Updated: Jun 21, 2022
We often refer to God as Father, and perhaps miss out on some of what the early authors of the Bible had in mind. In a sense God is the Father of all as the creator, but passages like (Isa. 63:16–17) link the idea of God as Father to the one who redeems His of the covenant people, and forgives their sins. It denotes a special relationship.
To redeem means to compensate for the faults or bad aspects, gain or regain possession of (something) in exchange for payment. It is possession through payment.
To restore, on the other hand, is a process of perfecting - to bring something back to it's original state.
God is committed redeeming and restoring! The narrative in the Bible is all about God redeeming and restoring, bringing tov back to his tov creation.
To do this, He begins with a man named Abram, who we meet Gen 11 & 12 75. He makes a covenant with Abram; that through his descendants, blessing would come to all. However, Abram as 75 at the time, with no children! Twenty-five years later, the promised son is born.
Sometimes the promises of God become harder to believe as time goes by. Be encouraged to wait well. God always does what He said.
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10-11
In the waiting, don't let your timeframe be the measure of God's tov. Don't let the promise be bigger than the promise maker. Don't be like Abram, and take things into your own hands 10 years into the waiting.
Some of God’s promises come to pass quickly, even overnight. Others stretch over long periods of time, acting as sinews holding together the history of his covenant people over centuries. David Mathis
In the waiting, remember we have the Spirit who strengthens us, Community which encourages us and the Word which tells stories of how God has always been faithful to his word.
Back to Abram, now, Abraham. He finally had the one thing he had wanted - Isaac. Now, a good few years later, when Isaac was somewhere between 20 and 37 (don't imagine a little toddler) God asked Abraham to him to give Isaac back.
1 After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” Genesis 22:1-2
This may seem crazy, and contradictory, but if you look deeper, is inline with the holy and just character of God. Then, in the near east culture, the firstborn was everything. A little later in scripture, we are introduced to the idea that the life of firstborn belongs to God - unless the firstborn was redeemed. Putting these two thoughts together, God was within his right to ask for Isaac, because Isaac belonged to him, as Tim Keller put it: God was calling in the debt [of the family sin].
Why? He was testing Abraham. Not to see if he would pass or fail, but rather to refine him - to continue a process of restoration in him. God knew how Abraham would respond, so it wasn't as if God was waiting on the edge of his seat to find out what Abraham would do - hence, the testing (refining / restoring) would be more for Abraham himself - and others, like us, to learn from!
What was God testing? Perhaps he was helping Abraham check that Isaac was not becoming an idol in his life. Would he be able to say, I can live without Isaac.
TESTING IS A CERTAINTY
Testing is a certainty, because God is tov. He tests, to help as see and deal with idols in our lives, because he knows that idolatry is destructive and damaging to us.
All kinds of (good [tov] and bad [ra]) things can become idols in our lives. To identify an idol, one could ask "What is the one thing you I live without, the thing that is so important to me, that I would compromise for?" Read through Keller's Counterfeit God's for great perspective on us.
Abraham had a choice to go through the test. As do we.
OBEDIENCE IS A CHOICE
God is tov, so he always gives us a choice. We don't have to take our Isaacs up the mountain, but don't, it's not that God comes out to punish us, but rather that idolatry doesn't lead anywhere good. Ever.
Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” Genesis 22:5
In hermeneutics, there is something called the law of the first mention which is similar to a first impression. The first time a word or doctrine is mentioned lays the foundation through which to see other mentions. This is the first time worship is mentioned. The context: being prepared to lay down something that is close to you. That is food for thought!
Something else to take note of here is the faith of a father. He considered that God was able even to raise him [Isaac] from the dead, as Hebrews 11:19 tells us! It's as if Abraham was thinking "I don't know how this is going to work out, but I know you are tov, GOD, and you have promised descendant, so I'm going to do what you have asked".
For us, we need to be ready to follow Holy Spirit DIRECTION even before we know all the DETAILS or the DESTINATION! As someone once said, "Faith is never brought to maturity without going through suffering"
So Abraham and Isaac go up the mountain. And God intervenes at the last moment.
But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” Genesis 22:11-14
Here we are introduced to the idea of substitutionary atonement - simply (and insufficiently) put: one life is offered in place of another, in a way that is acceptable to God, and results in an at-one-ment with God, sin removed, forgiveness applied, debt paid. It's like a vindication gift; clearing someone of blame or debt.
VINDICAITON IS A GIFT
As the story concludes, we see the link back to Gen 3:15 - the offspring or seed that will come to rule and defeat the enemy, through which blessing and tov will come.
I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” Genesis 22:17-18
Interestingly, the mountain, Moriah, is likely the same location of Solomons temple (2 Chron 3:1) and Golgotha where Jesus was crucified. There is so much imagery in this story that one can't help but see Jesus. The father and the firstborn, the sacrifice, the location, the ram, redemption, the substitute provided by God. Only, when Jesus was on the cross, the Father remained silent, and the Son cried out.
Abraham arose early for the journey of dread
He lifted his eyes to where Isaac’d be dead
But when his faith was applied in what God had said
He lifted his eyes and found a substitute instead,
He arose with joy for the journey home
Covenant confirmed, through no doing of his own.
As God provided the ram to let Isaac alone,
So God graciously gave Jesus, so He may be to you known
If you accept this free gift of grace,
Your sin is removed beyond outer space
Walk free and forgiven, with peace in your heart
Redemption for you was the plan from the start.
T esting is a certainty.
O bedience is a choice.
V indication is a gift.
T. O. V. God is good.