(Genesis 22, Matthew 21; Optional Psalm 18:31-50, Proverbs 4:23-27)
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GENESIS 22 – Many years before this chapter, God promised childless Abraham that he would be given a family line that would bless the whole world (Gen 12:1-2). We’ve seen Abraham have ups and downs in trusting God. In Gen 15 Abraham really struggled with faith, and God HIMSELF walks the bloody path of the covenant (Gen 15:7-21), reaffirming that God HIMSELF will ensure that His promises are fulfilled. We’ve seen Abraham and Sarah use a fleshly “solution” that led to Ishmael’s birth in Gen 16. Though God makes clear that Ishmael is NOT the child of promise, Abraham still loves him and was heartbroken at having him leave as a young man (Gen 21:10-14). FINALLY in Gen 21 God sends Isaac, the son of promise! And now in Gen 22, God commands Abraham: “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love” and sacrifice him. Don’t miss these tender terms THREE times – Gen 22:2, 12, 16. What a powerful picture to God providing His own Son that He loves as a sacrifice. I’d encourage you to read (and memorize) Romans 8:32 (my go-to verse for when I’m tempted with the thought: “If God loved you, He wouldn’t let you go through this pain”).
Gen 22:3 – Notice Abraham’s quick obedience. We’ve seen him struggle with faith in earlier chapters, but now at the crucial moment he finds the power to trust and obey. Of course this is exactly what God who knows our hearts knew would happen. See Gen 18:17-19 for a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the sovereignty of God surrounding and upholding Abraham’s obedience so that God will bring about exactly what He promised. And see Eph 2:8-10 for a powerful summary of how faith is a GIFT from God that ends up leading to our obedience which DEMONSTRATES that faith.
Gen 22:4 – “On the third day” – Christians reading this can think to ANOTHER “third day” involving another beloved son’s sacrificial death!
Gen 22:5 – “come again to you” – Heb 11:17-19 tells Abraham’s thought process. Abraham was thinking that he’d actually sacrifice his son, but (trusting God’s clear promise that Abraham’s line would be through Isaac) he was thinking that God would raise Isaac from the dead.
Gen 22:6 – Isaac was no little boy if he was able to carry the wood for the sacrifice. Although Isaac carried the wood (compare Jesus carrying His own cross in Jn 19:17), Abraham carried the embers for the fire and the knife (compare God the Father in Rom 8:32 and Isa 53:10).
Gen 22:7 – “My father” – I’m reminded of when Jesus calls out to His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:36) and on the cross (Matt 27:46).
Gen 22:8 – Introducing the Bible theme of the sacrificial lamb – see Ex 12:1-13, Isa 53:6-11, Jn 1:29, 1 Pet 1:18-19, Rev 5:6-13
Gen 22:8 – “provide” – the Hebrew word “Yireh”. The root of the word is literally “see,” and is used for when God sees to it that His plan is provided for and happens. Even in our English word “provision,” notice the connection – someone looks ahead and figures out what will be needed and provides it. When Hagar was in crisis in Gen 16, we noted how comforting that God SEES (Gen 16:13) and HEARS (Gen 16:11 – Ishmael means “God hears”) us when we’re afflicted and cry out to Him.
Gen 22:11-12 – The story ends just as God knew it would – now that Abraham has fully demonstrated his faith in God, he is stopped at the last moment from sacrificing his beloved son, and God provides a substitute to be sacrificed in his place. Years later, though, God would NOT stay His own hand because it was the plan from the beginning to sacrifice His own Beloved Son (Isa 53:10, Rev 13:8).
Gen 22:14 – Abraham connects this place where God saw to it that there was a substitute provided for sacrifice “Yahweh Yireh”. People often use the anglicized German form of this Hebrew name for God: “Jehovah Jireh”. Yahweh Yireh – God who SEES and sees to every detail of His people and His sovereign plan being provided for.
MATTHEW 21 – This is the beginning of the Passover week that ends with Jesus’ death and resurrection. The events of this day are often called the “Triumphal Entry,” because of how the crowds received Jesus as the triumphant Messiah, whom many were hoping would save them from Rome’s tyranny. Also called “Palm Sunday” because the “branches” in Matt 21:8 were palm branches (John 12:13). Especially in light of what we read today in Gen 22, don’t miss that early in Passover week lambs were to be selected for sacrifice at the end of the week (Exodus 12:3-6). So as Jesus was riding in as God’s Messianic King, Jerusalem was filled with lambs (many from the shepherds of Bethlehem a few miles away) to be carefully examined to ensure they were without blemish and could be used for sacrifice. A powerful reminder that Jesus is both the kingly Lion of Judah AND God’s perfect sacrificial Lamb (Rev 5:5-10).
Matt 21:4 – Jesus fulfilling Zech 9:9, prophesied hundreds of years before! In Rev 19:11 we read that at Jesus’ SECOND coming He will be riding a war horse. But at this FIRST coming He’s riding a donkey, a reminder that terms of peace are available with the King.
Matt 21:9 – “Hosanna” – This is Hebrew, quoting Ps 118:25-26. “Hosanna” is a cry for salvation, and shows that the crowds hoped Jesus was the Messianic Rescuer promised in the Old Testament. Yes, but not like most of them thought. Jesus came to save us from our SINS (Matt 1:21, 9:6). When the crowds could tell that Jesus was not here to rescue them from Rome, the shouts changed only days later: “Let him be crucified!” (Matt 27:22)
Matt 21:12-14 – Jesus is the Lion AND the Lamb (Rev 5:5-10). Note His kingly toughness (v 12-13) and His kind tenderness (v 14).
Matt 21:15-16 – The religious leaders were indignant that Jesus was receiving the Messianic praise from the children, and give Jesus a chance to reject that. Instead, He says even more – He quotes Psalm 8:2 about praise to Yahweh and applies that to HIMSELF (because He’s God in the flesh)!
Matt 21:18-22 – People often wonder about this, since it’s Jesus’ only destructive miracle. It’s a powerful reminder that judgment is coming on those who CLAIM to be God’s but have no fruit. Compare this to the religious establishment that Jesus just disrupted and condemned (v 12-16). And see the clear rebukes throughout the next verses (v 31-32, 33-41, 43-45).
Matt 21:42 – For any that aren’t absolutely clear that Jesus IS the Messiah, the Cornerstone of God’s rescue plan for His people, and RECOGNIZED that He was… Jesus quotes Ps 118:22-23, an earlier part of the same Messianic Psalm quoted by the crowds in Matt 21:9.
Optional Psalm 18:31-50 – The END of the story for EVERY believer in Yahweh – full and complete rescue. God will one day get righteous vengeance and fully vindicate those who trust in Him (Ps 18:46-49), bringing praise to His name!
Ps 18:50 – “anointed” – the translation of the close-to-Hebrew title “Messiah” and the close-to-Greek title “Christ”. With all we read in Matt 21 today, don’t miss this reference to the line of David and his “offspring forever” – referring to Jesus and all those “in Him”!
Optional Proverbs 4:23-27 – “Keep your heart with all diligence…” NOT “follow your heart,” like so much of our world thinks but “GUARD / KEEP your heart”!