Shalom, Beloved in Yeshua,
We entered 2017 with a report on our 2016 Mercy Mission to Israel. The timing of our trip was God-ordained, since we were able to bring love, comfort, and living water to Israel right before the fires of anti-Semitism, both natural (arson) and supernatural (UN Resolution 2334) were demonically kindled upon the Jewish State—on the land promised by God to Abraham and his descendants.
As we stood on an area of Jerusalem called “Abraham’s Ridge,” the Lord brought to mind our deep biblical relationship to this patriarch who had a very special relationship with God. The Lord says to us through the prophet Isaiah, “Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness, You who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were hewn…Look to Abraham your father…” (Isaiah 51:1-2). Abraham is the Father of our Faith. He is Avraham Avinu, Av-ra-HAHM AH-VEE-nu, Abraham Our Father. “Therefore know that those who are of faith are sons of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7). God also calls Abraham His friend. “But you, Israel, are My servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the descendants of Abraham My friend” (Isaiah 41:8; see also James 2:23).
We can learn much from Abraham. We believe that it is important that we “look to Abraham our father” as we enter 2017. We see the heart of Abraham—as well as the heart of God—perhaps clearer than anywhere else, in Genesis chapter 22. This is one of the most important chapters of the Bible, included in the yearly Yom Teruah (Rosh Hashanah) liturgy. There is also an age-old custom of pious Jews reciting this portion of the Torah daily. Therefore, it was printed in many prayer books as part of the early morning service. As we stood on Abraham’s Ridge in Jerusalem, our guide, Hannah, mentioned that this is still a practice today.
Hineni: Here I Am!
The word hineni (hee-nay-KNEE) is an important word in Genesis 22. It means “Here I am,” with the idea of a blank check being given to someone, a total abandonment, unconditional giving, “I am nothing; You are everything.” In Genesis 22:1, God called Abraham by name, and Abraham answered, Hineni. He had heard God and was ready to obey whatever God asked. (This should be our posture in 2017. Are we ready to say, Hineni, Adonai!?)
Hineni is found two more times in Genesis 22, each time being progressively more poignant and impressive. Love comes next, since God is always after the heart.
Love: The First Mention
We have said numerous times that the first time a word is used in the Bible has special significance. The word love, a verb form of ahavah (ah-hah-VAH), is used in Genesis 22:2, “Take now 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.” The very first mention of LOVE in the entire Bible is the love of a father for his beloved son. A father’s love is at the very core of the Scriptures: God, our Father, wanting to reconnect with His creation, restoring the love relationship He had with Adam and Eve in the garden. (We will make the New Covenant connections later!)
When Abraham said “Hineni,” he had no idea that God was going to ask him to offer Isaac, the son of promise, the son God gave him when he was 100 years old, as an olah (oh-LAH), a burnt offering. God was asking Abraham, His friend, for his very best, what was dearest to his heart. He was asking Abraham to make an unthinkable sacrifice—a supreme test of love and faith. Did Abraham love God more than he loved his son? Do we? We have two sons, and now a precious grandson. We are not sure we would pass the test, so we pray, “Abba, please give us the faith of our father Abraham. Give us the love he had for you as well! Help us to learn a powerful lesson about love: Love sacrifices.” We see this throughout the Bible in so many lives: Yocheved (the mother of Moses), Moses himself, Hannah, Ruth, Esther, the Prophets, Uriah, David, Rabbi Saul, and many more.
There is certainly a lesson to be learned from Abraham’s immediate obedience to God’s command. The Torah tells us that “Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey…” (vs. 3). Imagine him splitting the wood for the burnt offering, getting his son Isaac and two others (not his wife) ready for the journey. (Sarah probably did not know what God had asked her husband to do!) Abraham did not delay in obeying, did not second-guess God, did not hesitate, did not ask “Why?” as far as we know. When he said “Hineni” to God, Abraham was sincere. Abraham’s obedience will be richly rewarded. So will ours!
Abraham lived in Beersheva, in the south of Israel. It took him three days to arrive at the place of which God had told him. Three difficult days, to be sure. Imagine what was going through Abraham’s mind and heart as he walked with his beloved son! But he walked on—in faith, trusting in the God who had given him his miracle son.
As we stood on “Abraham’s Ridge,” overlooking the exact spot that he saw (called the “Temple Mount” today), we were reminded of the biblical significance of “three days,” or the “third day.” Resurrection. Healing. New Life. Could Abraham have had hope at this point? He knew that his God was able to do anything, even raise the dead to life again.
Worship: The First Mention
Love is not the only word mentioned first in Genesis 22. The word WORSHIP is also mentioned. We not only learn lessons about love from Abraham, but also about worship. He said to the young men who accompanied him, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad [Isaac] and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you” (vs. 5). The verb used for worship in this verse is nishtakhaveh (neeshta- khah-VEH), which comes from the root word shakhah (shah-KHAH), which means to bow down, bend, do reverence, or humble oneself.
We learn from Genesis 22:5 that true worship is connected with sacrifice. This helps us understand a verse from the Brit Hadasha, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1 NIV). We worship what we love and are willing to sacrifice for the sake of the loved one. Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac is, in Jewish thought, the supreme example of self-sacrifice in obedience to God’s will.
When Abraham said, “…We [He and Isaac] will come back to you,” He was showing us the great faith that he had in his God. No wonder God chose to call Himself “The God of Abraham” (and later Isaac and Jacob)! Abraham believed that God was able to resurrect Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19). Do WE believe in the resurrection of the dead? We should! (See 1 Corinthians 15:20-21, Acts 24:15, and Hebrews 6:2.)
Father and Son Together
“So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together” (Genesis 22:6). The Hebrew word for together is yachdav, and it indicates unity or oneness. In the next verse, Isaac said to Abraham, “…’My father!’ And he said, ‘Here I am, my son.’ Then he said, ‘Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?‘”
The second Hineni is found here, again spoken by Abraham, this time not to God, but to Isaac. Abraham was saying, “I am all yours; everything I have is yours; you are most precious to me.” BUT— There was Someone even more precious to Abraham. When Isaac asked, “Where is the lamb?” his father’s heart must have broken.
Verse eight has been considered by some to be the most prophetic statement in the entire Bible, “And Abraham said, ‘My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.‘” We see here the divinely-ordained principle of substitutionary sacrifices, which God began in the Garden of Eden when He shed the blood of an innocent animal to cover the sin of Adam and Eve.
The King James translation of Genesis 22:8, is, “And Abraham said, ‘My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering…” suggesting that God Himself would be the lamb (Ponder that one…).
The Place: Mount Moriah
Abraham and Isaac came to the place of which God had told him. The place has a name: Mount Moriah. The name Moriah occurs only twice in the Bible, once in Genesis 22:2, where God tells Abraham to offer his son, and later in 2 Chronicles 3:1, where Solomon built the Temple of the LORD, “Now Solomon began to build the house of the LORD at Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to his father, David, at the place that David had prepared on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.“
Thus, Mount Moriah is connected with Abraham and Isaac, King David, Solomon, and the Temple (and more to come!). Mount Moriah continued to be a significant place of love, worship, and sacrifice.
On Mount Moriah, Abraham built an altar, placed the wood in order, bound Isaac, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. There are a number of things to consider here. Isaac was not a little boy, but a “young lad.” He was old enough to know that a common Canaanite practice of his day was sacrifice of firstborn sons. At that point, he did not know that his father’s God was not like the gods of the other nations. He was also old enough to resist, to beg his father to take him off the altar. Instead, he submitted to his father’s will. Love. Trust.
The name of the entire story of Genesis 22 in Jewish tradition comes from this verse. It is called the “Binding of Isaac,” in Hebrew, the Akedah (Ah-key-DAH).
The Angel Intervenes
“And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ So he said, ‘Here I am‘” (vs. 10-11). What Angel? In Hebrew, this Angel is the malach yahweh or malach יהוה. No ordinary Angel. Most Bible scholars believe that the One who called to Abraham from heaven was the pre-incarnate Yeshua, the Messenger of יהוה. Here we see Abraham’s third “Hineni,” this time surrendering himself completely to the Angel of the Lord.
Imagine Abraham’s relief and great joy when he heard the words, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now, I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me” (Genesis 22:12). God already knew Abraham’s heart, but He wanted to give us an example to follow. Here was a friend of God who knew Him deeply. This deep knowledge of the Eternal caused Abraham to have a reverential awe and respect for Him—a “fear”—yirat Adonai (yee- RAHT ah-doe-NAI).
Fear of the Lord was not the only thing that made Abraham willing to put Isaac on the altar. Love of the Lord also compelled him to give to God his very best. His was true worship: a heart that says, “Lord, I will hold nothing back from You. Nothing—no one—comes before You in my life.”
We are challenged to trust that our God knows best, and to give Him our very best. How great is our love for God? Are we willing to put our Isaac, whatever that might be, on the altar?
The Substitutionary Sacrifice
Abraham lifted his eyes and saw a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. God had provided a substitute for Isaac. Because of that supernatural provision, Abraham called the name of the place, The-LORD-Will-Provide, Adonai Yireh (ah-doe-NAI yi-REH) in Hebrew.
The Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, promising him and his descendants great blessing, multiplication, and victory because of Abraham’s love and obedience. In His seed, all the nations of the earth would be blessed.
The Akedah and the Coming Messiah
The Akedah foreshadows in an amazing way the Messiah whom God would one day provide. Yeshua is that Messiah! Some of the significant parallels include:
—God, the Father, willing to sacrifice His only, beloved Son
—The place, Mount Moriah, is the same place as Mount Calvary where Yeshua, God’s Lamb, was offered up for our sin.
—The “third day” looks toward Yeshua’s death and resurrection. (Yeshua said in John 2:19, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.“)
—Just as Isaac carried the wood, Yeshua carried the cross.
— Abraham and Isaac were “as one.” So also are Yeshua and His Father.
—The son, Isaac, submitted to his father’s will. Yeshua said Hineni to His Father.
—God provided a lamb for Abraham. He also provided a Lamb for all mankind. “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). HOWEVER, what God did not require of Abraham, He required of Himself: “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).
May you receive “all things” as you say Hineni to God in love and worship in 2017,
P.S. The first reference to love in the New Testament shows a Father calling out from heaven, in Matthew 3:17, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.“
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