Mountains are majestic. Mountains inspire us. Mountains have symbolic meaning for us—as in, “Climb every mountain.” Mountains are amazing geological structures. Some people cannot live far from them, and others cannot help but climb them; but do they also cause us terror and dread? Perhaps the early pioneers, as they forged their way west, saw mountains as obstacles and were overwhelmed by what stood in the way of their journey. Did they view them with terror and dread? I don’t know, but I do know that Abraham in our text must have been overcome when Mount Moriah came into view.
The Lord came to Abraham and instructed him to take his son, his only son, to Mount Moriah and offer him up, to sacrifice him on an altar on Mount Moriah. Abraham was faithful. Abraham trusted. He loaded the donkey with wood, and he headed for the region of Moriah. What a journey that must have been! Abraham knew what lay ahead, but Isaac was clueless. What do you talk about? How do you act? When you know that the death of your child—at your own hands—lies in your path, how do you say the things that need to be said without giving away the intent of your journey? Quite the journey—a journey with the promise of death as your companion the entire way. Then, after three days, Abraham lifted up his eyes and there it was—the mountain—Mount Moriah. The time had come.
Sin requires sacrifice. Blood must be shed to pay the price. Payment must be made to satisfy the debt. Sin has exiled man from God, and the only way to return from this exile is to pay the price demanded, and the price is blood. So, to satisfy the payment demanded, Abraham prepares to offer up his only son.
Isaac bears the wood upon which he will be sacrificed up the mount, and he wonders and asks, “Where is the lamb for sacrifice?” He knows there must be blood shed to atone for sin. He knows the ritual. He knows, and he wants to know where the sacrifice is. Abraham’s heart must have been ripped from his chest at the question. How do you answer? What do you say? Abraham responds in faith, even as the tears are pushing at his eyes. “God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son” (v. 8).
Abraham has faith. Abraham trusts. Abraham knows the Lord will provide the lamb for sacrifice, but is the lamb Isaac? This he doesn’t know, and it is this that makes his feet drag and his spirits sag. Is the sacrifice Isaac? Yet, Abraham builds the altar and arranges the wood and places his only son upon the wood; he raises the knife . . . and the Lord stays his hand! The Lord provides a sacrifice, a ram caught in the thicket. And thus it is said, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided” (v. 14).
So powerful is this account, so intense is the drama, so shocking the faith, so amazing the rescue that the Hebrew people will later build the temple on this very hill. This very hill, this mountain is where God dwells with His people. This mountain is Mount Zion! Consider this: The Hebrew people revere this account of Abraham and Isaac so highly that it has its own title and place in their faith. They call it the Aqedah, which is the Hebrew word for “binding.” Isaac is the only “bound,” tied-down sacrifice in the Old Testament. All other sacrifices are first killed and then placed upon the altar as their blood is poured and sprinkled. Isaac is the only bound sacrifice, the only living sacrifice in the Old Testament. In the rest of the Bible, there is only one more.
“On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided” (v. 14). On this mountain, the sacrifice of the only-begotten Son of God will be provided. He, too, is a bound sacrifice for He is nailed to the tree to suffer and die. Sin, our sin, has exiled us from God. Blood is required for payment, and on the mountain the Lord provides. This sacrifice takes place on another mountain, Mount Calvary. Here, Jesus carries the wood for His sacrifice, a tree, a cross. And from that tree on that mountain, the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world is brought to Mount Zion. Jesus Christ brings His own blood onto Mount Zion, into the temple, through the curtain, and into the Most Holy Place. The temple curtain is ripped in two, and the blood of the Lamb is poured out on the Mercy Seat. The Lord provides the final sacrifice for the sins of the world.
Abraham makes a three-day journey to Mount Moriah prior to the sacrifice of his son; but Jesus’ three-day journey follows His sacrifice. For three days, He lies in the tomb. For three days, the grave holds Him. But on that third day, Jesus is lifted up to new life, a glorious resurrection. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God provided His Son, His only Son, as the sacrifice required for sin, and all who believe in Him shall not perish. For God provides everlasting life, on this mountain.
Mount Moriah to Mount Zion—a return from exile. We who have been exiled from the presence of God by our sin have been returned to His presence, restored to His face, reunited on this mountain. On this mountain, God provides His only Son, and He provides the bloody payment for sin. On this mountain, as the curtain is ripped in two, the gates of heaven are thrown open to those who believe and call upon His name. On this mountain, the Lord provides. In Jesus’ name. Amen.