Bangor Church of Christ

Great Moments in Bible History

Number 26

The Hidden Picture

Pictures like the one on this page have always fascinated me. You think you know what you are seeing and then suddenly a completely different picture appears. That second picture was there all along but you didn’t see it because you weren’t looking for it.

Abraham and Isaac going up Mt Moriah

God draws such pictures too. Only His are in three dimensions and take place in real time. And His have a more important purpose than merely to entertain. They are His autograph.

They say to the discerning viewer, “God did this, not man.”

One of my favorite double pictures is the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac. We are all familiar with the obvious part of the story. God was testing Abraham’s faith and devotion to God by asking him to sacrifice his son. It is a story that has inspired people for thousands of years. But look a little deeper and those familiar lines begin to take on a new meaning as a different picture emerges.

Perhaps we should begin by noticing the place where the story is enacted. “ Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love , and go to the land of Moriah,” God told Abraham, “and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (Genesis 22:2). This mention of a specific place might not attract our attention were it not for a reference to it again at the end of the story: “So Abraham called the name of that place, ‘The LORD will provide’; as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided’” (Genesis 22:14). This makes us sit up and take note. Something was going to be provided by the Lord in that mountain. What was He going to provide? Abraham was referring to his earlier statement, “God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering.” So on Mt. Moriah God was going to provide a lamb.

Where is this Mt. Moriah? In Abraham’s day it was probably pretty much deserted. But as the years went by a town on a neighboring hill began to expand. When they needed some extra room to build a rather large building, the king bought Mt. Moriah. That town was Jerusalem and that building was God’s temple (2 Chronicles 3:1). Over the years thousands of lambs were sacrificed at that temple on Mt. Moriah. But which was the lamb that God Himself provided?

John the Baptist answered that question for us. Looking at Jesus he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). And when we think about Jesus, the hidden picture begins to appear. It was in the temple on Mt. Moriah that Jesus did most of His preaching that last week of His life. It was there that the Jews decided to kill Him. It was there that Judas arranged to betray Him. In fact, all the events surrounding His death—the betrayal, the trials, the crucifixion—took place within half a mile of that mountain.

And the hidden lines begin to emerge. Once we begin to see the sacrifice of Christ in this story, many other details become clearer. God had told Abraham, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love.” In the New Testament we read that Jesus is the only Son of God (John 1:14).

But the parallels in our stories extend even to the small, seemingly insignificant details. “And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife.” There is something very moving about that picture of Isaac laboring under that load of wood upon which he himself was to be offered. But as we look at that picture, another one comes into view. We see Jesus, Abraham’s descendant, stumbling under the heavy load of the wooden cross upon which He was soon to be sacrificed.

There are other parallels. I will mention a couple and leave you the challenge and reward of discovering their application to Christ:

“On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes” (Genesis 22:4).

“Then Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here’” (Genesis 22:5).

Keep in mind that Abraham and Isaac lived nearly 2,000 years before Jesus was even born. So how do we explain the amazing accuracy of this picture of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ?

God’s Autograph

Forged identity. How many of us have received an email that claims to be from our bank and says something like, “We have detected suspicious behavior on your account. Please click on this link to log in and verify whether the activity is valid”? A lot of those emails are forged. If you click on the link you will likely get your bank account hacked and your money may get stolen. Sometimes we get an email from one of our friends, but again it turns out to be a forgery. If you click on the link in your “friend’s” email you will get your computer hacked.

Hand holding a pen

How can we tell the difference between a forgery and a genuine message? If we know the person well, it is usually not difficult. Our friend knows things no forger could know. As long as they write us a reasonably long message, we can tell if they really wrote it.

Imagine the problem God had when He got ready to write a book to us. How could He prove the book was His and not some clever forgery?

Perhaps God could describe some scientific fact that no one on earth would know at the time. For example, at a time when everyone thought the earth was flat, God could announce in His book that it really was round. Since God was the only one who could have known that at the time, it would prove the book was His. There is a problem with this method, though. How can we be certain that no one on earth knew that fact back then? (In fact, there were men living before Jesus was born who had figured out that the world was round.)

No, scientific facts will not prove God’s identity.

There is one thing, though, that God knows that no man can know—the future. If God could put into His book predictions of events long before they happened, it would prove beyond all doubt that the book was His.

That is exactly what God did in the Bible. The Old Testament was written 400 to 1500 years before Christ. It has hundreds of predictions of Christ. His birthplace, His tribe and family, His work, His place of preaching, the kind of trial He would have, how He would die, why He would die, where He would die, the kind of burial He would have, His resurrection from the dead—all are predicted with exactness.

But God did not stop there. He had people act out in their lives what was going to happen to His Son. Thus, Abraham was told to sacrifice his son in the very same place where God’s Son would later be sacrificed. Sometimes even a whole nation would act those things out. God commanded the nation of Israel to keep the Passover. In preparation for leaving their Egyptian slavery He told them to kill a lamb and sprinkle its blood on the sides and top of their doors. For hundreds of years they observed that feast until one year Jesus, the lamb of God, was killed on the evening of that very day!

Illustrations like these could be multiplied. They all serve one purpose—they prove that God wrote the Bible.