Abraham: Seeing Christ’s Day
God recognizes and loves those who give their life to create a divine legacy.
Many years ago, I heard the words of a song that moved me! This song, called “A Legacy of Love,” was written about a father who “showed his faith by how he lived it out.” But the song posed the question, “So what will be remembered of what he left behind? What will stand the test of time?”
In the Bible, we are surrounded by many faithful family legacies.
As I had then recently become a dad, I began to ponder that question and think about what influence I wanted to have on my family. Many in the world strive to create a legacy or name that might live on, but ultimately what eternal benefit will material things, money, possessions or fame have on our children? If we can gain the whole world and lose our life, what profit is that to our families or us?
In the Bible, we are surrounded by many faithful family legacies. At first, they might seem small and insignificant, but they had an eternal impact not only on the people of their day but on generations to come. The powerful thing is that God recognizes and loves those who give their life to create a divine legacy.
One such example is Abraham. It is the Yahweh angel that said:
What an amazing statement concerning the man Abraham, spoken when yet the promised seed was still future.
In Deuteronomy 6:4-10, Moses picks this up to instruct the people in the Abrahamic legacy of loving Yahweh but teaching this “diligently to thy children.” But how was this legacy to be taught? Through the faithful actions of those parents, uncles, aunties, elders, mentors and friends who would,
The Apostle Paul, in Romans 4, speaks of the legacy of Abraham as being one of faith. Yet he speaks specifically in verse 12 about those: “who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham.” So, what is that faith to which Paul directs us, and why is it so important to our generation?
In John 8, Jesus expounds one of the key themes in the life of Abraham: “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.” (John 8:56). Abraham’s faith is about spiritual sight, not looking at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen (2 Cor 4:18). Our generation puts trust in the physical evidence we can see with our eyes, but Abraham’s faith was a spiritual sight of the unseen!
This theme immediately presents itself in the very first words spoken to Abram in Genesis 12. In the wonderful promise; “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee.” The Hebrew word for “shew” is “ra-ah” (lit. “to see”). It occurs again in 12:7, twice, as “appeared.” It is fascinating to follow this word through the Genesis account of Abram/Abraham’s life. It is a challenge to see as God sees.
A contrast is established in Genesis 13:10 when it is used of Lot. Here Lot “lifted up his eyes and beheld all the plains of Jordan.” The word “beheld” is also “ra-ah.” Lot was also called to the promises, but from here, he separated from Abram, making a disastrous decision not to follow his spiritual sight, but to move to the lush surrounds of Sodom. Yet of Abram, we are told in 13:14, “Lift up your eyes and look” (“ra-ah”.) Here Abraham looked at what yet he could not see, a land filled with his seed, his legacy, inhabiting it forever!
Spiritual sight is not easy to develop
In Genesis 18:1-2, we again have Yahweh “appear” (“ra-ah”) to Abraham, where he “lifted up his eyes” (key theme) and saw the angelic host and Yahweh angel. This chapter is the divine promise of a son, pointing forward to Christ (Gal 3:16). It is here the Godly character of Abraham is seen, and the divine commendation of his legacy (Gen 18:17-19).
Spiritual sight is not easy to develop, which is why God tested Abraham many times, to help produce such vision. One such example is in Genesis 21, which lays the foundation context for the greatest of such tests in Genesis 22.
Here in Genesis 21:9-10 it is Sarah who is to teach Abraham about spiritual sight. She looked on and “saw” (“ra-ah”) Ishmael mocking Isaac, and she goes to Abraham with the advice that he must be “cast out,” and not inherit with her son. (see Gal 4:22-31). We know how huge this statement was, because it was “very grievous in Abraham’s sight.”
The Hebrew for “sight” here is not “ra-ah,” because Abraham was not viewing this scene in light of eternal principles, rather because of “his son.” So, it is God who had to step in to correct his vision! The amazing thing about Sarah’s words and spiritual sight is that Paul quotes them in Galatians 4:30 with this preface: “Nevertheless, what saith the scripture?”
The wonderful thing about Abraham is how he still obeyed God! Notice in Genesis 21:14 that “Abraham arose early.” This shows how challenging this trial was for Abraham in overcoming temporal sight with spiritual sight. We confirm this by observing that the only other time this is said of Abraham is when he is asked by God to sacrifice his son of promise (Gen 22:3)! The connection between the two events is further observed by the opening line of Genesis 22, “After these things.”
The ultimate test of spiritual sight is found in the events of the sacrifice of Isaac. Would Abraham trust God in faith when asked to do something that he could have, by human logic, rejected or refused? How could a loving God, who hates human sacrifice, ask such a thing? How can Isaac be the promised seed if he was to die? Would Abraham be able to see as God sees? This is the power of Genesis 22. Abraham was to be brought to see Christ’s day and be glad.
We can picture the scene of Genesis 22:1-3. Anxious Abraham rises early, not able to sleep, troubled with what God has asked of him, his mind churning with what God is trying to teach him. His head down, focused on the path ahead, solemnly leading on Isaac and his servants.
Continuing the narrative at verse 4, “And then, on the third day he lifted up his eyes and saw (“ra-ah”) the place afar off.” What an amazing statement! Abraham’s spiritual sight ignites as he suddenly sees God’s work. After three days of darkness, now Abraham “saw Christ’s day.” The “third day” is the day of resurrection (Matt 16:21). Now he saw what God was going to do–raise Isaac to life again.
The certainty of this is shown both in the context of Genesis 22, and from Paul’s words in Hebrews 11. Abraham himself immediately declares that Isaac and he would “go away and worship and come again to you.” (Gen 22:5). Paul expounds this in Hebrews 11:17-19: “Abraham accounted God able to raise him up, even from the dead.” Therefore, it was in this “figure” that Abraham did sacrifice Isaac, because in his mind he was certain he would go through with it in confidence of God raising him again!
The wonder of Paul’s words is that he calls Isaac Abraham’s “only begotten son.” This title of Christ (John 3:16, 18) being applied to Isaac, demonstrates the power and meaning behind the events of Genesis 22. Abraham, as the father, represents God. Isaac, the son, represents Jesus Christ. This highlights the meaning of the repetition in Genesis 22 of “father” and “son.” (22:6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 16).
The entire chapter now comes alive with allegory and import, showing the wonder of our Father, who knows the end from the beginning. It establishes a test that causes our hearts to rejoice as we see Christ’s day immersed throughout the chapter.
Yet Abraham, like us, can see “afar off” into the future, confident that God’s work in His Son is as good as done (Rom 4:17). Abraham was so confident in God that he lifted his hand to kill Isaac, by faith looking forward to Christ’s day, which it represented. In dying with Christ, he would be sure of being raised together with him (Rom 6).
Yet at the very moment he lifts the knife, the Yahweh angel interrupts the events (Gen 22:11). It is at this point that Abraham “lifted up his eyes and looked (“ra-ah).” (vs 13). He sees the ram of God’s providing “behind him,” for the mission and work of Christ preceded even creation. “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58, 17:5, Col 1:15-20, Heb 1:1-4).
I love the language of Genesis 22:15 where it tells us the angel called “the second time.” It was the first time (vs 11) that the angel reveals the ram, signifying the first advent of Christ, who came as the sacrifice that “taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) But it is this “second time” that the angel proclaims the blessing of God that will be to “all nations,” pointing forward to the second advent of Christ, where he will possess the “gate of his enemies.” (Gen 22:17). Paul shows this to be the ultimate destruction of death in the Kingdom Age (1 Cor 15:22-28). The certainty of this is sealed by God’s own oath (Gen 22:16), which must be the very anchor of our souls (Heb 6:13-19).
How amazing is it that Abraham then calls that place, “Yahweh Yireh,” which is made up of our key word “ra-ah,” meaning “He who will be seen.” Truly, in this mount it will be seen. So, Christ says; “Abraham rejoiced to see my day, he saw it, and was glad.” How his heart rejoiced to see the resurrection of his son Isaac pointing forward to the one who would conquer death and bring life and immortality to light.
This Abrahamic legacy is highlighted both in Genesis 22, and how this chapter is picked up in the gospel of John. In Genesis 22:20 we have the repetition of the chapter’s opening statement: “It came to pass after these things.” What follows seems like a boring genealogy, but in fact, it is the first occurrence of a special person, Rebekah. Only after the death and resurrection of Isaac (Christ) are we introduced to his bride, the ecclesia (John 19:34-37, Gen 2:21-25).
Jesus knew his mission and how God was working behind the scenes already.
These lofty themes converge beautifully in John 11, illustrating the Abrahamic legacy. Jesus received the message sent to him of the sickness of the one he “loved.” (John 11:3, 5). Yet Jesus wanted to teach his disciples about Abrahamic faith, to see as God sees. Jesus knew his mission and how God was working behind the scenes already. (11:4, 40) Christ knew this was about resurrection (John 11:11, 15, 25-26) and said, “I am glad (same word as 8:56) for your sakes.” This is because he was going to help them see the power of God, even over the grave. The repetition of the phrase “I know,” in 11:22-27 are all the same word “see” from John 8:56!
How hard it must have been for Jesus to have deliberately waited two days (11:6), knowing that Lazarus would die, to illustrate this point to his disciples. How much patience and trust we also learn when we see why Christ delays these two thousand years before he returns to raise the dead. But he invites us also to “Come and see” (11:34), to develop Abrahamic faith and spiritual sight.
We enter not only into the depth of Christ bearing our burdens and carrying our sorrows, (11:33, 38) but also into his confidence in God, to reveal His glory so that all might “see and believe.” The record says that Christ “lifted up his eyes,” (11:41) and cried out to the “Father” in prayer. Here, at the mouth of a cave (11:38), a place like where Abraham buried Sarah, Jesus, possessing the gate of his enemies, cried with a “loud voice,” to call the dead to “Come forth.” (11:43).
Those who believe, and see the unseen are the legacy of Abraham. Those, who develop the faith of their father Abraham, will not look at the things our eyes can behold, rather the things that are eternal. To see as God sees. They see the evidence that God provides for faith is in His word, not the physical things our eyes behold. They are those that Christ said, “shall hear the voice of the son of God, and they that hear shall live.” (John 5:25).
Riverwood Ecclesia, Australia