.

Everyone agrees, Muslims, Christians and Jews that Abraham was ordered by God to sacrifice his son and that he was willing to do so but before it happened, God gave him a sheep to sacrifice instead of his cherished progeny. As far as this part of the story is concerned, everyone agrees.

However, for the Jews and Christians, the sacrificed child was Isaac but according to the Islamic tradition the sacrificed child is Ishmael.  Was it Isaac or was it Ishmael whom God instructed Abraham offer? It is not my intention to cause argument and debate with this post. The difference is that Christians accept the testimony of the Bible while Muslims reject the Bible and believe the Qur’an. The Bible records that Abraham was willing to offer Isaac. The Koran, claims that Abraham was willing to offer Ishmael.

Jews and Christians embraced Isaac as one of their patriarchs, Muslims tie their history to Ishmael.

I am reposting the Christians’ account of the story of Abraham’s Sacrifice [Parts 1 & 2 of Jack Lane's article on The Sacrifice of Abraham and Isaac]

The Sacrifice of Abraham and Isaac

by Jack M. Lane

Part 1: The Long Journey

Part One of this series is written as a short story. We will follow Abraham and Isaac to a lonely hilltop in the Promised Land, and watch the compelling saga of one of the greatest sacrifices in the history of God’s work. In Part Two, we will examine many of the dynamics of Abraham’s sacrifice, and see how it applies to us today!

Abraham was stunned. He didn’t want to believe what he had just heard.

Sacrifice Isaac? Cut him up and burn him like a lamb or a goat? How could he bring himself to do it? And why? God had never required human sacrifice before!

He knew it was the voice of God that spoke to him. He was very familiar with the voice of El Shaddai, the God Who is Sufficient, the Creator of heaven and earth. There was no deception; it was El Shaddai who had made this unthinkable demand. But why?

“What of the promise?”, Abraham thought. He had been told that his descendants would be blessed, and that they would be uncountable for very number. Abraham had waited, in faith, for over twenty years to see a child born of his elderly wife, Sarah. This child, El Shaddai had assured him, would be the one through whom the dynasty of Abraham would grow great and encircle the earth. This very child. But now –

“El Shaddai?”, Abraham called out. There was no answer. He raised his voice. “Yahweh?” There was only the stirring of a slight wind across the open plain. Abraham gazed out over the land of Canaan he knew and loved so well, his robes gently flowing in the breeze. He waited. The Voice said no more. There was no point in staying here any longer, he thought. Abraham often came to this spot to be alone with his God, but now he didn’t want to stay.

He knew he must obey. Delay would only weaken his resolve. Many years had taught him that the Voice he would sometimes hear was indeed the God of all creation, and Abraham had grown to trust Him, respect Him, and revere Him. Abraham would eagerly long to speak with God, and looked forward to each opportunity. Until now.

Abraham knew God as no one else on earth did, well enough to know that whatever God said would come true, and that whatever God commanded needed to be carried out. It was the only course of action Abraham could take.

The old man turned and slowly trudged back to the camp. His walk, already slowed by age, was slower still as he contemplated this thing he was to do. Deep in thought, he didn’t take notice of the active life of the camp, the camels braying, the children running gleefully through the open yard, the dust and sand stirred up everywhere by the thousands of animals and hundreds of people in Abraham’s own sheikdom. He was scarcely aware of his herdsmen and servants and their families. Large families with many children.

TELLING SARAH

He dreaded to enter Sarah’s tent. How could he tell her what he must do? Of course he couldn’t. He mustn’t. He would simply go and do this awful thing without discussing it. She would never forgive him; he knew that. But he would face that later.

Sarah rose as Abraham entered the tent. He knew she was waiting to hear what El Shaddai had said to him. She had always felt a thrill to think that God Himself had chosen her husband, out of all men, to befriend, to speak with directly. Why, had He not come personally with His angels to visit and tell them that they would have this wonderful son? Sarah couldn’t help feeling proud of her husband, and her son. Very proud.

Abraham did not speak. “My lord,” she asked, “what did our God say today?”

For a long moment, Abraham looked at her. He had never hesitated to tell her everything. “I must go sacrifice to our God,” he said at last, his voice somewhat husky and thick. “He told me to make a sacrifice to Him.”

“Yes, my lord, of course,” she replied. “I shall have the servants keep your dinner for when you return.”

“No,” he said, his eyes downcast. “I must go to Moriah.” He looked up and continued, “To a mountain He will show me. This is to be — a special sacrifice. A very special sacrifice.” He looked away. “We will be gone for a few days.” Almost as an afterthought, he added quietly, “Then I will return.”

Sarah wanted to ask something, but she was not sure what to ask. Instead, she busied herself immediately. “I will have food prepared for your journey, then.” She also had learned long ago not to question unusual circumstances, but to obey cheerfully. “You will take Isaac? He loves to help you with the sacrifices.”

“Yes,” Abraham sighed. “Isaac will go with me.”

Sarah began to assemble things for Abraham to take, chatting nervously as she moved about the spacious tent. “I’m so glad Isaac loves God as much as we do,” she said. “I’m so proud of him. He loves to serve God and help with the sacrifices.”

Abraham’s heart sank. He opened his mouth to speak, but thought better of it. “She will be heartbroken,” he thought. “So will I. But God knows much better than I what is best. I don’t understand now; I wish I did. But I will obey so that I will understand later. I hope I will.”

SETTING OUT FOR MORIAH

Early the next morning, Abraham, riding his donkey, left the camp with Isaac and two other young men walking alongside. They carried a stack of wood, and a wisp of smoke curled up from the torch one of the servants carried.

For three days they traveled. Isaac wondered about the special sacrifice they were going such a great distance to offer.

Abraham didn’t say much during the journey. He spent much of the time thinking about his son. He remembered the day the boy was born. They named him “Laughter” because, after almost a century, there was at last a son to bring endless joy and happiness to his aged parents. Abraham reminisced about events from Isaac’s childhood. Now this boy, so recently a young man, was to be cut off, at the hands of his own father. Yet, God had commanded it, so it would be done.

Abraham thought, “If Isaac is to be sacrificed, God will have to raise him up again, else how could I become the father of many nations through him if he is not? That must be it. God does not lie. He will raise up Isaac again, and keep His promise to me and my descendants.” Abraham attempted to comfort himself with that thought.

On the third day, Abraham saw the mountain in the distance. He had the servants make camp where they were, while he and Isaac walked on to the mountain, carrying the wood, the ceremonial knife, and the torch.

abraham-and-isaac-sacrifice
And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He abraham-and-isaac-sacrifice-craftsaid, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”  Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. Genesis 22:7-8 (ESV) And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen. Genesis 22:14 (KJV) Photo Credit | http://lifeaftercaregiving.wordpress.com/2014/04/11/
TWO MEN ALONE

They walked along for some time. “Father,” Isaac said. “Here I am,” Abraham responded, still looking forward. Isaac continued, “Father, I am carrying the wood for the fire. You have the knife and the torch. God supplies us with rocks to pile up for the altar. But Father, we have brought no animal to sacrifice. Where is the lamb to sacrifice?”

Where is the sacrifice? Abraham’s heart tore in his bosom. Sacrifice? He choked back a sob. Who would be making the larger sacrifice? Once the deed was done, unless God brought Isaac back to life and restored him, Abraham would go back and live with the horrible memory of having slaughtered and burned his own son, the boy in whom he and Sarah had placed their hopes. Sarah. Who, indeed, would be making the largest sacrifice?

“Father?”

Abraham came out of his deep thought. “My son,” he began. For a long moment, it became difficult to see, and Abraham needed to stop. He looked at Isaac. “My son, God will provide Himself with a little lamb for the sacrifice.” They walked on in silence. The meaning was becoming clear to Isaac.

Isaac had been brought up from his earliest days with a strong assurance in the God of his father and mother. All his life he had heard of the mighty deeds of El Shaddai, the great God who had created everything. He knew, as his father Abraham knew, that El Shaddai was the wisest, gentlest, most merciful God that could be, unlike the false gods of wood, stone, and imagination the surrounding nations had always worshipped. Isaac knew, as did his father, to trust El Shaddai implicitly.

Neither spoke as they reached the summit. Together they began to assemble large rocks for an altar, as they had done hundreds of times before. Abraham arranged the stones, stacked the firewood on top of the makeshift altar, then turned to his son.

When their eyes met, there was understanding, and trust. Isaac made no move as Abraham bound his wrists together with a leather thong. Isaac watched as Abraham squatted down to bind his ankles. Isaac offered no resistance as his father leaned him over his shoulder and hoisted him up like a sack of barley — or an animal — and lay him on the wood.

Isaac knew, from helping with many sacrifices, what would happen next. His father would use the ceremonial knife to open a deep wound in Isaac’s neck, allowing the blood to rush out of his body, resulting in a quick, painless death.

Isaac was not afraid. He knew the promises as well, for his parents had taught him thoroughly from his youth. Isaac had the same abiding faith in God that his father had, and he trusted his father and God equally. Isaac actually felt sorry for his father, who had to do the task he was now doing.

Abraham’s head was spinning as he forced himself to do this thing so very much alien to him. There was a loud buzzing in his ears, and his face was white. A tear trickled down his cheek and disappeared into his beard. In Abraham’s mind, Isaac was already dead, so set was he on doing this thing El Shaddai had required of him.

He picked up the knife and wordlessly approached Isaac. How strange it felt to be doing this. This was the same ritual he had done thousands of times before, but every nerve screamed at him to stop. With one hand, Abraham exposed the side of Isaac’s neck. With the other hand, he reached for the knife to bring it near Sarah’s only son, hesitating for just a moment. He must do this quickly.

A ram was sacrificed in Isaac's place and Abraham had proved his absolute faith to God. Photo Credit | bearsenglishpage2012-2013.wikispaces.com
A ram was sacrificed in Isaac’s place and Abraham had proved his absolute faith to God.
Photo Credit | bearsenglishpage2012-2013.wikispaces.com
SALVATION!

The Voice called out, “Abraham! Abraham!” He was so intent on finishing the sacrifice that he almost didn’t stop. Yet he responded to the urgency in the Voice.

Without looking up, he wearily replied, “Here I am.”

The Voice sounded happy, almost jubilant, oddly out of place at that moment. “Don’t harm the lad,” He said. “Don’t do anything! Now I know that you truly worship and obey God, because you haven’t even kept your own son from Me!”

Abraham, numbed with grief over what he had purposed to do, was slow to react and to understand. El Shaddai repeated, “Abraham, let Isaac go. You passed the test. You are a servant who pleases Me well!”

Abraham dared to look into Isaac’s face. Isaac was beaming with delight, both over his own release and from knowing that God had taken still more pleasure in his father; for Isaac, too, had heard the Voice from heaven.

Quickly, Abraham released Isaac, tears flowing freely. A sudden feeling of weakness came over him.

Abraham and Isaac
Isaac embraces his father Abraham after the Binding of Isaac, early 1900s Bible illustration Photo Credit | Wikipedia

A rustling in the bushes nearby attracted their attention. There was a ram, caught in the bushes by his horns! Indeed, as Abraham had said, God had provided a sacrifice for Himself. The two men looked at each other in astonishment, for they had not seen the ram earlier. Abraham strode purposefully to where the ram was held, grabbed hold of the animal, and sacrificed it on the altar which had so recently held Isaac. Isaac eagerly assisted in the offering of this substitute sacrifice, with a vigor and enthusiasm born of a new understanding of the purpose of burnt offerings. When the torch was applied to the wood, and a small flame began to rise from the altar, the experience felt different to both men than it ever had before.

After the offering had been consumed, Abraham and Isaac stood, arms around each other, watching the fire die down and the smoke rise to heaven. As they stood, El Shaddai spoke again in the hearing of them both. Abraham was told that, because of his unswerving loyalty and obedience, great blessings were now assured, unconditionally, and the entire world would be blessed through Abraham’s seed, simply because he obeyed. Now Abraham had a better understanding of why God had commanded such a difficult thing.

AbrahamIsaacOffer
The site of Abraham’s intended sacrifice, and the mountain on which the Temple of Jerusalem was built. The best-known tradition related to Mount Moriah is the binding of Isaac for sacrifice by his father Abraham, related in (Genesis 22:3-10). Photo Credit | http://www.godsoutreachministryint.org/

 

Once the fire had died out, Abraham and Isaac began the long descent back to where the two others were waiting. They couldn’t help smiling as they walked, and occasionally grinned at each other. Once in awhile they stopped and hugged each other. All the while they spoke excitedly of the things El Shaddai had told them, about the influence Abraham and Isaac and their seed would have over the entire world.

Both men felt elated, on a spiritual and emotional plane neither had experienced before. Both of them had grown immeasurably from this experience on a hilltop in Canaan where, in one moment, two men had proven themselves to God, and God had proven Himself to them.

Part 2: The Significance of the Sacrifice

In  Part One of this series, we followed Abraham and Isaac to Mount Moriah and watched the unfolding drama of one of the most gripping sacrifices in history. Why did God demand such a sacrifice of Abraham, and what significance does it have for us today?

Abraham was the friend of God. We have that testimony in the Bible (James 2:23). God had put Abraham through a number of experiences in his life, and God knew the stuff of which Abraham was made. Sometimes Abraham did well. At other times, Abraham’s behavior, or his lack of faith, left something to be desired. Overall, though, Abraham’s life was pleasing to God.

But this test — sacrificing Isaac on a lonely mountain top — why would God ask Abraham to do such a thing?

GOD TESTS US IN MANY WAYS FOR MANY PURPOSES

Perhaps we sometimes wonder in our own lives why God asks what He does of us! We are increasingly being called on to do more than we have ever done before, to take on more responsibility than we previously had been allowed to take, to make more far-reaching decisions, change patterns in our lives, and face entirely new situations and temptations. We may have heard that, once we complete one “test,” God gives us another, so we may continue to grow.

We know that the life experiences of people in the Bible “happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition,” or as the margin says, for our instruction (1 Corinthians 10:11, NKJV throughout). Of course, the bad things, the sins and misdeeds, of Bible heroes were not written as examples of behavior we should follow; they were written as examples of human weakness and shortcomings, to admonish us not to fall prey to the same temptations and tendencies. Many times what happened to people in the Bible happened as a result of their own human failings. The instruction for us is to avoid the things that caught those people off-guard, and be better prepared to fight off sin and weakness — in other words, to learn from the mistakes of others.

We also know that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, [and] for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). The margin here says that scripture is given for “training, discipline.”

Training and discipline? Those sound like military terms, rather than religious terms! Yet, it’s true: God wants His people to be trained, disciplined, and obedient to Him.

For instance, God asked Abraham to do something that was absolutely against everything Abraham stood for — God asked him to sacrifice his son! But it turned out to be the right thing to do, because we can always trust God, and His commands.

If God asks us — and if we know that it’s God asking us — to do something difficult, or impossible, something that flies in the face of our previous training, something we never thought God would ever ask us to do — will our training tell us to always do what God wants us to do?

Think of Peter and his vision: “Rise, Peter, kill and eat” (Acts 10:13). Too many people have jumped to a wrong conclusion about what it was God was asking Peter to do in that vision. However, once Peter understood what God was actually asking him to do, he was eager to accomplish what God wanted done (Acts 10-11).

Will our discipline be to immediately obey God in all cases, even in unprecedented circumstances? We have all been faced with new challenges in recent years, both in religion and in other areas of our lives. Have we always obeyed God instantly in all these new situations? If so, that will stand us in good stead for the trials and temptations that will be coming up in the future.

Since the break-up of the large church organization many of us had attended, and the scattering of so many of its members, God has been watching to see how much it means to us to be faithful and loyal to Him, even at the expense of our relationships with our family and friends. But this test, like so many other tests, has just been one more “straining” process in what we might look on figuratively as a stack of colanders through which we’re all falling. In this analogy, God is allowing the church to flow through several strainers, which are sifting us and separating us, as we each stop at our own level, where the appropriate colander catches us. It seems like an appropriate analogy of our recent experiences.

ASPECTS OF ABRAHAM’S TEST

Abraham’s various experiences throughout his life were also a sifting process along the strait and narrow road that he was walking in his life. We can take heart when he successfully passed a test, and we can sympathize and learn when we see him stumble in human weakness.

When God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham had to force himself to do something no one would have allowed him to do if anyone else had known about it! He couldn’t even ask anyone’s advice! He didn’t dare confide his plan to anyone — not even to Sarah. He couldn’t! He was all alone.

Sometimes we have to step out and obey God, all by ourselves, without our friends and family.

You’ve probably heard that when Abraham sacrificed Isaac, it was a picture, a type, of what would happen later when the Most High God, the Father, sacrificed His Son. There are some very real parallels, and they teach an important lesson.

HOW ANIMALS WERE SACRIFICED

You’ve probably also heard the story told many times over the years about Abraham lifting up the knife, ready to plunge it down into Isaac. What a gruesome picture! We’re told that’s what Abraham did. But that ghastly scenario is actually false!

Many ministers over the years have preached in great detail about how Abraham supposedly raised the knife in the air and was about to plunge it down, probably to stab Isaac in the chest ten or fifteen times. It’s heard every year. Those stories are not only wrong, but to tell it that way actually conceals a vitally important lesson! And when we look at it more closely, and actually learn that lesson, we will have a deepened understanding and appreciation, both for what Abraham and Isaac went through, and also for what the Father and Jesus went through many years later.

Let’s look at the account in Genesis chapter 22 and see, in plain language, what really took place on Mount Moriah.

“Then they [Abraham and Isaac] came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there [by piling up several large rocks to make a table] and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son” (Genesis 22:9-10). This is the point where God intervenes to stop Abraham from actually harming Isaac.

Nowhere does it say Abraham raised the knife up in the air in a threatening manner, pausing for a few seconds, ready to plunge the dagger into his helpless victim’s heart! That did not come from the Bible! Where did it come from? Most likely from any number of Hollywood mystery thriller murder movies. It’s quite unfortunate that this picture was superimposed in our minds over the clear description in Genesis.

Abraham was going to make a sacrifice. He had probably performed thousands of animals sacrifices over the years. Did he hold up the knife over every lamb or goat he ever slaughtered, scaring it into a frenzy before stabbing it repeatedly? What rubbish!

When an animal is tied up and lying on the altar, ready to be slaughtered, the most humane thing to do is to step up to it and quickly slice the arteries and veins in the neck, so that the animal’s own heart will pump the blood out onto the altar, and down to the ground. The animal doesn’t suffer. It quickly falls asleep as the blood no longer supplies the brain. Then, when there is no more blood to pump, the heart simply stops pumping. It’s a simple, quick and humane way to slaughter an animal.

Would Abraham have quickly and skillfully slit the throats of thousands of lambs, goats and bullocks, then do something radically different with Isaac? Of course not!

Abraham prepared the altar, stacked the fire wood on it, then turned and bound Isaac’s wrists and ankles, picked him up, laid him on top of the wood, and reached for the knife. It would only take a second or two to do the deed, and God had to stop Abraham instantly.

DOES IT MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

Why should we make such a fuss over this seemingly small point? There is a very important reason why we need to set the record straight about the manner in which Abraham sacrificed Isaac.

In the type and antetype relationship in this Old Testament example, Abraham represents the Father, and Isaac represents Christ. Isaac was to be the lamb for Abraham’s sacrifice. Jesus has always been known as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). You can think of several other comparisons. There are several.

But here’s where the traditional Catholic and Protestant teachings have jumped the track. They spend too much time looking at “the cross,” rather than focusing their attention on the sacrifice itself. They use the cross as a religious symbol, they bow down to it, they refer to the Father’s sacrifice of His Son as “the cross” (as in, “After the cross, many people were able to come to God and find salvation”). It’s common both in and out of religions to wear crosses as jewelry and decorate houses with them. People use the cross as an emblem, a visual aid, of the Father’s sacrifice of His Son.

While there is some disagreement as to whether or not all this is wrong, what venerating the cross does is to focus people’s attention on the instrument of death, rather than the sacrifice itself. So much depth of understanding is lost because people are not encouraged to study into the way Abraham’s sacrifice pictures God’s sacrifice.

Here’s the significance for us today: Was Abraham’s knife lifted up? No, Abraham’s knife was not lifted up. What was lifted up? Isaac was lifted up!

What does that picture? We aren’t to worship the cross as being lifted up, we are to worship Christ as being lifted up!

The apostle John quotes Jesus as saying, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up” (John 3:14).

Why? “That whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (verse 15)!

A few chapters later, Jesus says, “‘And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to myself.’ This He said, signifying by what death He would die'” (John 12:32-33).

How does Abraham’s sacrifice picture this? “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense” (Hebrews 11:17-19). That is, Abraham received Isaac from the dead, in a figurative sense, just as the Father received Jesus from the dead literally.

“Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?” (James 2:21) And if Abraham, who was portraying in type the Father’s sacrifice, was justified by works, would we not also consider that God Himself was also justified by works when He sacrificed His only-begotten Son?

To whom does God need to justify Himself? There is no one greater than Himself. No, it was not to justify Himself to Himself. God sacrificed His Son, as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world, in order to justify man to Himself! And our acceptance of that sacrifice justifies us to God.

The Bible says Abraham offered up Isaac. Yet, Isaac wasn’t cut up and burned! No, Abraham offered up Isaac on the altar, but God stopped him before he could actually sacrifice Isaac. Our Savior, however, “has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2). “But this Man [Christ], after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12).

What does that mean for us? “You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 2:5). What kind of spiritual sacrifices are we priests to offer? “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Hebrews 13:15-16).

Was there any shortcoming in Abraham’s sacrifice because Isaac did not actually die? Certainly not! Because Abraham had lifted up Isaac, to place him on the altar — because he had the knife in one hand and Isaac’s neck in the other, in total compliance to God’s will — because in his own mind it was already accomplished, God accounted the sacrifice to be complete because, in Abraham’s mind, it was a completed act.

THE ANALOGY CONTINUES

What happened next?

After Isaac was offered up on the altar, he was given his life back, by his father.

And not only was Isaac given life from the dead, but so were his descendants, the nations of Israel. Yes, because Isaac was sacrificed, but lived afterward, not only was he alive, but his children and grandchildren were able to be born, and the major Israelitish nations around the world today are alive, because Isaac was raised up from his being sacrificed!

If Isaac had not been released from his sacrifice of death, we would not be alive today!

And because Abraham was faithful, God made the promise unconditional, and the Israelitish nations have been blessed beyond all imagination, in physical possessions, wealth, power, and good life.

Do you see any spiritual comparisons in all this?

Since Christ, the Lamb of God (John 1:29, 36), was raised from the dead, following His being sacrificed, He is alive today (Revelation 1:18).

And because He is alive, all of us, in the body of Christ, have life in us, and the people of the world will be able to have that same life in them, because Christ was released from His sacrifice of death, and He lives today (John 3:36; 5:34; 6:35, 47, 54).

And because God is faithful, the spiritual Israelites of the Israel of God, the ekklesia of God, have eternal life, and will have unimaginable wealth and power as immortal spirit sons of God, and pleasures forevermore at the right hand of God (Psalms 16:11).

In one part of the prophecy, Christ was the promised Seed of Abraham. In another part of the prophecy, Isaac, although he was the only child of Abraham and Sarah, was not the only promised seed. There were to be others.

Let’s read about this in Galatians 3:6: “…just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.'” Skipping verse 7 for the moment, let’s continue in verse 8: “And the Scripture, forseeing that God would justify the nations by faith, preached the Gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the nations shall be blessed.'”

Then Paul explains, over in verse 16: “Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, ‘And to your seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘And to your Seed,’ who is Christ.”

But we know that Abraham was prophesied to be the father of many nations, and that the promise would be fulfilled through Isaac’s descendants. In fact, just a little later, Paul wrote, “Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise” (Galatians 4:28).

Do you see? Isaac was a child of promise, but so are we also children of promise! This is another aspect of the prophecies for Abraham and his descendants.

Let’s go back now and look at the verse we skipped earlier: “Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7).

“For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise” (verse 18). So Abraham received these promises, and we in the ekklesia are sons of Abraham. What does that mean?

“And if you are Christ’s then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (verse 29)!

Abraham was promised many nations as descendants, through our father Isaac, and that the world would be blessed because of them. That is, because of us.

And we in the ekklesia, whether or not we descended directly from Abraham or Isaac, are every bit as much children of the promise as Isaac was!

That’s what Paul was saying in Galatians. The Israelitish nations that exist today are every bit as much a fulfillment of prophecy, and of God’s keeping His promise to Abraham, as his own son Isaac was.

If Abraham had not sacrificed Isaac, the promises would not have become unconditional. And without Isaac being alive after the sacrifice, in order to raise up his son Jacob, these nations would not be here.

If the Father had not sacrificed Christ, and if Christ wasn’t alive after He was sacrificed, to raise up the ekklesia — spiritual Israel — none of us would be in God’s assembly, coming out of sin! There wouldn’t be a church of God, a body of Christ, an assembly of believers, carrying the gospel message around the world — and into our neighborhoods — to the nations of Israel.

And there wouldn’t be any nations of Israel to whom the ekklesia would bring the gospel!

What, then, did Abraham’s sacrifice of his and Sarah’s only-begotten son Isaac, on a deserted mountaintop dozens of centuries ago, have to do with us today, in the 20th century? What significance did a pile of rocks, and an old man, and a knife, have in the fulfillment of God’s plan in each one of our lives?

Just about everything!

Jehovah Jireh

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Eid Al Adha

Eid Al Adha – The Feast of the Sacrifice

In my almost 11 years now of working here in Saudi Arabia, I have seen two of the most important Islamic holidays celebrated year-after-year – the Eid-Al-Fitr and Eid-Al-Adha. The former festival marks the end of a month-long fasting known as Ramadan, while Eid-Al-Adha marks the end of Hajj, the pilgrimage to Islam’s holy city – Makkah.

What is Eid-Al-Adha?

Eid Al-Adha (Arabic عيد الأضحى, “Feast of the Sacrifice“) is a major Islamic festival that marks the completion of the hajj (pilgrimage) rites at Mina, Makkah, Saudi Arabia, As prescribed in the Five Pillars of Islam, it is customary for every abled Muslim to go on a Hajj at least once during his lifetime. Eid-Al-Adha is also popularly known as the Feast of the Sacrifice, commemorating Prophet Abraham’s unselfish act of sacrificing his own son Ishmael to the One God, Allah.

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Hajj: the significance of the fifth pillar of Islam – Photo shows the Muslim pilgrims in Makkah during Hajj.Photo Credit | Al Arabiya News english.alarabiya.net

Muslims believe that Abraham’s main trial was to obey the command of Allah to sacrifice his only son. Upon hearing this command, he prepared to submit to Allah’s will. When he was all prepared to do it, Allah revealed to him that his “sacrifice” had already been fulfilled. He had shown that his love for his Lord superseded all others that he would lay down his own life or the lives of those dear to him in order to submit to God.

The Qur’an describes Abraham as:

“Surely Abraham was an example, obedient to Allah, by nature upright, and he was not of the polytheists. He was grateful for Our bounties. We chose him and guided him unto a right path. We gave him good in this world, and in the next he will most surely be among the righteous.” (Qur’an 16:120-121)

How is it commemorated?

On the first morning of Eid al-Adha, Muslims around the world attend morning prayers at the masjid (mosque). Prayers are followed by visits with family and friends, and the exchange of greetings and gifts.

To commemorate this great act of sacrifice by Prophet Abraham, Muslims sacrifice a lamb, goat, ram or any other animal on Eid-Al-Adha. The meat from the sacrifice is mostly given away to others. A third is eaten by immediate family and relatives, a third is given away to friends, and one-third is donated to the poor.

The act symbolizes the person’s willingness to give up things that are beneficial to him or close to his heart, in order to follow Allah’s commands. It also symbolizes a person’s willingness to give up some of his own bounties, in order to strengthen ties of friendship and help those who are in need. Muslims recognize that all blessings come from Allah, and and they should open their hearts and share with others.

Muslims understand that the sacrifice itself, as they practice, has nothing to do with atoning for their sins or using the blood to wash themselves from sin. According to Muslim scholars, this was a misunderstanding by those in the previous generations.

“It is not their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah; it is your piety that reaches Him.” (Qur’an 22:37)

The symbolism is in the attitude – a willingness to make sacrifices in everyone’s lives in order to stay on the Straight Path. Each one makes small sacrifices, giving up things that are fun or important. A true Muslim is one who submits his or herself completely to the Lord, is willing to follow Allah’s commands completely and obediently. It is this strength of heart, purity in faith, and willing obedience that the Lord desires from His people.

References:
Eid-Ul-Adha: The Feast of Sacrifice in Islam
Eid Al-Adha: Festival of the Sacrifice

Eid-ul-Adha-History and Origin

For the Jews and Christians, the child in this story is Ishmael’s half-brother Isaac…

There are very few names that are known and honored throughout the world in the entire record of human history, but the name Abraham is. He is known, revered, and honored by three faiths. Jews, Muslims, and Christians all honor the name of Abraham. Here is a man who, by any reckoning at all, stands head and shoulders above most of the human race.

Eid-Al Adha Greetings from the desert coast by the Red Sea

May you all treasure this festive day with delight and the good moments measure all the special joys in your hearts. May the year ahead be fruitful too, for you, your homes and your families. May the choicest blessing of God fill your life with health, joy, and prosperity.

EID MUBARAK!

Eid Al Adha

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Chasing Sunsets in the Desert

Ever since I read about Fast Company’s article on Going Home at 5:30 Brings Talent a few days back, I made it a point to be out of the office at 5:30, too. It’s one big challenge for one who has made it a routine to stay up late at office. But then, there’s no harm in trying!

And because I succeeded in ‘punching out’ at 5:30 PM, for 2 of the 5 work days, I found a new activity on my drive back to the villa.  The lack of zoom lens and filters, and the nice clicks that comes from the gadgets of the shutterbugs didn’t stop me from chasing the sunset. Equipped with only my camera phone, here are the photos of the chase I made on the fleeting sunset.

Be blessed everyone!

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“Every sunset brings the promise of a new dawn” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
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“When I admire the wonder of a sunset, or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in worship of the Creator.” – Mahatma Gandhi
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“Sunsets, like childhood, are viewed with wonder not just because they are beautiful but because they are fleeting.” – Richard Paul Evans
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“Never waste any amount of time doing anything important when there is a sunset outside that you should be sitting under.” – C. JoyBell C.
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“Every sunset gives us one day less to LIVE But Every sunrise gives us one day more to HOPE.” – Ritu Ghatourey
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“Know what you want to do, hold the thought firmly, and do every day what should be done, and every sunset will see you that much nearer the goal.” ― Elbert Hubbard
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“I have a stalker, a beautiful one: the sunset. Every day she’s there, watching me, whether I watch her or not.” ― Jarod Kintz, This Book Has No Title
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“And yet day and night meet fleetingly at twilight and dawn,” he said, lowering his voice again and narrowing his eyes and moving his head a quarter of an inch closer to hers. “And their merging sometimes affords the beholder the most enchanted moments of all the twenty four hours. A sunrise or sunset can be ablaze with brilliance and arouse all the passion, all the yearning, in the soul of the beholder.” ― Mary Balogh, A Summer to Remember
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“The first stab of love is like a sunset, a blaze of color — oranges, pearly pinks, vibrant purples…” – Anna Godbersen
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“Keep looking up! I learn from the past, dream about the future and look up. There’s nothing like a beautiful sunset to end a healthy day.” -Rachel Boston
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“Even the most beautiful days eventually have their sunsets.” – Unknown Author
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“A large drop of sun lingered on the horizon and then dripped over and was gone, and the sky was brilliant over the spot where it had gone, and a torn cloud, like a bloody rag, hung over the spot of its going. And dusk crept over the sky from the eastern horizon, and darkness crept over the land from the east.” ― John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
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“People are just as wonderful as sunsets if you let them be. When I look at a sunset, I don’t find myself saying, “Soften the orange a bit on the right hand corner.” I don’t try to control a sunset. I watch with awe as it unfolds.” – Carl R. Rogers

“Life is all about enjoying every sunset and looking forward for the next Sunrise.” - Sandeep Shergill.

 

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Thoughts, insights, musings, anecdotes, experiences and reflections of a Filipino expatriate and his family at the desert coast by the Red Sea…

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