Imagine Easter – part 3

Abraham takes us another step toward Easter. Pulled out of the muddle of spirituality gone wild, he is called by God to reach past all he knows and settle in a new land. He is far from perfect. He engages in great acts of faith but passes his wife off as his sister. He has a relationship with his wife’s servant and has a son named Ishmael – The father of the Arabian peoples.

Jesus, in the form of a messenger from God, arrives with two angels and promises that Sarah will have a son. Even though Sarah laughs, Jesus asks, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?”[1]

When Abraham is told about the judgment God has determined to rain down on the perverse towns of Sodom and Gomorrah he pleads for mercy. If there are ten righteous people won’t you spare them? Not even ten can be found. The men of the town storm Lot’s home to ravage the angelic men only to be struck with blindness even as Lot offers his two virgin daughters to satisfy the lusts of the townspeople.

We read that when Lot hesitated, the two angels grabbed his hand plus the hands of his wife and two daughters and dragged them from the city “for the LORD was merciful to them.” Burning sulfur consumes the cities, Lot’s wife becomes a pillar of salt for looking back, and the girls end up seducing their father and producing two lines of people who will haunt Abraham’s descendants for years to come.

The LORD was merciful to them. In the midst of judgment, the mercy of God is able to save his own. The unwilling, unwitting. He still has mercy. The thread of the Easter story continues. A righteous one pleads for mercy over the perishing and a few are pulled from the mire, the flames and are saved.

Abraham is still no saint. He lies again about his wife being his sister to another man whom he fears. God shows that man a vision and saves Sarah from being violated. Isaac is finally born and Ishmael is sent away into the desert.

When Isaac reaches about thirteen God calls Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. Abraham takes him up to Mt. Moriah and builds an altar. “Where is the lamb?” Isaac asks.[2] “The LORD will provide the lamb” Abraham says as he binds his son. He lays him on the altar and raises his knife – believing that the God who promises life through this son will be able to raise him back to life if he dies.

“Abraham! Abraham!” Jesus himself calls out as the knife is raised. “Now I know that you fear God because you haven’t withheld your only son.”

And there is a ram. A substitute offering. Caught in a thicket. Out of nowhere God provides a lamb and Abraham calls the place The LORD will provide. This is the exact place where the first part of the Easter story will take place and there will be no one to stop the death stroke when it happens. The Lamb of God will provide himself as a substitute for the one bound with the death sentence on his head. He will provide himself as the substitute for all of those who embrace the faith of Abraham. The belief that God is able to raise up the one who dies.

The picture of the sacrifice is gut wrenching, soul churning, mind numbing. Somewhere in the drama of faith this one man stands out and keeps us marching toward Easter. From him will descend a people who will one day yield the very Lamb of God who will take away the sins of the world.

Easter is no tragic accident of history. Its truths have been played out clearly for all to see. And the one watching and calling out “Abraham! Abraham!” sees through the curtain of eternity to the very place where he will one day become the slain Lamb.

Join me tomorrow for one more life in the march toward Easter.

[1] Genesis 18:14 NIV 2011

[2] Genesis 22:7 NIV 2011

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