Mount Moriah (part 1): The Place of Substitution

Abraham and Isaac Laurent de La Hire, 1650

We find Mount Moriah first in Genesis 22:14, where Abraham named it “The Lord Will Provide”. It was named this after God had tested Abraham by calling on him to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. The test was incomprehensible for anyone. But it was even harder for Abraham because God himself had promised to miraculously conceive for Abraham and his barren wife. And in Genesis 21, God supernaturally provided this promise. But only a chapter later (perhaps when Isaac was only 10 years or so old), God commanded Abraham to sacrifice the boy back to God. We know this was a test by God to see if Abraham loved him more than his promises (Gen 22:1, 12); but certainly, Abraham didn’t know why God commanded him to give up what God had miraculously given him.

After seeing Abraham’s great obedience (Gen 22:3-10), God stopped Abraham from killing Isaac, and instead provided a ram for him to sacrifice (Gen 22:13). For this reason, Abraham called it “The Lord Will Provide”. What this name is meant to convey is that God gave a ram to sacrifice in substitution for Isaac. Rather than having to kill his only beloved son (Gen 22:2, 16), Abraham was provided with a ram instead. Because of this, Mount Moriah was a place of substitution.

And in fact, Mount Moriah continued to be this place of substitution. 2 Chronicles 3:1 tells us that on that very mount, God had Solomon build the temple for sin sacrifices. And in 1 Kings 8:29-30, Solomon prayed that God might continually look on the mount, and hear the prayer of his people on the basis of the sacrifices. Solomon was even so bold to say that God had chosen to put his name on this mount; and because of that, when Israel sinned and prayed toward the temple, Solomon asked that God might listen and answer them (1 Kings 8:44, 48-49). And so God continued to provide by way of continued sacrifice in the temple. He continued to substitute that his people may not be killed.

But it does not stop there. While Abraham’s son was spared, and while God’s people were spared in place of a substitute lamb, Jesus was not. Jesus was killed right outside the temple on Golgatha in the very same region as Moriah. And Jesus was given as a substitute for the worldAnd in fact, John calls Jesus the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29); and even more prominently, John calls him God’s only Son (John 3:16). What else could John have in mind but this substitutionary pattern found in the Old Testament? Indeed, the writer of Hebrews tells us that all of the stories in the Old Testament ultimately pointed to Jesus as the true substitution, for bulls and goats couldn’t take away sins–no, we need a better sacrifice (Heb 10:1-4). This sacrifice is Jesus.

Rather than sparing his only Son as Abraham did, God gave him up, that we might be saved. And, God gave him as a lamb to be slaughtered for the people’s sins. Moriah, for God, was a place of substitution. It was a place where one dies in the place of another. And this place of substitution climaxed and was finished and fulfilled in the substitutionary death of Jesus. And he died that we might not die, but that we might be forgiven, cleansed of our sin, and received by God.

This is part 1 of a two part post. You can view the second post here.

Jesus, the Greater Solomon

king-solomon-thessaloniki-macedonia-greece-europe_i-G-40-4052-5IILF00Z

The Bible is a profound book. In the Old Testament, we find God establishing multi-layered covenants through which he will bless the nations in and through Christ. In the New Testament, we find all these covenants coming to a head and being fully established in the life, death, resurrection, and final (future) reign of Christ.

I am always astonished at the (seemingly) prophetic stories found in the Old Testament that have almost direct reference to Christ (gives a lot credence to inerrency, no?).

I’ve been reading about God’s covenant given to David in 1-2 Samuel, and now into 1 Kings. God made a covenant with David (2 Samuel 7) in which he promised that through David’s family dynasty, God would establish a kingdom that would bless the world. This is ultimately a reiteration of what God promised to Abraham (Genesis 12), that he would give Abraham a people, a land, and make them a blessing to the nations. The only difference between the two is that God hones his promise to David, saying that his promise to Abraham will be realized through David’s dynasty. In other words, God will use a king from David’s lineage to establish his kingdom first promised to Abraham, and through that kingdom, blessings will flow to the nations (ultimately culminating in Christ as King over the nations).

And we begin to see glimpses of this promise come to their fulfillment (in part) through David’s son Solomon. 1 Kings 1-4 paint Solomon as taking his father’s place in the Davidic line. By chapter 4, we find Solomon rising to even greater power than his father before him. And some amazing verses are found in 4:20-34 that clearly paint God’s covenantal faithfulness to Abraham and David:

20 Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand by the sea; they were eating, drinking, and rejoicing. 21 Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates River to the land of the Philistines and as far as the border of Egypt. They offered tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life…24 he had dominion over everything west of the Euphrates from Tiphsah to Gaza and over all the kings west of the Euphrates. He had peace on all his surrounding borders (HCSB)

Astonishing verses. Judah and Israel, Abraham’s descendants, were as numerous as the sand by the sea, they were dwelling securely in the land, and the nations were being blessed through Solomon. These are explicit (they couldn’t be more explicit if you ask me) references to Genesis 12:1-3 and 15. God promised to Abraham that his descendants would be numerous, would dwell securely in the land, and would bless the nations. The author of Kings was clearly reminiscing on the Abrahamic promises, and making sure to communicate that they were coming to their fulfillment through the Davidic dynasty (as God had already promised in 2 Samuel 7). And if we missed it, he reiterates it once more at the end of chapter 4, but gives a different light to his understand of the Davidic role in the Abrahamic promise:

29 God gave Solomon wisdom, very great insight, and understanding as vast as the sand on the seashore. 30 Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the people of the East,greater than all the wisdom of Egypt. 31 He was wiser than anyone—wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Calcol, and Darda, sons of Mahol. His reputation extended to all the surrounding nations. (HCSB)

Incredible! He reiterates what he said before, but (metaphorically) encapsulates the Abrahamic promises in Solomon. Instead of the people being numerous, it is Solomon’s wisdom that is numerous. And the blessing given to the nations is found in Solomon’s great reign as the Davidic king. What is meant to be conveyed here is that in the Davidic king will the Abrahamic promises be realized. This really could be the end of the story: Solomon as the blessed Davidic king, and through him blessings flow to the nations!…but unfortunately Solomon forfeited his right to this title by his gross sin (1 Kings 11), and the kingdom of Israel became divided, and ultimately captured by pagan nations (1 Kings 12). However, we got a glimpse, even if just for a moment, of what God promised through Abraham and David–that through David’s dynasty will come a king, and in and through him will the nations be blessed. This of course is realized in Christ.

And, we can be assured that one day, Christ will rest on David’s throne as the true and final Davidic king, and finally and fully establish the kingdom God had promised, in which his numerous people will rest secure in their land, and bless the nations.

We find this in Isaiah 2, an incredible parallel to 1 Kings 4:

The vision that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:

In the last days
the mountain of the Lord’s house will be established
at the top of the mountains
and will be raised above the hills.
All nations will stream to it,
and many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us about His ways
so that we may walk in His paths.”
For instruction will go out of Zion
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will settle disputes among the nations
and provide arbitration for many peoples.
They will turn their swords into plows
and their spears into pruning knives.
Nations will not take up the sword against other nations,
and they will never again train for war. (HCSB)

One day, our Davidic King Jesus will return, and his kingdom will be fully established (it has already been initiated, but not yet here in its fulness), and final peace will come to earth and among the nations.

Maranatha, King Jesus!