God's Great Work For Sinners
“And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.
“And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.
“And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.
“Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.
“And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.
“And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it upon Isaac, his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.
“And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?
“And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering; so they went both of them together.
“And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order; and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.
“And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.
“And the angel of the Lord called onto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: And he said, Here am I.
“And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me.
“And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.
“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.”
Texts: “God will provide himself the lamb.”Genesis 22:8 (R.V). “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” John 1:29
God’s great work for sinners is fully declared in the New Testament, but it is wonderfully foreshadowed in the Old. I hope we may be able to gather some precious gospel truths from the story of Abraham offering Isaac.
The Bible a Divine Message
You may do what you like with this old Book, but I want to tell you, no man, no matter how great a genius, could ever have imagined such a story as I have read in your hearing. It bears the marks of history; it is no fable. God comes near and testifies that it is His Word when we magnify the Bible as God’s Word. It is the chariot in which He rides into human hearts. I make an appeal for the reverent and careful reading of the Bible.
A number of years ago after hearing in a small church a minister rush through, to my disgust, the Scripture lessons, I went from that church to St. Paul’s Cathedral. After hearing Archdeacon Sinclair reverently and plainly read the lessons from the Old and New Testaments, I looked back over the history of old England and thought of the sufferings endured by men of God who gave us “the Scriptures in the vulgar tongue,” and devoutedly thanked God for their ministry. I also thanked God for the ministry of men who today read the Scriptures and give the sense.
What a delight it is that in the midst of so much uncertainty we have the Word of God and the privilege of meeting together, knowing that God will speak to His people. God, in His great grace, will work in the midst of His saints.
The Church God’s Glory
God stood by Abraham’s altar and manifested Himself. I like to think of our Lord Jesus Christ on the night of His resurrection. What did He do? He went to church. I don’t think Pentecost was the birth of the Church. I look at the wounds of Calvary and I believe that there, in the agony of Calvary, the Church was begotten. Men and women were present that night—it was an assembly, not an apostolic group.
Our Lord went to church the second Sunday night after His resurrection, and if He were here on Earth today He would not be a mere morning attendant. Where is He this Sunday night? He is again in the midst of His people; He will manifest Himself to and through any people loyal to the blood.
How my heart has been filled with thanksgiving today for the consciousness of His abiding presence with this company of people. Often have I thought of this Church and of the yearning of Mr. Moody’s heart in the early days of the Church. I dare to believe that our God is going to do a new work through The Moody Church. Somehow or other we have the consciousness that our God will come with renewing grace, that all may know it is God who is still at the head of this work. It is not D.L. Moody’s church, as much as we love him, but Christ’s.
I think of an illustration that Mr. Moody gave. During one of his trips he told us that every time he would return from an evangelistic campaign he and his brothers would spend Sunday afternoons at the home of dear old Mother Moody. He said to his brothers, “When mother dies we will keep up that meeting.” The first Sunday after her death the boys gathered together and sat around and talked, but somehow or other there was no life in the meeting. There did not seem to be any pleasure. “Then,” he said, “it dawned upon us that it was mother who made such gatherings what they were.”
Thus it is in spiritual things. If Jesus Christ is not in the midst, no meeting is a church meeting. I thank God we are gathered tonight to magnify Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Christ is here with all His ability to help men to know the way of life.
I have lived among railroad men all the years I have been in Denver. Often have I come face to face with men in imminent peril. One night I was called to a hospital and a dear fellow was within a few hours of death. He said to me: “The doctor tells me I have only a few hours to live. Gravett, tell it straight. I have only a few hours to live and everything depends upon what you say.” I thank God I could tell him of the Saviour ready to save all who believe on Him.
Then there is another side. You must not only be careful what you hear, but how you hear. I heard of a man who, in one of the Booth meetings, was reported saved. When the Booth family got home they discussed the man’s profession. The little boy said, “I don’t believe he was saved.” The father asked why. The boy replied, “I watched him when he prayed and he did not get down on both knees.” The boy was right. God wants men to seek Him with the whole heart. Therefore, take heed how ye hear.
The Incident Is a Divine Prophecy
God told Abraham to take his son, his only son, Isaac, and offer him for a burnt offering. Every step was divinely planned. God was mindful of His only begotten Son and the part He would take in man’s redemption.
Abraham said to his son, “My son, God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering.” In John 1:29 we read, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world!”
What is the relationship between these two passages of Scripture? God did provide a lamb to be offered in Isaac’s stead. God has provided the Lamb of God to suffer in the sinner’s stead. It makes no difference how many lambs there were, every lamb that was sacrificed was symbolical of His great sacrifice. All down through the Old Testament God had been saying, “Behold the Lamb of God!”
The Old Testament types were divinely given. It is God speaking to us in such a passage as this. It is not the picture of an angry individual. It is not a heathen sacrifice. Every Old Testament picture is unlike a heathen sacrifice in this: The heathen sacrifice is offered to placate evil gods, they have no gifts or offerings for good gods. The Hebrew and all Old Testament offerings were ordained to portray the work of a righteous and loving God. There is a great difference between the unrighteousness of the former and the righteousness of the latter. One is inspired by hell and the other given from Heaven.
What else do we see in this lesson? Resurrection. They come to a place and Abraham lifts up his eyes, and after three days’ journey it is still afar off. Abraham said to the young men who were with him, “You stay here and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.”
You tell me that old Abraham was an heathen. I thank God he knew the doctrines that sustain you and me today. He, in faith, could see that they were to return from the altar of sacrifice, even though it meant death for Isaac. The prophecies made concerning Isaac demanded his resurrection. Christ died in faith. The Messianic prophecies foretold His death, resurrection, and return. Jesus said: “If it were not so I would have told you…I will come again.” If there had been no hope for us He would not have left us in ignorance. I thank God for the divine prophecy. God is long in continuity. One day with the Lord is as a thousand years. It seems “afar off” but He shall “come again.”
A Picture of Divine Isolation
Salvation is of the Lord. Notice the scene. “They two went on,”and Abraham and his son talked together about the sacrifice. In another type in the Old Testament, on the day of atonement, there was only one who engaged in a sacrifice, and that was the High Priest. It is the High Priest that takes the blood. It is the High Priest that makes the offerings. It is the High Priest that slays the first goat. It is the High Priest that lays his hands upon the second goat. Who is it that did the work at Calvary for you and for me? God sent an Egyptian darkness to settle about that Cross. None but the triune God knows what happened at Calvary. God, in type, and through His apostles, tells what happened in those dark hours.
You may wait a long time and try to discover things. Unsaved friend, they are revealed to the heart that bows the knee and that takes the place of the sinner. It is God that has done the work. Our business is to declare what God has said about Calvary. He says that the Lamb of God bore away the sin of the world.
Picture of Divine Fellowship and Judgment
Abraham and Isaac went on. Not only isolation but divine fellowship. I have heard men say, “Your God made His Son go to the Cross.” No! Abraham could not have forced Isaac on that altar. God has given us this picture. They two went ontogether. After Abraham told Isaac (I believe that Abraham opened his heart to Isaac and told him everything God had promised and commanded) Isaac’s act was, like his great antitype’s, an act of faith.
The Bible says the Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself an offering for sin. He was not driven. God was in Christ, working for a man’s redemption. There is divine fellowship in our redemption. He was not driven to Calvary. He said, “Thinkest thou not that I could ask my Father and He would send me twelve legions of angels?”
I thank God when I look at Jesus Christ on Calvary’s Cross, I know that God loves me. There were years that I did not know that. I thought God asked of me what I could not give. I had sung Sunday after Sunday, “Lord have mercy upon me, and incline our hearts to keep Thy law.” I had measured myself by the law, and I could see no hope. I thank God, one night I heard that Jesus Christ died for sinners and that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son for me. The Lord Jesus Christ took your place. God has done the work for you and for me. Believe that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.
I want you to notice divine judgment. There is not only the wood. The lad bears the wood, and the father carries the fire and the knife. Who bore the wood to Calvary? Jesus Christ. Isaac, in type, was unconsciously anticipating the time when God’s Son should bear the wooden Cross out there to Calvary’s hill and be lifted up, even as Isaac was lifted up upon the altar.
There may be some here ignorant of why Jesus Christ died upon the Cross. I thank God He died a judgment death. In the type the knife and fire are in the father’s hands.
There is a great difference between the death of Jesus Christ and the death of a soldier upon the battle field. I take no glory from our soldier boys who went out to fight—they went out against unrighteousness. They went out that they might prevent the inroads of those who would take our liberties. But our Lord Jesus Christ went out to meet the righteous God. He came face to face with Him who has power over death; He who has the right to take life. He places Himself in the hands of His Father, a substitute in your place and in mine. He bore the judgment that your sins and mine deserve.
We must rejoice in a God that will hold back nothing, and from nothing, and from nothing, to save you and me. Ah! He gave His Son, and His Son gave Himself up to bear the penalty. The stripes fell upon Him for you and me. “It pleased the Lord to bruise Him—by His stripes we are healed.”
Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, Why hast thou forsaken me?”The Father hid His face from his Son. The Son suffers, the just for the unjust, that He might thus bring us to God.
—Sermon delivered at The Moody Church by Dr. Joshua Gravett of Denver, Colorado