Abraham: He Saw My Day
"The Angel Prevents the Sacrifice of Isaac," Rembrandt, 1636
“Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad” (John 8:56).
There is more than one way to see something.
We can see with our eyes, or we can see with the eyes of faith. That’s what happened to Abraham on Mount Moriah when he offered his son Isaac to the Lord. We catch a glimpse of this in Genesis 22. Twice in that chapter Abraham hints that he expects somehow, some way, God was going to work things out so Isaac would live. When he saw Moriah in the distance, he gave this instruction to his servants:
“Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you” (v. 5).
Did you get that? "We" will come back to you. Not "I" will come back, but "we" will come back. Abraham believed he and his son would somehow return together. As they walked along, with Isaac carrying the wood for the sacrifice, the son asked his father, "Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" (Genesis 22:7). Abraham's reply has become a synonym for the man of faith speaking faith into a hopeless situation. "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son" (v. 8).
Hebrews 11:19 tells us why Abraham could talk like that. He believed God could raise the dead.
Didn't know how.
Had never seen it happen.
He reasoned from what he knew about God to what he knew about the situation. The only thing he could come up with was, "I'm going to put my son to death, and then God will raise him from the dead." That's amazing if you think about it, especially since no one in history had ever been raised from the dead, and this happened 2000 years before Christ.
It turns out he was partly right about it. God can raise the dead, a fact proved at the empty tomb outside the walls of Jerusalem. That part was 100% correct. But he was wrong about Isaac dying that day. At the very last second, Abraham saw a ram caught in a thicket, a ram placed there by God, and he offered the ram in place of his son. Thus figuratively he did receive Isaac back from the dead. In 1636 Rembrandt depicted this dramatic moment in one of his paintings. If you study it closely, you can see the ram just under the angel’s arm.
Long before Christ came, God preached the gospel to Abraham. Through the ram caught in the thicket, Abraham “saw” the coming day of salvation Christ would bring. No wonder he was glad!
Take a moment and thank God for Jesus. Remember that Christ came to die for you and me. He paid for our sins on the cross and then defeated death once and for all when he rose from the dead. On this side of Calvary, we know much more than Abraham did. We ought to rejoice too!
Our Father, may we see Jesus with fresh eyes this Christmas season. Fill us with gladness because our Savior has come and made all things new. Amen.
Musical bonus: Today’s carol got its start in a Latin poem written in A.D. 413. It celebrates the Incarnation and calls on Christians to sing praise to God. If you need a “praise uplift” today, listen to Of the Father’s Love Begotten.