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Doctrines of Grace



                       Christ in the Story of Abraham

Genesis 12:1-3:

Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

God called Abraham, who was the tenth generation from Noah, out of the city of Ur, a large industrial and commercial metropolis. It is estimated that around 2100 B.C., which is now generally accepted by scholars as the time of Abraham, the population of the city of Ur was at least two hundred and fifty thousand, maybe even five hundred thousand. The world population in Abraham’s day is estimated to have been around 5 million. Abraham was called out of idolatry. He found grace in the eyes of the Lord. God wasn't looking for volunteers and Abraham raised his hand and said pray for me. God loved Abraham, God sought Abraham. God called Abraham. Just as God called Noah to come into the Ark, He called Abraham out of an idolatrous city to make of him a great nation. He called only Abraham. He left the rest of the 5 million where they were. What a beautiful picture of God’s sovereign grace. What Abraham could not see in God’s promise to make of him a great nation was that from his seed Christ would come and that all the nations of the earth would be blessed in Christ’s salvation. Speaking of Jesus Christ, Revelation 5:9 says, `Worthy art thou to take the scroll, and to open the seals of it, because thou wast slain, and didst redeem us to God in thy blood, out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.”

The promise to Abraham was not simply that Abraham would be made great, but that Christ would be made great through him, and that the nations of the world would be blessed through Christ. The calling of Abraham was the beginning of God’s plan of salvation for His people through Jesus Christ, His Son.

Next, Christ is revealed in the story of the birth of Abraham’s son Isaac. In Genesis 17:16-17, God speaks to Abraham about Sarah. God says, “And 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. Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is a hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?”

The birth of Abraham’s son Isaac points toward Christ. Isaac’s birth was miraculous in that it was physically impossible for Sarah to have had a child. God told Abraham that he would bless Sarah and she would give him a son. The scripture says Abraham 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? Sarah had been barren all of her life. Her womb had dried up. It was physically impossible for her to bear a child. But nothing is impossible with God. Sarah miraculously conceived and bore Isaac, the child God promised them. Abraham was 85 years old when God told him “He that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. And he brought him 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.”

For years, Abraham and Sarah both wondered how God would accomplish the birth of a child since they were both old and Sarah had been barren all her life. Sarah decided she and Abraham were going to have to help God out. She gave Abraham her Egyptian handmaiden Hagar, who bore him a son who was named Ishmael. Ishmael’s birth was a fleshly arrangement. Abraham and Sarah thought they were cooperating with God to provide an heir. Ishmael’s birth was accomplished by the will of man. But when Ishmael was 13, God told Abraham that he would bless Sarah and she would give him a son. Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!” Abraham is asking God to let Ishmael be the child of the promise. He is asking God to honor man’s decision and his fleshly arrangement. He is still trying to work things out himself. He still doesn’t believe that he and Sarah will have a son in their old age. God’s answer to Abraham was emphatic. He refused to accept the heir produced by Abraham and Sarah’s will. In Verses 19 and 21 “God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant and with his seed after him. My covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.” God’s heirs are born by God’s will—not by the will of man and certainly not by human will and effort cooperating with God.

Hagar was never free and Sarah was never in bondage. Hagar represents the covenant of works and none of her children are free. God makes it clear that Ishmael is the child of the flesh who shall not inherit with the child of the promise. Ishmael is the child of bondage. He is not free. But Isaac is the child of the promise. The child of the flesh and the child of the promise cannot inherit together. The child of the flesh was born out of wedlock. When we try to produce heirs to the kingdom, like Sarah and Abraham did, we are producing children out of wedlock. We can manipulate and coerce all we want to, but the children that are produced by man’s will are illegitimate children and will not inherit with the children of the promise who are born of the married wife. In our churches today, we are producing fleshly converts who will be cast out just like Ishmael.

The child of the flesh, Ishmael, was born of the works of Abraham and Sarah. God refused to accept the child of the flesh as the child of the promise as Abraham requested. So Sarah and Abraham’s attempts to provide Abraham with an heir instead of waiting on God proved useless. God had already chosen the child of the promise. Abraham and Sarah’s actions illustrate what happens when man tries to make choices himself that redirect the plans of an Almighty Sovereign God.

In Genesis 22:18, God tells Abraham, "Through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed." The blessing is not coming through Abraham but through his offspring. That offspring through whom all the peoples of the earth will be blessed is Jesus Christ. When we examine the events surrounding the birth of Isaac, we must note that there was supernatural activity in the life of Abraham as well as in Sarah in accordance with God's own promise. And when you look at the events around the birth of Jesus, there was also supernatural activity. Both were supernatural events, but only one person was virgin born--Jesus Christ. And it is Jesus Christ, not Isaac, who is the offspring of Abraham through whom all the families of the earth will be blessed, as Paul clearly states in Galatians 3:16, "The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say 'and to seeds,' meaning many people, but 'and to your seed,' meaning one person, who is Christ." Beyond the shadow of doubt, Paul identifies this seed of Abraham, through whom all the nations of the earth will be blessed, as Jesus.

God’s request that Abraham sacrifice his beloved son Isaac foreshadows God’s sacrifice of his only begotten son for the sins of His people. Genesis 22 records Abraham's greatest trial and Abraham's greatest revelation of the gospel of Christ. Jesus said in John 8:56, Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. Genesis 22 is full of Christ and could rightly be called "the gospel of Mt. Moriah," which many believe to be Mt. Calvary, where Christ died. Abraham was called upon to endure the greatest trial of all–the sacrifice of his only son. Our sovereign God does all things He has purposed to do as Paul says in Romans 5:6 "in due time" and Galatians 4:4 "in the fullness of time." Genesis 22 begins, "After these things;" after the fall, the flood, the exodus, the tabernacle, the prophets and kings, it pleased God to fulfill every promise, prophecy, and pattern in the sacrifice of His only-begotten Son. All that had gone before pictured and pointed to this hour when Christ would die. In Genesis 22:2, God says to Abraham, “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.” Can you imagine the grief of Abraham when he received this command? the sorrow he suffered in considering the death of his son at his own hand? the great love he revealed in his willingness to give Isaac? or the supreme sacrifice involved? Notice what God says:

"Take thy son." The Lord Jesus is the Son of God.
"Thine only son." Is He not called "His only begotten son"?
"Whom thou lovest." God said, "This is my beloved son."
"And offer him for a burnt offering."

Christ Jesus became our burnt offering, our sin offering, our sacrifice by the will of the Father, Who was pleased to bruise Him.

Abraham had three full days in which to consider the sacrifice of his son, Isaac. As they journeyed through the days and slept through the nights, this burden and sacrifice lay upon his heart. But the eternal Father foreordained and purposed the sacrifice of Christ Jesus, not three days or three thousand days, but "before the foundation of the world" What love, what grace, and what a sure and certain promise we have in our Lord Jesus Christ and in God's eternal purpose, which has never changed!

Abraham carefully prepared all that was involved in the sacrifice-the wood, the sharpened knife, and the fire. And it was God who carefully prepared, predestinated, and foretold all events, all people, all nations, and all actions of the greatest event of all time—the death of Christ. Abraham commanded his servants to remain at the foot of the mountain, and the father and the son went together to the mountain. Redemption is the work of the Father and the Son. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:19, "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself." And Isaiah 53:4-6 says, “yet Christ was in the hands of and under the wrath of God for our sins.”

As Abraham and Isaac walked up the mountain to offer a sacrifice and to worship God, Isaac asked, "Father, behold the wood and the fire; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" Isaac knew that there can be no acceptance, no forgiveness, no communion between God and men without the blood. Then, Abraham uttered that great prophetic statement –"My son, God will provide Himself a Lamb for a burnt offering." This prophecy says, “The Lord will PROVIDE that redemption for all His sheep, the honoring of His law, the satisfaction of His justice, the fulfillment of His covenant, and the eternal glory of His Son is accomplished in full. Nothing will be left undone. On the cross Jesus cried, "It is finished."

Genesis 22:9 says, "Abraham bound his son and laid him on the altar." Isaac did not resist the will of his father, even as Christ Jesus was willing and obedient even to the death of the cross. Christ could not have come, could not have been arrested, could not have been bound to the tree, and could not have died except it pleased the Father. Here Isaac, the type of Christ, ends; for Isaac was removed from the altar and a ram took his place, which also is a picture of the Lord Jesus dying for us. The ram pictures Christ, our sacrifice; and Isaac pictures the believer, who is spared.

The story of Abraham seeking a bride for his son Isaac in Genesis 24 also points toward Christ. In Genesis 24:3-4 Abraham says,” And I will make thee swear by the LORD, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell: But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac.

In this story, ABRAHAM represents the heavenly Father; ISAAC, the Lord Jesus; the SERVANT, ministers of the gospel (instruments of the Holy Spirit); and REBEKAH, every true believer. Abraham was very wealthy, and his son, Isaac, was the heir of all things that Abraham possessed. He sent his trusted servant to find a bride for Isaac, a bride who would share with him all the riches and glories of the kingdom. The Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God's love, is the heir of all things. John 3:35 says the Father has given all things into His hands. He is Lord and King by design, by decree, and by His death. God has chosen out of every tribe, kindred, and nation a people to be the bride of His Son and joint-heirs with Him of all that He purchased and owns. The Father calls and sends His servants (preachers of the gospel) out into the world to find this bride of Christ. Abraham’s servant must have been full of questions about his mission; but the one great question was, "What if the woman is unwilling to leave her home and family to love, marry, and give herself to a man she does not know and has never seen?" Abraham assured the servant that he was not going forth alone but that the Lord God, who made Isaac the heir, would go with him and reward his efforts. "He shall send His angel before thee."

Just as Abraham’s servant did not go to seek the bride alone, God's preachers do not go forth into the world alone to persuade men to love, believe, and come to Christ by their own logic, power of persuasion, and rhetoric. The Spirit of God goes before them to quicken, awaken, and give sinners ears to hear the gospel, eyes to see the beauties of Christ, and a heart to love Him. The bride having been chosen, the servant will journey and endure all things to tell the bride of her beloved, the bride will hear the voice of her beloved through the message of the servant, and the bride will come.

In Genesis 24:10-14, the servant goes to the place where the women come to draw water and, knowing the great responsibility upon him and the human impossibility of the task, he seeks Divine help in sincere prayer. The servant says, “O LORD God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day, and show kindness unto my master Abraham. Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water: And let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast showed kindness unto my master.” Before the servant had finished speaking, Rebekah came to draw water from the well. The Lord had prepared her heart, and the story unfolds exactly as the servant had requested of the Lord. Abraham’s servant realizes that God had chosen Rebekah as the bride for his master Isaac. Just as God chose Rebekah for Isaac, God himself chose the bride of Christ before the foundation of the world and gave that bride to His Son.

The servant was welcomed into Rebekah’s home, but he would not partake of their comforts until he had accomplished his mission and declared his message. Even so, the servants of Christ are men on a mission who care not for the world's comforts and honors but are taken up with what God called them to do–to make Christ known. The servant told Rebekah and her family the glories of Isaac and his master's house. The servants of Christ have one message–Christ and Him crucified.

Finally, after the servant had fully stated his case, the question was put directly to Rebekah, “wilt thou go?" And she said, "I will go." As Abraham had told his servant, the Lord went before him and prepared the heart of the bride. The children of God are the bride of Christ. The Holy Spirit goes before the preaching of the gospel and prepares the bride’s heart and opens her eyes to see the glories of the gospel of Christ. The choosing of Rebekah to be the bride of Isaac was the work of a Sovereign God who answered the servant’s prayer before he had finished speaking and prepared Rebekah’s heart to understand and receive the message and submit to the Father’s will. What a beautiful picture of Christ and His bride!