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Abraham's Sacrifice (Adha)


  In this second of a two part article on Abraham, we discuss the story of a man whose name is well known in the Word of God, and who had an important place in God’s plan to redeem the children of Adam. The Scripture refers to this man as “the friend of God” and “the father of all who believe.” Do you know who it is? It is the prophet of God, Abraham {Ibrahim in Arabic}. The Holy Scriptures speak a great deal about Abraham. His name appears in the Writings of the Prophets more than three hundred times. Therefore, God willing, we will search the Scriptures to discover what they teach concerning this man who was called the friend of God. In the first part we looked to see how God called him to follow Him, and why He called him and what God promised him.   In this part we see how God fulfilled His promise to Abraham and what God accomplished through him.

   In the first part on Abraham, we have seen how God promised to make Abraham the father of a new nation from which the prophets of God and the Savior of the world would come. However, up to this point in the story, Sarah, Abraham’s wife had not yet borne a son and both she and Abraham were extremely old.

   As the story of Abraham unfolds in the scriptures we see three men came to visit Abraham. However, these three men were more than mere humans. Two of them were angels and the other was the Lord God Himself! Some might say that God could not have appeared to Abraham in the form of man, but they have forgotten that God is great and that nothing is too hard for Him. God can do anything, except that which is unrighteous.

  In the Scriptures it says : (Gen.18) 1The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. 2Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. 3He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. 4Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. 5Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way-now that you have come to your servant.” “Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”

   6So Abraham hurried and… 8brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree. 9“Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There, in the tent,” he said. 10Then the Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?” 13Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.” 15Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.” But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”

   20Then the Lord said, “The outcry against [the cities of] Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.” 22The men (that is, the two angels) turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord.   23Then Abraham approached Him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25Far be it from you to do such a thing-to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?

   26The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” 27Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, 28what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city because of five people?” “If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.”

   29Once again he spoke to Him, “What if only forty are found there?” He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.” 30Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?” He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.” 31Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?” He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.” 32Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?” He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.” 33When the Lord had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.

    (Gen. 19) 1The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. 2“My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.” “No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.”    3But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. 4Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom-both young and old-surrounded the house. 5They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”
  

Many of the men of Sodom were homosexuals and reveled in a sin God calls perversion. (See Romans 1:26,27)

 (Gen. 19) 6Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him 7and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing8don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.” 9“Get out of our way,” they replied. And they said, “This fellow came here as an alien, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door. 10But the men inside [that is, the two angels] reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. 11Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door.

   12The two men said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here-sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, 13because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the Lord against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.14So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters. He said, “Hurry and get out of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city!” But his sons-in-law thought he was joking. 15With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.” 16When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them. 17As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”

   24Then the Lord rained down burning sulphur on Sodom and Gomorrah-from the Lord out of the heavens. 25Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities-and also the vegetation in the land. 26But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
   27Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the Lord. 28He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace. 29So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.
  

  This is the solemn story of how God judged the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah with burning sulphur from the sky. Today the ruins of Sodom lie under the Dead (Salt) Sea in Palestine (Israel). To pursue sin is never a wise choice. God is serious about judging sin!

  We continue in the Torah and see how God gave Abraham and Sarah a son, thus fulfilling the promise He had made to them so long ago. In chapter twenty one, the Scriptures say:  (Gen. 21) 1Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. 2Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. 3Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. 4When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. 5Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 6Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” 7And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

  Thus did God fulfill the promise He had made to Abraham and Sarah a long time before. Sarah, who was known as one “who can’t have children,” bore a son just as God had said. They called him Isaac, which means he laughs. But not everyone was rejoicing over Isaac’s birth.

  The Scriptures say: (Gen. 21) 8[Isaac] grew and was weaned, and on the day [he] was weaned, Abraham held a great feast. 9But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, 10and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” 11The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. 12But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. 13I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also, because he is your offspring.” 14Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy.

   Ishmael’s departure was painful for Abraham, but it had to be, since God had revealed to him that the new nation, and the Savior of the world, would come through Isaac-not though Ishmael. Ishmael, who was about fifteen years old, made fun of Isaac and had no appreciation for God’s plan to make of Isaac a great nation which would offer salvation to the world.

  So what happened to Ishmael? The verses which follow show us how he went with his mother and lived in the desert near Egypt, and married an Egyptian woman. Ishmael became the father of the Arab race, which became enemies of the nation which came from Isaac, just as God had predicted to Abraham, which we discussed earlier.  To this day there is a rivalry between Arabs and Jews, as you well know! God loves the Arabs and the Jews and all people in every nation and wants them to turn to Him.

 We trust that each of you see that the true and living God is a faithful God who cannot go back on His word. That is why He judged Sodom and Gomorrah-just as He said. That is why He gave Abraham and Sarah a son in their old age-just as He had promised He would do. And that is why He had Abraham send Ishmael away-that His unchanging purposes might be established.

  In our studies in the Torah, we have explored many wonderful and important stories about the prophet of God, Abraham. Now we come to the most significant lesson from the life of Abraham: the true story of “Adha” (Abraham’s sacrifice)and what it means.   

  So far we have discussed how God gave Abraham and Sarah a child in their old age, thus fulfilling what He had promised long before. Their son’s name was Isaac. God had promised Abraham that, through the descendants of Isaac, He would bring forth a new nation, through which all the nations of the world would be blessed. We also saw how Ishmael and his mother, Hagar, left Abraham’s household, and went to live in the land of Egypt. Thus, only Isaac remained at home, the one born according to God’s promise.

  One day God asked Abraham to do an astonishing and difficult thing. In the Torah, the book of Genesis, chapter twenty-two, the Scriptures say: (Gen. 22) 1Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. 2Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”

What!? What was God asking of Abraham? He was commanding Abraham to take his beloved son to a far away mountain, and offer him as a burnt sacrifice! How could this be? Abraham had waited for twenty-five long years to have the son which God had promised him, and now God is telling him to slay his son as a sacrifice! How did Abraham answer God? Did he argue with the words of God because they were difficult to accept? The Scripture says:
(Gen. 22) 3Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place about which God had told him.

  For three days, Abraham and his son and two servants walked and walked and walked, heading toward the mountain of which God had spoken. Abraham’s heart was ready to break as he neared that fearful place where he would have to slay his beloved son and cremate him! Of course, we who are reading the story today know that God was only testing Abraham’s faith, but Abraham didn’t know that! What God had asked of him was a terrible and painful trial!

  Next the Scriptures say: (Gen. 22) 4On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5He said 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.” 6Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. 7As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

   9When they reached the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. 12“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “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.” 13Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
  

  This story is very important and deserves clarification. The story of Abraham’s sacrifice has three sides: a historical side, a symbolic side and a prophetic side. In other words, to understand Abraham’s sacrifice, we need to understand three things: 1.) What took place, 2.) what the sacrifice symbolized, and 3.) what Abraham prophesied concerning an event that was yet to take place.

  Concerning the historical side, we have read today how God tested Abraham’s faith and saved his son from death by means of a sacrificial ram. This happened about four thousand years ago in the place where Jerusalem is located today. That, in short, is the “historical” side of the story of Abraham’s sacrifice.

  Concerning the symbolic side of the story, God’s Word tells us that we are all like Abraham’s son. We read that God, in His justice, condemned Abraham’s son to death. We too are all condemned sinners and deserve God’s judgment. But we also read how God, in His grace, saved Abraham’s son from death. Similarly, God, in His grace, has come to our rescue in providing a means by which we can be saved. What is that way of salvation? The story of Abraham’s sacrifice teaches us that the way of salvation established by God is the way of the Perfect Sacrifice.

  In this story of the Adha , we saw how God provided a ram (sheep) to die in the place of Abraham’s son. Only the horns of the sheep were caught in the bush; the sheep’s skin was not torn. If the sheep had a single flaw, it could not have replaced Abraham’s son on the altar. But the sacrifice which God provided was a perfect sheep, without blemish. After Adam and Eve sinned, God decreed that, since the payment for sin is death, there could be no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood. Thus, all who wanted to have their sins forgiven were required to take an animal without blemish, slay it, and present it to God as a burnt offering. The innocent animal had to die in the place of the guilty person. This was the only way by which God could forgive the sins of the sons of Adam, without compromising His justice.

  Something else we must remember is this: The Scriptures say that sacrificial animals were merely symbolic of that which was to come; a shadow of the good things that are coming–not the realities themselves. Because it is impossible for the blood of [animals] to take away sins.” (Heb. 10:1,4) The blood of animals cannot pay for sin because animals and humans are not of equal value. Thus, we learn that the sheep which replaced Abraham’s son on the altar was an illustration of a greater, more perfect sacrifice. The Word of God shows us that the sheep which died in the place of Abraham’s son was a symbol of the holy Redeemer who was to come into the world and die for all sinners, so that God could forgive everyone who believes in Him. In short, this is what Abraham’s sacrificial sheep symbolizes. It is an illustration of the Savior whom God promised to send into the world to save sinners from His righteous judgment!

  Concerning the prophetic side of the story, do you remember what Abraham said to his son as they were climbing the mountain? He told him: God Himself will provide the lamb for the sacrifice.” And do you remember what Abraham announced after he had slain the ram, and burned it in place of his son? He called the place of sacrifice: “The Lord will Provide.” And the prophet Moses, who wrote the Torah, adds: “And to this day it is said: ‘On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided!’” What was the reason for this? Why did the prophet Abraham say, “The Lord will provide”? Why did he not say, “Praise be to God! The Lord has provided a sacrifice!”? Friends, this is a question of tremendous importance, because the answer to it contains the Good News of God’s Word, which each of us must understand and believe!

  Why did Abraham call the place,“The Lord will provide”? This is why: Abraham was announcing an event that was to yet take place on those same mountains where the sheep had replaced his son on the altar. In short, Abraham was declaring: “I praise God, because he has provided a sheep to replace my son on the altar. However, I am telling you that one day, on this same mountain, God will provide another sacrifice which will be far greater than the ram which saved my son today from the knife and the fire. Yes, the Sacrifice which God will provide shall have the power to save the children of Adam from eternal death in the fire which never goes out! God will send down a holy Redeemer who will die as a sacrifice, the innocent for the guilty, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish!” This is God’s Good News for all people which Abraham was announcing when he said, “God Himself will provide the lamb for the sacrifice!”

  Before we conclude the story of “Abraham’s sacrifice”, each of us needs to know that, approximately two thousand years after Abraham prophesied that God would provide a Sacrifice for sinners, God fulfilled Abraham’s prophecy. We cannot say much about it today, but those of you who know the Gospel {Injil}, know the story of the Redeemer. You know that He was born of a virgin woman who belonged to the family line of Abraham and Isaac, just as God had promised. The Redeemer who was to die in the place of sinners had no earthly father. He came from heaven, and thus, did not inherit Adam’s sinful nature. He had no sin; He had no blemish. That is why He was worthy to die as the Perfect Sacrifice; as a substitute for the guilty children of Adam. When we discuss more of this in the future, we will learn that this Savior’s name is Jesus. The name Jesus means God saves. Some call Jesus “Isa.”   When we come to the Gospel Writings {Injil}, we will read how there was a prophet named John {Qur’anic name: Yahya} whom God sent to prepare the way before Jesus the Redeemer. One day, John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) Why did the prophet John call Jesus “the Lamb of God”? Because Jesus was born to shed His blood as a sacrifice which takes away sin. Like the sheep that died in the place of Abraham’s son, the Redeemer came to die for all of Adam’s descendants. Jesus is the perfect and final Sacrifice of whom Abraham prophesied when he said: “God Himself will provide the lamb for the sacrifice.”

  In the Gospel we read how Jesus willingly delivered Himself up to his enemies, and how they nailed Him to a cross. Jesus the Redeemer, whom God provided, fulfilled the prophetic and the symbolic meaning of Abraham’s sacrificial sheep. That is why, just before Jesus died, He cried out, “It is finished!” (John 19:30)  And three days later, God confirmed the perfection and power of the Redeemer’s sacrifice by raising Him from the dead! Jesus is the One who perfectly fulfilled the meaning of Abraham’s sacrifice. And did you know that the location where Jesus died in the place of sinners was in the same mountains where Abraham slaughtered the sheep in place of his son? Do you know the location of those two sacrifices? Yes, it is Jerusalem.

  Have you grasped the most important blessing that God accomplished for us through Abraham?  Yes it is Jesus the Redeemer!   

Allow us to ask you a few questions which summarize what we have discussed in this two part article. First: Why did God call Abram to leave home and go to another country? Because God planned to make of Abram a new nation. Second: Why did God want to make of Abram a new nation? Because it was through this nation that God planned to give us the prophets, the Scriptures and at last, the holy Redeemer Himself. Third: Was this Redeemer through Ishmael or through Isaac?   God answers that for us from the Scriptures, (Gen. 17:20,21,19)  “As for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him…I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you…I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.”

  Dear friends, whoever you are, wherever you are, God is commanding you to turn from your wrong ideas and futile works, and place your hope completely in the perfect and final Sacrifice that He has provided. For the Scriptures say: “[Jesus the Redeemer] Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed.” (1 Pet. 2:24) Today we saw that Abraham’s son accepted the sacrifice which God provided for him. How about you? Have you accepted the Sacrifice which God has provided for you?

 God bless you as you carefully consider the meaning of Abraham’s words from Mount Moriah when he said,
 
“God himself will provide the Lamb…On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided!” (Gen. 22:8,14)

  
  

** This concludes our two part article on Prophet Abraham.  This teaching from the Scriptures is a compilation of Lessons  21 and 22 from “The Way of Righteousness” by Paul Bramsen.    Posted here by permission of copyright holder – Paul Bramsen.

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