From near the very beginning the concept of vicarious suffering as the payment for sin had been within the relational dynamic between humans and God. The sufferer had been an unblemished animal, a possession of great value to nomadic herdsmen. But in an early biblical story the practice, at God’s own instruction, was apparently going to take a stunning, terrible new direction. It appeared that unblemished animals were no longer going to be sufficient to pay their debts. Rather, their own sons would be the coin of payment. Abraham, in humble submission to God’s command, set off with his precious son Isaac, the son of his old age, the vessel of fulfillment of his covenant with the LORD.
Along the way the way, the son, bearing the tree, asked an innocent question that would echo down the centuries, laying bare the souls of countless multitudes: “but where is the lamb…?” Abraham’s response is of no less import in laying open that which existed in God’s holy mind: “God himself will provide the lamb…” Read this profound text prayerfully and meditate on its implications.
Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.
We know that it was never in God’s mind for Abraham to sacrifice his son. The LORD stayed his hand. And Abraham was provided with a substitute, a ram.
Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”
But note – God did not provide a lamb – which is “an immature sheep, especially one under a year old without permanent teeth.” Where was the lamb? Perhaps, in the eternal, omniscient, merciful mind of God this was the announcement that there would indeed be the sacrifice of a son for sin. But this Son would not be the child of human man and wife, but rather the Father’s own precious Son. And this sacrifice would not be temporary and partial as all had been before, but eternal and total.
So, at just the right time, a Child was born, grew to Manhood and made His way to the Jordan River to be baptized.
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
As John the Baptist prophesized, so it came to pass.
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
(1 Peter 1:18-21)
And as it has come, so it will be brought to final resolution.
Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!”
This is the Most Holy of ground. It is the crucible where Love, Sin; Good, Evil; Hope, Despair; Victory, Failure; Salvation, Damnation; Heaven, Hell – all meet at the point of unknowable suffering within the Person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Take off your sandals.