THE “SEED” SERIES, Part 2, Genesis 12-22

A Miracle Child

WE READ IN Genesis 22:8: “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering.” With these encouraging words, Abraham assured his son, Isaac, of his full confidence that the God of heaven would provide a way of escape from the heartbreaking ordeal which confronted him. At that time, Abraham himself did not know what God had in mind. But it was clear to Isaac from the circumstances, that his father was on his way to offer sacrifice although they were taking no lamb for this purpose, and Abraham had not yet told his son that he was to be offered as the sacrifice. It was three days since God had spoken to Abraham, saying,

“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.”—vs. 2

The record is that “God did tempt Abraham.” (vs. 1) The word ‘test’ would be a more correct translation of the ancient Hebrew text. Surely it must have been a test upon Abraham’s faith in, and loyalty to, God to be called upon to offer his own son in sacrifice, especially his beloved son, Isaac. He had waited many long years for this son, and now the thought of parting with him must have been a great shock to this aged father.

The Promise

Abraham, or Abram, as he was originally called, was living in Ur of the Chaldees when God first spoke to him concerning a special ‘seed’, saying:

“He [God] brought him [Abraham] forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.”—Gen. 15:5

“And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.”—22:18

Abraham believed this promise which God had made to him, and without delay proceeded to comply with the condition attached to it, which was that he must leave his own people and his father’s house and go into a strange land which the Lord would show him. In leaving Ur he first went to Haran, which was on the border of the land which God had promised, and he remained there until Terah, his father, died. Then he crossed the border into Canaan, the Promised Land.

Abraham’s faith in God’s promise must have been very strong to induce him to leave his home and friends in Ur, and, when his father died, to move on into the foreign land of Canaan. This becomes even more apparent when we recall, as the Scriptures reveal, that Sarah, his wife, was barren, and from the standpoint of human ability could never have a child. Evidently Abraham believed that God would intervene in connection with this weakness and give Sarah the ability to conceive.

There is good reason to believe that at that time Abraham had in his possession a series of baked clay or stone tablets on which were inscribed the early chapters of Genesis which reveal Eve’s belief that she had “gotten a man from the Lord” in fulfillment of God’s reference to a ‘seed’. (Gen. 4:1) Now the Lord had again mentioned a seed. First it was the ‘seed’ of the woman, now it was Abraham’s ‘seed’, and certainly this ancient servant of God must have pondered over the similarity of these two promises.

However, as the promise was stated to Abraham, it seemed much less vague. Instead of a seed that would bruise the serpent’s head, Abraham’s seed was to bless all the families of the earth. True, the full significance of the promise could not be grasped by Abraham, but he did know that it meant something far too wonderful to ignore, something that was worth home and friends, something for which he would gladly spend the rest of his life living in tents in order to secure.

The Long Wait

Time went on. A famine swept over Canaan, and Abraham, with Sarah his wife, went south into Egypt. Returning from there, difficulties arose among the servants of Abraham and the servants of Lot, his nephew, concerning grazing land for their respective flocks. This was settled amicably upon the suggestion of Abraham that Lot make the first choice of land.

Still later than this, Lot, together with his family and goods, was captured by an alliance of heathen kings; and Abraham, with the help of an army he raised from among his own servants, rescued his nephew and his possessions. In this operation much spoil was seized, but Abraham refused to keep any of it for himself. Shortly after this the Lord spoke to him again, saying:

“Fear not, … I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.”—Gen. 15:1

Abraham was puzzled by this. True, the Lord had been his ‘shield’, or protection. This had been demonstrated in his battle against the kings who had captured his nephew, Lot. The Lord had also been his ‘exceeding great reward’, for he had become extremely wealthy. However, the one thing which he desired above all else—the fulfillment of the promise concerning the ‘seed’ that was to bless all the families of the earth—had not yet been realized. So he replied to the Lord,

“What wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? … Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.”—Gen. 15:2,3

Abraham suggested to God that as there had been no fulfillment of his promise concerning the seed, his trusted servant, Eliezer, as one born in his house, could be his heir. Evidently Abraham expected the Lord to accept and approve this arrangement in lieu of what seemed to the patriarch as a failure on God’s part to fulfill his promise concerning the seed. But Jehovah did not do this. Instead he replied to Abraham:

“This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.”—Gen. 15:4

Another Effort

By now many years had passed since God first promised Abraham a seed. In addition to her barrenness, Sarah was much older, and as each year passed it seemed less likely that she would ever bear a child. Doubtless Abraham and Sarah discussed the problem more than once. Finally Sarah thought she had found a solution, which she presented to Abraham, saying,

“Behold, now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her.”—Gen. 16:2

According to the customs of that time this would not be considered improper, and it appealed to Abraham as being a good solution to their difficulty. When the Lord refused to accept his adopted servant, he explained that Abraham must be the actual father of the promised seed. Nothing was then said as to who the mother must be, so Abraham agreed with his wife’s suggestion, with the result that Ishmael was born to Hagar, Sarah’s maid. But there was a further lesson for Abraham to learn. Thirteen years later, when he was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him again, and after reaffirming his original promise, said, concerning Sarah,

“I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.”—Gen. 17:1,16

This was almost too much for Abraham to believe, and we read that he “fell upon his face and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!” (Gen. 17:17,18) It just seemed to this faithful patriarch that if the Lord would only accept Ishmael to be the seed the whole issue would be settled. After all, Ishmael was Abraham’s own son, and this met the requirement which the Lord previously had stipulated.

But understanding God’s truth is a progressive process, and now God revealed not only that Abraham must be the father of the promised seed, but that Sarah must be the mother—and this would occur despite the fact that she was now ninety years old. So God said to him:

“Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish [Hebrew, ‘accomplish’] my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.”—Gen. 17:19

The Angel’s Visit

Not long after this, Abraham was visited by three angels who appeared to him in human form. At first he was not aware that they were messengers from the Lord, and that they had come to reassure him—and Sarah also—that she was to have a son. A meal was prepared for these distinguished visitors, and during the course of their stay one of them said to Abraham, “I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son.”—Gen 18:1-10

When Sarah overheard this remark, she “laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my Lord being also old?” (Gen 18:12) Her question was soon answered. Apparently within the year, Sarah gave birth to a son. The boy was named Isaac, which means ‘son of my laughter’. After Isaac was born, Sarah said,

“God bath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me.”—Gen. 21:6

God had performed a miracle—the miracle child, Isaac, had indeed been born!—which brought great joy to Sarah. By selecting the barren Sarah, and then waiting until she and Abraham were well past the age when ordinarily they would have children, God emphasized that the fulfillment of his promise concerning the ‘seed’ was not something to be accomplished by human wisdom and ability, but by divine power.

Today, approximately four thousand years later, we can have confidence that ‘all the families of the earth’ will yet be blessed, even though, as the Scriptures reveal, the fulfillment of the promise will require the resurrection of the dead. When Sarah questioned the possibility that she could, or would, bear a son in her old age, she was asked, “Is any thing too hard for the Lord?” (Gen. 18:14) The obvious answer is ‘No!’—and this is also true with respect to the blessing of all the families of the earth by means of a resurrection! Surely he who created life in the first place is abundantly able to restore life.

In the New Testament the Apostle Paul made a revealing observation on Sarah’s great faith, a faith which, of course, Abraham also possessed. We read,

“Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.”—Heb. 11:11,12

Yes, a mighty company springs from one ‘as good as dead’! So the promise of blessing through the seed will actually be fulfilled on behalf of all the countless millions of earth—both those living, and those who are in their graves. Nothing is too hard for the Lord!

The Test

Time went on, and when Isaac had grown to manhood’s estate the Lord appeared to Abraham again. Under the circumstances, Abraham would be justified in believing that now he was about to receive an outline of procedure for the work of blessing all the families of the earth through his son, Isaac. After all, there were two aspects to the promise which God had made to him. Not only was he to have a seed, but this promised seed was to be a channel of blessing to all mankind.

As Abraham understood it, the first part of the promise had been fulfilled, and now that Isaac was a man it was Logical to expect the fulfillment of the second part. But such was not God’s purpose in again speaking to his friend, Abraham. The patriarch’s faith was to be tested again, and much more severely than it had been by any of his previous experiences, including his long wait for the birth of Isaac. The Lord said to him:

“Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lowest, 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.”—Gen. 22:2

What a strange, even frightening, turn of events this command of the Lord indicated! Realizing that God had performed a miracle to give him his son, Abraham might well have wondered whether or not the instruction to offer him as a sacrifice really came from the Lord. He could have wondered if this might not be a cruel deception that was being perpetrated by the great adversary of God, the Devil.

Apparently, however, no such question arose in Abraham’s mind. Through the many years that God had been dealing with him, he had learned to know his “voice.” (Gen. 26:5) No, there was no mistaking the voice of the Lord—but how strange that he should be asked to slay the miracle child whom he so greatly loved! However, Abraham was willing to trust the Lord even though he did not comprehend the significance of what he was now asked to do.

Turning again to the New Testament, we find a very enlightening comment on Abraham’s attitude in this experience. The Apostle Paul observed that Abraham believed that God was able to raise Isaac from the dead, “from whence also he received him in a figure.” (Heb. 11:17-19) This was a great faith—a faith which we, too, must be able to exercise if the promises of God are to have the same vital meaning, and produce in our hearts the same confidence and joy experienced by Abraham and Sarah.

However, despite Abraham’s great faith, the carrying out of God’s command to offer Isaac in sacrifice must have been a harrowing experience for him. But he did not delay. He arose early the next morning, and, as we read in the account,

He “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.”—Gen. 22:3,4

Three days is a long time for one to carry a heartbreaking burden of suspense and sorrow, yet this was Abraham’s experience. And, so far as human consolation was concerned, he carried this burden alone. For three days he traveled together with Isaac, and with the two young men, knowing all the while that he was taking his boy into the land of Moriah to slay him. After sighting the place to which the Lord was directing him, Abraham said to the 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.”—Gen. 22:5,6

While Abraham referred to Isaac as a ‘lad’, actually he was a young man, at least in his twenties. One evidence of this was that Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering upon Isaac for him to carry up the mountain to the place where the altar for the burnt offering was to be built. A mere child could hardly carry a burden of this kind.

The Lamb for Burnt Offering

As Abraham and his son “went both of them together” toward the place where the sacrifice was to be offered, Isaac became puzzled. He spoke to Abraham, saying, “My father,” to which Abraham replied, “Here am I, my son.” This interchange seems to indicate that Abraham, burdened with sorrow, was also lost in thought until his son spoke to him. How strange it must have been to both of them as they walked on together!

But Isaac continued the conversation, saying to his father, “Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (vss. 6,7) How this question must hive pained Abraham’s heart! Could he now avoid telling Isaac the full truth of what was to be done? Yes, he could, and did, for he did not want his beloved miracle child to suffer any longer than was necessary. His reply to Isaac was,

“My son, God will provide himself a Iamb for a burnt offering.”—vs. 8

At the moment, Abraham did not know just what God would do. Perhaps he would provide a lamb. Or, even if he did not, and Isaac was actually sacrificed, Abraham knew that he had been given to him by the Lord, so he knew that in any case his reply to Isaac would be true.

With the altar prepared, the time had come when Isaac must be told what the Lord had commanded, although the record does not detail this conversation. We are informed that Abraham bound Isaac on the altar, and this is significant. (vs. 9) Isaac was a strong young man, while Abraham by now was well over a hundred years old, and would not have had the strength to bind his son on the altar had he resisted. Thus the evidence indicates that Isaac, when informed of the Lord’s request, voluntarily gave himself up for sacrifice.

The Lamb of God

How illuminating this experience turns out to be! In the New Testament we are informed that when God made the promise to Abraham concerning a seed that would bless all the families of the earth, he was referring to his own Son, Jesus Christ. (Gal. 3:8,16) But Abraham did not know this. The limitations of his finite mind prevented him from seeing into the future and realizing the grand scale upon which the promises of God were actually to be fulfilled!

But now it is different, for throughout the centuries one after another of the prophets of God, and later Jesus and his twelve apostles, all contributed to the unfolding of God’s larger plan of blessing through a seed, which primarily is Jesus. The Word of God also reveals that before all the families of the earth could be blessed by the promised seed, a loving Father must give up in sacrifice his beloved Son. The Father who actually did this was none other than our loving Heavenly Father, who gave his Son Christ Jesus to die for the sins of the whole world of mankind, making possible the future blessing of all the people of the world through a resurrection of the dead.

So in the experience of Abraham and Isaac we have this glorious truth beautifully illustrated. We see God’s loving gift of his Son to die, illustrated by Abraham’s willingness to give up his son in death, while Isaac’s voluntary offering is a beautiful reminder of Jesus’ willingness to die that the world might live. For all practical purposes this picture of the coming sacrifice of Jesus was made complete; for Abraham, after binding Isaac on the altar, raised his knife to slay the young man when, we read:

“The angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: … Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.”—vss. 11,12

Should we think that Abraham was surprised? No doubt he expected that the Lord would manifest himself in some way, although he did not know exactly how. Had he not assured Isaac that the Lord would provide a lamb? And now, as he looked around in response to the voice of the angel,

He saw a ram—a male lamb—“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.”—vs. 13

Yes, God had provided a lamb, just as Abraham had said! We are reminded that the Heavenly Father’s beloved Son, who died that the world might live, is referred to as a ‘Lamb’, the Lamb which God provided. John the Baptist said concerning Jesus,

“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”—John 1:29

The Oath bound Covenant

Abraham’s faith in God and in his promises had conquered. Many long years had passed since God first spoke to him while he lived in Ur of the Chaldees and promised him a seed. Now, so far as he was concerned, the seed had come, yet there was no other indication that the promised work of blessing through the seed was about to begin. But God did reassure Abraham that the promise would be fulfilled. Concerning this we read:

“The angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, and said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou past done this thing, and host not withheld thy son, thine only son: that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; … because thou host obeyed my voice.”—Gen. 22:15-18

This must have been a wonderful assurance to Abraham that God surely would fulfill his promise concerning the word of the seed in its blessing of all the families of the earth. However, the patriarch lived many years after this, yet did not see the fulfillment of the promise. In the 11th chapter of Hebrews, commenting on the faith of Abraham and other servants of the Lord in that ancient past, the Apostle Paul observed that “these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not [the fulfillment of] the promise.”—Heb. 11:13,39

The Apostle Paul also explained that the Ancient Worthies, of whom Abraham was one, endured their trials of faith that they “might obtain a better resurrection.” (Heb. 11:35) It is because the Creator intends to restore the dead to life that his promises to Abraham and to all his faithful servants are so meaningful. It will be when Abraham is restored to life in the resurrection that he will understand the full scope of the promises made to him concerning his seed.

The Apostle Paul explained that the seed of Abraham who will bless all the families of the earth in reality is Jesus. (Gal. 3:16) But even Jesus could not be a channel of blessing to all mankind except for the fact that he was raised from the dead! Paul wrote, “If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.”—I Cor. 15:14

The footstep followers of Jesus, because of their faith and devotion, will be associated with Jesus as part of the seed of Abraham. (Gal. 3:27-29) But this aspect of the plan of God also can only come to fruition through a resurrection of the dead. These footstep followers of Jesus are referred to in the Scriptures as being ‘in’ Christ, and Paul wrote that if there be no resurrection of the dead, then those who have fallen asleep “in” Christ have “perished.” To this he adds, “If in this life only[,] we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”—I Cor. 15:18,19

Thank God for his promises to restore the dead to life! It is the assurance of these promises that makes the Bible such a real source of hope and comfort. As we have seen, it was the hope of the resurrection that sustained Abraham and all the ancient servants of God. It was the assurance of the resurrection that enabled Jesus to endure the cross and despise the shame which was heaped upon him. It is the hope of the resurrection that today fills the hearts of God’s people with joy as they face the uncertainties of a chaotic world. And it will be the fact of the resurrection that will translate into reality the promises of God to bless all the families of the earth!

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