Today's Reading: Genesis 22-24
I'm always amazed when God reveals a new insight to me in a story I've read over and over. Today, my brain stuck on a small, seemingly insignificant phrase in Genesis 22 that soon budded into a new understanding.
In Genesis 22:4, we read these words:
"On the third day, Abram raised his eyes and saw the place (of sacrifice) from a distance."
I got stuck on the "on the third day" phrase. Third day, third day, I kept thinking over and over.
I quickly turned back to Genesis and reminded myself that on the third day, God created the first living things: vegetation. And in each plant was seed to reproduce more vegetation after its own kind.
Now, I know from years of instruction, that a true sacrifice is the first fruit of one's life, one's paycheck, one's talents and time. It is the first fruit because of two reasons:
1. The first fruit or harvest is usually the best, the plumpest, the strongest. This is not only true with a harvest of vegetation, but was especially true when children were being born. From modern science, we know it takes 18 months for a woman's body to recover and re-generate all the necessary minerals, electrolytes and blood supply after a birth. In the days prior to birth control, many women became pregnant with their second child within the first year after the first was born. Thus her body did not have all the strength and sustenance available to the second which was present for the first, leaving the second child weaker and more vulnerable than the first.
2. Therefore, sacrificing the first fruit was a huge sign of trust and dependence upon God to provide. The first harvest was usually a sure thing; but a second harvest could be thwarted by weather, fire or drought. Giving the first and best fruit said, "I trust you, Lord, to provide for me, even before I can see the provision."
So, on the third day, the day of the creation of vegetation and seed and first fruits, Abraham climbs the mountain of Moriah [which means "The place chosen by God" or "The place God perceives"] to offer his first fruit, his first born and his only son, as a sacrifice to God.
I can just hear the mantra of Abraham as he treads up that hill: "Jehovah Jireh," "Jehovah Jireh," "The LORD will provide," "The LORD will provide." He must have said this to himself to convince himself of a seeming impossibility. It took a miracle to "harvest the first fruit" of Sarah's womb, and now, with his whole future on the line, on the third day, he turns his most precious son over to God in sacrifice.
We know the rest of the story, the LORD sees Abraham's trust, stays his hand and provides a ram with a crown of thorns. Moreover, look at Genesis 22:17-18. The third day seed of Isaac is multiplied by a three fold blessing:
1. I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens
2. Your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies
3. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed me.
This story is the model and the foreshadowing of yet another father's sacrifice of an only son. This father took his only begotten, beloved son and marched him up a hill of sacrifice called Golgatha. This father fulfilled the words of Abraham in 22:8, "God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering." And, this sacrifice was "in place of" all the sons and daughters of humanity [22:13] God's hand was not stayed, despite the pleas of the Son. The first born of all creation was given as the substitutionary atonement for all.
But that was not the end of the story. On the third day, Christ rose again from the dead! On the third day!
And if that isn't enough, the day following the Shabat of Passover [Sunday] is the Jewish Festival called the Feast of the Harvest of the First Fruits. Paul, who was schooled and rooted so deeply in the Hebrew tradition, pulls all these branches together, making a victor's wreath of revelation as he proclaims a mystery of our faith:
"Jesus is the first fruits of the resurrected ones" [1 Corinthians 15:20,23]
And then we, become the second fruits, the weaker ones, the seed of our Savior, whom God trusts to sustain the Church and the kingdom...wow! Imagine the confidence the great Lord of the Harvest has as we sow the seed and the Lord provides the growth.
And Jesus gives us a three fold blessing that parallels the blessing given to Isaac:
1. Go and make disciples of all nations...
2. Do not be afraid, for I will be with you always. I will give you words as you speak before even the most powerful of your enemies.
3. You will be able to do even more that I. Disperse to all the nations; sow the seed far and wide; share the blessing of the Good News.
I am always so amazed when all this comes together in an a-ha moment for me. It feels as if I have discovered a treasure that has been sitting right under my nose. It also declares to me the height, depth, breadth and length of God's amazing plan of salvation and love.
And God showed it all to me on this day, this Tuesday, the Third Day of the week...