The wisdom of God is such that He often reveals His plan by developing a series of patterns instead of directly stating His intentions. I assume that this is due to the fact that He well knows the human capacity to wrongly interpret something that is being said. He lays down a pattern, repeats it in different ways so that a discerning heart and soul can understand what is being communicated. This is true concerning Abraham and the promise of a “special son”. From the very beginning, as God initiated His plan of redemption, He began to lay down this pattern of revelation.
“for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever. And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered.” (Genesis 13:15-16)
Despite this promise, Abram and Sarai remained childless for another 25 years.
Only God Can Fulfill His Promises
Eventually Abram and Sarai became desperate for children and utilized the practice common in their society. The handmaiden of Sarai, Hagar, was given to Abram in order to raise descendants and therefore fulfill the promise. Obviously, Abram and Sarai had no clue as to what God was doing through them. This step of “helping God” through the birth of Ishmael provided a vessel of opposition to everything that God planned to do through Abram. It also led to the requirement for Abram and his descendants to confess surrender of the reproductive system to the purpose of God which was manifested through the sign of circumcision. The birth and existence of Ishmael clouded the picture that God was beginning to reveal.
Now when Sarai was well past the age to bear children (menopause), God was ready to act. God changed Abram’s name to Abraham (father of a multitude) and Sarai to Sarah (princess). Abraham was 99 years old and she was 89. Now God revealed Himself to Abraham and announced that Sarah would bear his son within the coming year. This seemed so absurd to them that they both laughed when they heard this word. But,
“So, Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which God had spoken to him.” (Genesis 21:2)
Consecration of God’s Promised Son
Many years later, God commanded Abraham to take his son, Isaac, to Mt. Moriah and make a “burnt” or ascent offering (an offering wholly consecrated to God, in Hebrew “olah”) of him there. Please note the unusual language used by God.
“And He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”” (Genesis 22:2)
We know from previous passages that Abraham had another son, Ishmael. For the purpose of God’s revelation, God ignored Ishmael. Also, the language used by God, “your son, your only son, whom you love” reminds us of the language used by John in his gospel concerning Jesus. I maintain that this entire episode was the beginning revelation of the unique, virgin conception of Messiah Jesus which would occur some 2000 years later.
God Preserves His Promise
An additional point must be considered in this line of revelation. On two occasions, Abraham misrepresented his relationship to Sarah when exposed to foreign forces which he feared. This happened with the Pharaoh in Egypt and with King Abimelech in the Negev. In both cases God intervened to protect the purity of Sarah. The obvious reason was to counter any question regarding who the father of the “special son” is. Again, God left no room for speculation here. The obvious reason for this is the charge that would be lodged against Mary when she conceived and bore Jesus. The Holy One of Israel wanted no confusion as to who the Father was in this case and also of the faithfulness of the mother.
We do not know precisely how old Isaac was at the time Abraham brought him to the mountain of Moriah (Jerusalem) to make an “olah”. However, the next event recorded in the Bible is the death of Sarah. She was 127 at the time of her death. Isaac was 37 years old. If God intended for Isaac to be a prophetic type of Jesus, then Jesus would be near this age at the time of His death. Most scholars believe that the crucifixion occurred in the year 31 CE/AD. Modern dating places King Herod’s death at 4 BCE/BC. Herod had the children of Bethlehem who were two years old and younger killed. So, this would place Jesus’ birth between 4-6BCE/BC. So Jesus would have been 37 at the time of His death. We believe this corresponds to the age of Isaac when Abraham journeyed to make him an “olah” on mountain of Moriah.
This revelation concerning the “special son” should be sufficient to cause a discerning person to rejoice with the love of God for the human community. He has painstakingly laid down a picture of a loving Father who is intimately involved in our lives despite our frequent indifferences to His love. May God continue to show mercy to us!