“SUBSTITUTIONARY SACRIFICE”

Genesis 22.8

 

EXPOSITION:

1.   Last Sunday morning we considered the greatest tragedy to visit the human race, The Fall.  Adam, by his single act of disobedience in eating the fruit that God had forbidden, plunged the entire race of man into the deep abyss of sin.

2.   There is much in God’s Word that is misunderstood simply because we tend to ascribe to God motives that are akin to our own sinful motives.  So, in order that you might better appreciate the heart of God, I would like to review the events proceeding from The Fall.

3.   Stand with me to read from the last four words of Genesis 3.6 to the end of the chapter:

6     . . . and he did eat.

7     And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

8     And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.

9     And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?

10    And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.

11     And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked?  Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?

12     And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.

13     And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done?  And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.

14     And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:

15     And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

16     Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

17     And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

18     Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;

19     In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

20     And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.

21     Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.

22     And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

23     Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.

24    So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

 

4.   How broken must have been the heart of God to have been rejected by the man He created, to have been scorned by the man He loved, to have been disrespected so by the man He had communed with.  Yet how did God react to Adam’s outrageous and criminal conduct?

5.   He replaced their covering of fig leaves with coats of skins, verse 21.  Think of it.  Innocent animals died to provide for Adam’s and Eve’s physical comfort, and for their modesty.

6.   After that, God drove the man out from the garden of Eden, verse 24.  But did God do that as a punishment?  Most people think so.  Look at verses 22-23 again:  “And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever.  Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden. . . .”

7.   The triune God thrust forth the man as an act of mercy, not as an act of punishment.  Since the man had become a sinner, God put him forth from the garden so he would not eat the fruit of the tree of life and become a sinner who would live forever in his sins.  “Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden.”

8.   The last verse of Genesis chapter 3 shows us the very heart of God toward those two sinners:  “So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”

9.   God drove the man out.  But what about God’s doings after He drove the man out?  I draw your attention to the last portion of Genesis 3.24:  God “placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”

10. Three things to pay very close attention to here, which reveal to us God’s heart in this matter of Adam and Eve:

 

1A.   First, THERE ARE THE CHERUBIMS

1B.    What are cherubims?

1C.   I had always assumed that cherubims were a certain kind of holy angels, until I began studying for this message.  My research led me to the opinions of the old Baptist theologian, John Gill, and to the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary, and to the more recent Southern Baptist theologian of the 19th century, B. H. Carroll.

2C.   Before I share their observations, let me tell you what my study of God’s Word showed me.  I was surprised to find no connection between the word “cherubim” and any living creature.  Surprising to me was the discovery that “cherubim” in Scripture refers to a statue or embroidered figure, typically in the Tabernacle or the Temple.

3C.   The most common references to the cherubims are such verses as First Samuel 4.4, Psalm 80.1, and Isaiah 37.16, where we read of the LORD “that dwellest between the cherubims,” which refer to the cherubims that were a part of the mercy seat sitting atop the ark of the covenant in the Tabernacle, and later in the Temple.  Those cherubims were gold figures, not living creatures.

4C.   Listen to what John Gill wrote about the cherubims mentioned here in Genesis 3.24:  “these were not real living creatures of any sort, but forms and representations, such as were made afterwards in the tabernacle of Moses, and temple of Solomon; and which Ezekiel and John saw in a visionary way.”[1]  He refers to the books of Ezekiel and Revelation.

5C.   Jamieson-Fausset-Brown wrote of these cherubims, “They were the same figures as were afterwards in the tabernacle and temple; and now, as then, God said, ‘I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims’ (Ex. 25:22).”[2]  Again, two golden figures.

2B.    Why go to the trouble to establish that these cherubims are statues, that these cherubims are figures, such as were found on the mercy seat atop the ark of the covenant?

1C.   Because what is somewhat obscured by the wording of Genesis 3.24 is the fact that “these [cherubims] were the seat of the divine Majesty, and between which he dwelt.”[3]  Thus, the two cherubims formed the throne of God.

2C.   Our King James Version reads, “and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims.”  But John Gill insists, “the words are not to be understood either of placing man, or placing the cherubim, but of Jehovah’s placing himself, or taking up his habitation and residence before the garden of Eden, or at the east of it: while man abode in a state of innocence, the place of the divine Presence, or where God more gloriously manifested himself to him, was in the garden; but now he having sinned, and being driven out of it, he [God] fixes his abode in a very awful manner at the entrance of the garden, to keep man out of it; for so the words may be rendered, ‘and he inhabited the cherubim, or dwelt over, or between the cherubim, before or at the east of the garden of Eden.”[4] 

3C.   Thus, the cherubims refer to the throne of God of which they are a part.  And where God’s throne is God is.  So, the cherubims show us God’s real presence at the entrance to the garden of Eden. 

 

2A.   Next, THERE IS A FLAMING SWORD

1B.    The commentators, Jamieson-Fausset-Brown, write regarding this flaming sword:  “And he dwelt between the cherubim at the East of the Garden of Eden and a fierce fire, or Shekinah, unfolding itself to preserve the way of the tree of life.”[5]

2B.    Listen to what the Jerusalem Targum, which is an ancient paraphrase of the Hebrew Scriptures into Aramaic[6], says:  “and he made the glory of his Shechinah, or glorious Majesty, to dwell of old at the east of the garden of Eden, over or above the two cherubim.”[7]  But what is the Shekinah but a visible manifestation of the presence of God?[8]

3B.    God “’inhabited the cherubim and that with a flaming sword’; that is, with one in his hand, an emblem of the fiery law of God now broken, and of the fire of divine wrath on the account of that, and of the flaming justice of God, which required satisfaction; and this turning on all sides.”[9]

4B.    So, what do we have to this point?  First, we have God’s presence represented by the cherubims, which are always associated with God’s grace in Scripture.  Next, we have the flaming sword, God’s Shekinah, always associated with God’s presence, and here representing God’s holy law which must be satisfied before entrance will be permitted.  And could access be granted?  To be sure.  In the phrase “to keep the way of the tree of life,” the Hebrew word for “keep” means to preserve.[10]

 

3A.   WHICH BRINGS US TO THE TREE OF LIFE

1B.    Eating the fruit of the tree of life would result in living forever.  We see that in Genesis 3.22.  It was to prevent the man from eating that tree’s fruit that God drove the man from the garden of Eden.  We presume that God did not want a rebellious sinner to live forever in such a wretched state.

2B.    Allow me, before brother Isenberger comes to lead us, to read from the venerable B. H. Carroll:

Now, I am no Hebraist, and I have no issue to make with those who are really Hebrew scholars, but I will cite three distinguished Hebraists who give a somewhat different rendering to this passage. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, in their commentary on Genesis, make that read this way: ‘And he [i.e., God] dwelt at the east of the garden of Eden between the Cherubim, and a Shekinah [a fire-tongue, or fire-sword] to keep open the way to the tree of life.’ The same thought is presented more clearly in the Jerusalem Targum, or Jewish commentary on the Old Testament. Dr. Gill, the great Baptist Hebraist of England, presents the same thought. Whatever may be the grammatical construction of this passage in the Hebrew, it means this: that having expelled man from the garden, God established a throne of grace and furnished the means to recover from the death which had been pronounced. There was the mercy seat and there were the Cherubim, and there was the symbol of divine presence in that fire tongue or sword, and whoever worshiped God after man sinned must come to the mercy seat to worship and he must approach God through a sacrifice. In no other way than through an atonement could one attain to the tree of life. All passages that refer to the Cherubim connect them with grace and the mercy seat, not as ministers of divine vengeance, but as symbols of divine mercy. Moses, in Exodus 25, constructs the ark of the tabernacle exactly like the one here used in the garden of Eden. He has a covering or mercy seat, with two Cherubim with a flame between the Cherubim. That was the throne of grace, or mercy seat, and sinners came to that through the blood of a sacrifice. So we may be certain that Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, and the Jerusalem Targum, and Dr. Gill have given the spiritual interpretation of this passage. It is true that the object was to bar out man except through the intervention of the mercy seat, and it is true that the purpose of the mercy seat was to keep open the way to the tree of life.”[11]

 

CONCLUSION:

1.   My friend, whatever you imagine God’s delight and preference to be, whatever you think God had rather do, whatever you imagine His motives to be, please be willing to suspend your own ideas in favor of what He shows to be true, and what He declares to be true.

2.   God is holy and righteous and just, to be sure.  And His nature demands that sin be punished and that rebellion be put down.  But His nature also calls for grace and mercy, and this last portion of Genesis 3.24 shows us that, immediately upon driving out the man so he could not eat of the tree of life and live forever as a sinful rebel, God established a way for man to come back.

3.   That way would have to satisfy God’s holiness, as the flaming sword suggests.  But that way would be by grace, as the cherubims suggest.  And the way would lead to life.

4.   What does it take to persuade you that God is not out to get you, that He wants you to come to repentance?  Do you want His Word to say it?  His Word says it.  I read Second Peter 3.9:  “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

5.   Think about your relationship with God.  You are Cain or Abel outside the garden.  Access to the tree of life is barred to you, because God simply cannot abide you living forever as a defiant rebel.  But He does want you to be converted.  His desire is that you be saved. 

6.   Why else would He immediately place His throne of cherubims at the entrance, with the flaming sword?  There is a way back, access has been provided, but not without a sacrifice.  Will yours be an acceptable sacrifice, as was Abel’s?  Or will yours be an unacceptable sacrifice, as was Cain’s?

7.   Brother Isenberger comes at this time to lead us as we stand to sing.

 

INTRODUCTION:

1.   From my exposition of Genesis 3.24, you can see that it has ever been in the mind of God to see sinners saved from their sins.  Immediately after expelling the sinful man from the garden of Eden God makes a way for man’s return, an avenue of forgiveness and reconciliation that God probably maintained until the Flood.

2.   Next Sunday is Easter Sunday, a time when we will celebrate the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead after three days and three nights in the grave.  The death of Jesus Christ, of course, was the result of His substitutionary sacrifice on the cross of Calvary for sins.

3.   The substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ is a core doctrine of biblical Christianity.  Required by the fact that sinful men are utterly depraved and quite incapable of doing anything to save ourselves, God demanded a fit Substitute to punish in our stead for our sins, our sins imputed to Him for judgment and His righteousness imputed to us for justification.

4.   First Peter 3.18 wonderfully illustrates this doctrine:  “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.”

5.   The doctrine can be seen in John 3.16:  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

6.   But Isaiah 53.4-5 may show the doctrine best:  “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

7.   My friends, if my intention this morning was to set forth the doctrine of Jesus Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice for sinners I would speak from First Peter 3.18 or Isaiah 53.4-5.  But such is not my intention.

8.   That Jesus Christ suffered and bled and died on behalf of sinners is a fact well established to most of you.  But what has not passed through the thoughts of most of you are the feelings associated with such a sacrifice, specifically God’s heart on the matter.

9.   Have you ever thought about what it must have been like for God to send His Son, Jesus, to be the sacrifice for sins?  Have you ever considered the heart of God in this matter of Jesus dying on the cross?

10. We know that God is gracious and ready to reconcile with sinners.  We saw evidence of that in Genesis 3.24, in my exposition.  But to picture His heart, what it is like to give up His Son to suffer and bleed and die for sins, we look to the Old Testament typology of Abraham.  Please turn to Genesis 22, where we will read how Abraham, a type of God the Father, was willing to offer His son, Isaac:

1      And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.

2     And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

3      And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.

4      Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.

5      And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.

6      And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.

7      And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?

8      And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.

9      And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.

10     And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.

11     And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.

12     And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.

13     And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.

 

11. Allow me to make some comments by way of application from this passage:

 

1A.   First, RECOGNIZE THAT ABRAHAM IS A TYPE OF GOD THE FATHER

1B.    A type is a particular kind of prophecy that is not recognized at the time an event occurs as having an prophetical significance.  With the passage of time, as God reveals more truth, it can be seen on reflection that the historical event provided important insight into the character and nature of God.

2B.    For example:  When  Abraham sends his unnamed servant to fetch a bride for his son, Isaac, Abraham is in that story a type of God the Father, Isaac is a type of Jesus Christ, the unnamed servant is a type of the Holy Spirit of God, and the bride fetched for Isaac is a type of the bride of Christ.

3B.    Another example:  Jacob’s son, Joseph is a wonderful type of Jesus Christ.  Rejected by his brethren, as Jesus was rejected by the Jews, Joseph was in a pit for three days and three nights, before being sold into slavery where he was well received and took for himself a Gentile bride.

4B.    So, here in Genesis 22, Abraham is a type of God the Father, whose Son is to be sacrificed as a burnt offering on Mount Moriah, which is where the Lord Jesus Christ would be crucified 2000 years later.

 

2A.   Next, RECOGNIZE THAT ABRAHAM’S EXPERIENCE SERVES A PURPOSE IN OUR LIVES

1B.    Second Timothy 3.16 declares to us that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”

2B.    Therefore, what we have read in Genesis 22 has been recorded by God in His Word, the Bible, for our benefit.  The Bible is that body of truth which God uses to teach us, to reach us.  My friends, there is something God wants you and me to understand as a result of what Abraham went through.

 

3A.   Finally, WHAT ABRAHAM FELT TELLS US SOMETHING ABOUT GOD

1B.    Can you imagine the shock, the horror, the dismay Abraham felt upon learning that his son, his only son, Isaac, who he loved, would have to die?  Can the mind-numbing jolt of it, the heart-rending torment of it, the chest-heaving sobs associated with it, be doubted by anyone?

2B.    “But pastor, it doesn’t say Abraham had these emotions.”  My friend, the Word of God does not say what it does not need to say.  Heavy are the words God spoke to Abraham, “thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest.”  If you take great love, add to that the great loss of the one greatly loved, you will doubtless find great heartache, great sorrow, great grief, great mourning.

3B.    For how long did Abraham suffer in this way?  How long was the journey to Mount Moriah?  Three days.  And there are nights associated with days, are there not?  So, Abraham mourned, and grieved, and sorrowed, and his heart ached for three days and three nights.

4B.    Understand, Abraham anticipated the loss of his son for three days and three nights, and then did not actually lose his son.  Typology, in the Bible, is never a perfect picture of the reality it is used to portray.  For God the Father, there was an eternity of anticipating the loss of His only begotten Son, Jesus.  But in the picture of Abraham and Isaac we see some semblance of what God experienced with the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus.

 

CONCLUSION:

1.   My friends, there are some things that God tells us straight out, and other things God shows us.  Jesus tells us that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, but He showed us how He felt when He gave up His Son for sins.  And one of the ways He showed us is in the life of Abraham.

2.   Unless you are one of those men or women whose conscience is so seared that you are without natural affection, you know what Abraham went through.  You have either lost a child, or almost lost a child, or something happened that caused you to fear your child was lost.

3.   God’s tempting of Abraham takes that familiar and common human fear of losing a child and connects it to the man who is clearly a picture of what God the Father is like with respect to His Son, Jesus.  God used Abraham’s experience, then, to convey to us what He, in a sense, felt like when He gave up His Son as a sacrifice.

4.   Do you recognize what God is doing in all this?  He sent His Son, Jesus, to be the substitutionary sacrifice for sins.  We learn that from other parts of the Bible, and in this passage, when the ram is provided by God as a substitute for Isaac.

5.   But we so often miss the fact that when Jesus was given up by the Father for sins it was a sacrifice.  It cost Him something!  My friend, God gave up His Son!  What heartache.  What sorrow.  What pain.  What cost!

6.   Take the pain and sorrow Abraham felt for three days and nights in anticipating a sacrifice that he did not, in fact, end up making, and make it create in you a sensitivity for the heart of God.

7.   Perhaps your sins will not seem so important to you when you think what it cost the Father to send His Son, Jesus, to die for sins.  Perhaps your love for the world will not seem so important upon consideration of the Father’s cost, so you will be willing to turn from the world and come to Christ.

8.   And maybe you will now see that God is not a stern and distant Creator, Who has nothing to do with His creatures, except to eagerly wait for them to do something so He can judge them.  No!  “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you,” James 4.8.  Seeing His heart, you might even consider coming to His Son, Jesus.



[1] John Gill, The John Gill Library, (Paris, AK: The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc., 2000)

[2] Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), [email protected]

[3] John Gill, The John Gill Library, (Paris, AK: The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc., 2000)

[4] Ibid.

[5] Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), [email protected]

[6] Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 1944.

[7] John Gill, The John Gill Library, (Paris, AK: The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc., 2000)

[8] Webster’s, page 1762.  Also see International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Shekinah, Glory.

[9] John Gill, The John Gill Library, (Paris, AK: The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc., 2000)

[10] Francis Brown, S. R. Driver & Charles A. Briggs, The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew And English Lexicon, (Peabody, MA: 1979), pages 1036.

[11] B. H. Carroll, An Interpretation Of The English Bible, Volume I, (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2001), volume 1, page 111.

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