Old and New Testament Parallels, Symbols, and Ponderings Series Part 4 – Abraham and Isaac

The story of Abraham’s (almost) The crosssacrifice of his son Isaac is one of those awe inspiring faith builders that initially inspired me to write the blog series “Old and New Testament Parallels, Symbols, and Ponderings.” If you’ve questioned whether or not the Bible is truly the Word of God or wondered about the relevance of the Old Testament to your own life, I hope this story will show some links between the two testaments.

Parallel 1:

  • Abraham and Isaac: God promised Abraham’s family line would be more numerous than the stars in the heavens (Genesis 15:4-5 and 21:12). This promise was fulfilled through Isaac many years later after almost a lifetime of anticipation.
  • Jesus: The long awaited promise of the coming of Isaac can be paralleled with Old Testament prophecies of the anticipated coming of the Messiah.  For example: the prophecies in Isaiah were written more than 500 years before Christ’s birth (Isaiah 43 and many other references).

Parallel 2:

  • Abraham and Isaac: The Bible says Sarah laughed when she realized she was pregnant at the age of 90. Abraham was 100 years old. Abraham and Sarah were too old to have children naturally; therefore, it seems reasonable to conclude the birth of Isaac was miraculous. Amazingly, Abraham and Sarah had several more children after Isaac’s birth!
  • Jesus: Mary, who was a virgin, became pregnant with Jesus (Luke 1:34-38).

Parallel 3:

  • Abraham and Isaac: Abraham was told to sacrifice Isaac, his only son whom he loved.
    • Isaac was a direct ancestor to Jesus.
    • Abraham also had a son named “Ishmael”, but out of impatience with God, he was born to the servant named Hagar. Therefore, Ishmael was not part of the line of Jesus; however, God blessed Ishmael’s family line because he was also Abraham’s son (Genesis 21:14; 22:2).
  • Jesus: Father God called Jesus His only beloved Son (Matthew 17:5).

Parallel 4:

  • Abraham and Isaac: Isaac was offered as a burnt sacrifice (Genesis 22:2).
  • Jesus: Jesus was offered as the sacrifice to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29).

Parallel 5:

Parallel 6:

  • Abraham and Isaac: In addition to Isaac, Abraham took two men with him to Moriah (Genesis 22:3).
  • Jesus: Jesus was sacrificed beside two thieves (John 19:18).

Parallel 7:

  • Abraham and Isaac: Isaac carried the wood to be used for the burn offering (Genesis 22:6).
  • Jesus: Jesus carried a wooden cross.

Parallel 8:

  • Abraham and Isaac: Abraham bound Isaac and laid him upon the wood (Genesis 22:9).
  • Jesus: Jesus was nailed to the wooden cross (John 19:17).

Parallel 9:

  • Abraham and Isaac: Isaac knew his father was going to offer him as a sacrifice, but he willingly went to the place of his death (Genesis 22:7-8).
  • Jesus: Jesus could have freed Himself or called down the angels to rescue Him. He was God after all! Instead, He willingly offered Himself as a sacrifice for our sins (John 12:23-24).
    • “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7)

Parallel 10:

  • Abraham and Isaac: Isaac was offered as a sacrifice at the end of a three day journey to the mountain in Moriah. He was essentially dead to Abraham the moment God commanded him to sacrifice his son. But because of God’s promise to make Isaac’s family line more numerous than the stars, Abraham trusted God would raise his son from the dead if he was sacrificed (Hebrews 11:17-19).
    • Instead of allowing Abraham to sacrifice his son, God provided a ram as a sacrificial substitute. The ram redeemed Isaac, essentially bringing him back from death (resurrection from physical death).
    • Although Abraham told Isaac that God would provide the lamb, a ram is given by God as a sacrifice. Did Abraham have it wrong? No. The use of the word “lamb” foretold the story of Christ who would become the “Lamb” according to John 8:56 which states: “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”
  • Jesus: Jesus was dead for three days and on the third day He resurrected, eventually returning back to His Father. Jesus was the Lamb who was sacrificed as the substitute for our sins and redeemed us from spiritual death (Matthew 12:40, Matthew 17:23, and Acts 10:40).

The comparison above was first mentioned to me by a good friend of mine who is an amazing teacher of Biblical truths. She taught me how to look for parallels between the Old and New Testament.  As a result, this type of research has greatly strengthened and reinforced my faith and ignited a passion for studying the Word. Thank goodness for wonderful friends who help us grow!

I hope this comparison and the “Old and New Testament Parallels, Symbols, and Ponderings” series will ignite the same passion for you!

Why Does God Allow the Innocent to Suffer?

Introduction

When I watch the news and read persecution stories, I’m bombarded with images of injustice and pain around the world. I likely don’t have to convince you evil exists because we see it all around us, but why? If God is real and He is always good, why do bad things happen? Why does God allow the innocent to suffer and injustice to reign?Staring out the window

As I thought about this topic, I was reminded it is deeply personal and based on experiences. I want to be sensitive to your experiences and not be flippant or over simplify this discussion. I don’t have all of the answers, but here are some thoughts I hope will bring you comfort.

The Debate

If God exists, did He create evil? After all, He created everything, right? This question frequently surfaces in discussions about God and why some people believe a basic flaw exists in the Christian faith. Although this question seems to bring attention to a paradox, I believe it can be answered. My thoughts: God didn’t create evil. Evil and our imperfect world result from our poor choices and a fallen world. I realize this is a highly controversial statement, but let me explain.

In the story of Adam and Eve, we learn God created mankind in His image and gave them the option to maintain a perfect existence without suffering or death; however, He also gave mankind free will. Free will means we have the ability to choose between right and wrong. Just as we can choose love, peace, joy, patience, kindness and other good things, we can choose the opposite. We can choose to reject. We can choose to hate. We can choose to do the unspeakable: destroy, murder and hurt others. Free will exists in full range of good and bad choices from the seemingly insignificant to the most extreme; and there are consequences that result from every decision we make.

In discussions I’ve had with others, I’ve been asked the question, “Why would God even give us the ability to do bad things? Why not just make us perfect?” This idea sounds great on the surface, but would we really be free to be who we are? Would God truly have created us to have a loving relationship with Him if we were forced to love Him back or to make the right choice? Would we be robots? It seems our free will is deeply interwoven with our humanity and who we are individually.
One of my friends likes to use a wonderful analogy about free will. When you choose to have a relationship with another person; but they don’t want to love you back, it is his or her choice to leave. No matter how painful it is to let the person go, if you really love your significant other, you let them go — even if that means your beloved ends up with someone else. You wouldn’t force him or her to stay because you want that person to love you. If you imagine why God gave us free will in this analogy, it seems we were created out of absolute love: given the ability to completely reject the One who created us even as He knew it would cause Him tremendous pain to watch us walk away.

Life and Our Freedom to Choose

Yes, terror and tragedy at the hands of another are terrible things. We are never promised life will be easy; many times it isn’t. We are only promised He will walk alongside us, sharing our burdens and our sorrows; and we know this life isn’t the end of the story. Evil reigns temporarily, but it doesn’t have the final say. Also, we may have no ability to change what others have done to hurt us; but we have free will to make our own decisions about how we will affect others. If you feel paralyzed by the immensity of suffering in this world, remember Jesus’s example. Be the difference. Do what is right. Show mercy and love even when it is hard. Pray. Always do your best to choose to what is right.

Old and New Testament Parallels, Symbols, and Ponderings Series Part 3 – Sodom and Gomorrah

What pops into your head when I mention “Sodom and Gomorrah”? Do you think of social/sexual Bibleissues, fire and brimstone and Lot’s wife becoming a pillar of salt? This Genesis account is frequently used to explain how angry God is with sinners; but this one-sided view of God troubles me because it leaves out God’s mercy. How do we reconcile the story of Sodom and Gomorrah with Psalm 100:5 which states God is always good?

As I researched this topic, I began to realize one reason why this story appears one-sided is due to the emphasis we as a society place on certain elements in the story. What if instead of fire and brimstone, the story’s true focus illustrates God’s redemption of a good man who made poor choices? Is it possible to see the God of the Old Testament as the God of Love even in a story like Sodom and Gomorrah? I believe the answer is yes. Context and emphasis are key to fully grasping the depth of this story and the characters involved. Let’s take a closer look.

The Genesis account of Sodom and Gomorrah begins with two men named Abraham, the patriarch of the Hebrews, and Lot, his nephew. As with many stories in the Bible, God’s relationship to His people takes center stage, and the places and events that occur during the around the main characters frame the story. The Bible states Abraham obeyed God with his life and his decisions. In contrast, Lot made plenty of poor choices. Both men are referred to by the Scriptures as “righteous”, but Lot’s lapses in judgement nearly get him killed and followed his family line throughout history. Below is a timeline of events.

Timeline of Poor Decisions, Consequences and Mercy:

Lot Chooses the Best Land for Himself: Early in the Genesis account, we learn Abraham and Lot were forced to divide the region in which they lived because their wealth, herds and households had grown too large to share the same land. When Abraham gave his nephew first pick, Lot chose the lush and fertile land stretching towards Egypt. This region included the large, glamorous cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. This poor decision would be the first of many as it positioned Lot closely to the temptations he found hardest to resist — the lure of fame, fortune and acceptance among the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Lot Tries to Fit In: Lot moved his home to Sodom, hoping to find favor with the people who lived there; however, he never really “fit in” because they knew he wasn’t like them.  Instead, they thought of him as a hypocrite.  Peter tells us in the New Testament Lot was “distressed…” and “tormented…” by the people of Sodom (II Peter 2:7-8). This attitude reveals a lot about Lot’s righteous character. The Bible describes the people there as prideful; gluttonous; willfully ignorant of the plight of the poor, oppressed, orphaned and widowed; adulterous; dishonest; unjust; and wicked (summarized from Ezekiel 16:49, Jeremiah 23, Isaiah 1, and Amos 5).

Lot Becomes a Prisoner of War: Almost immediately after Lot moved to Sodom, war broke out among the neighboring kings. As a result of the war, the invading kings conquered and took Lot prisoner and stole all of his possessions.

This part of the story is interesting, because according to cultural experts, Abraham was not required to rescue Lot due to the circumstances surrounding his capture. However, out of mercy and love, Abraham reclaimed and restored his nephew, the city’s captives and all of Lot’s stolen possessions.

Abraham’s Christ-Like Plea: At the climax of the story, the Lord tells Abraham the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah was so great He sent two angels to bear witness, and if they agreed, He would destroy the cities. In response, Abraham begged for mercy on behalf of the people living there because he cared about them but also feared for Lot’s safety (Genesis 18:16-33; 19:1-29). God agreed to spare the cities if there was even one righteous person living there. However, since there were no righteous people except for Lot living there, God vowed to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because their wickedness had become too great. The Bible says God “remembered His promise to Abraham” and sent His angels to rescue Lot.

Lot Offers His Daughters to an Angry Mob: When the angels arrived in Sodom, an angry mob of men pressed against Lot’s front door and demanded for Lot to allow the crowd to gang rape them. In Lot’s day, it was a customary norm and obligation to protect his guests at all costs. As a gesture to appease the men, he offered his daughters to fulfill the sexual desires of the mob. Thankfully, the mob refused Lot’s daughters. This part of the story was likely included for us an example of the level of depravity and darkness that filled the people’s hearts.

If you are wondering at this stage how the Bible can still refer to Lot as righteous, you’re not alone. As we’ve seen up to this point in the story, Lot has seemly committed an unforgivable and egregious crime against his own family, but God saw a man who believed in the coming Messiah and was worth saving despite his failures. If you want to read more about this section of the story, check out this link: http://www.gotquestions.org/Lots-daughters.html. I found it very helpful when trying to understand the context and cultural influences.

Lot is Rescued by Angels: Since Lot refused to present the angels to the angry mob, they became infuriated with Lot and beat on the door of his house and lunged at him, requiring the angels to blind the men and pull Lot inside to save his life.

During the night, the angels informed Lot that God intended to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because of their level of wickedness and he needed to flee with his family as soon as possible.

The next morning, the angels took Lot and his family by the hands and fled from Sodom. Although Lot hesitated, the Lord was merciful and spared his life and the lives of his family. Unfortunately, although the angels warned the family not to look back upon the cities as they fled, Lot’s wife was unable to resist the temptation to look a final time upon the city she loved. As a result, the Bible says she became a pillar of salt.

Lot Gets Drunk and Makes More Poor Decisions: And if you thought Lot’s decisions couldn’t get any worse, the story ends with Lot getting drunk and sleeping with his daughters. As a result, the two nations produced from this incestuous act have been a thorn in the side of Israel throughout history (GotQuestions.Org, http://www.gotquestions.org/Lots-daughters.html).

Lessons Learned: The story of Lot gives me hope. The Bible points out Lot’s numerous character flaws to teach us about His grace and about the importance of good decision making as a person of God. Lot was blinded by the temptations of wealth, the “big city” and positional stature. He temporarily walked away from his godly lifestyle for the sake of appearances; but in his heart, he longed to escape the sin that trapped him. As a result, he suffered the consequences of his choices by losing his wife, status and all of his material possessions; but his life was spared from destruction. In summary, Lot made poor decisions, but God chose to redeem him in spite of his failures.

Parallels: In some ways, this story parallels Christ’s work on the cross. God had mercy for Lot and saved his life because of the pleas of his uncle to spare him.

God always choses mercy over judgment, completely consistent with His character; and it is another lesson on how we should treat others who fail us.

Does physical evidence of Sodom and Gomorrah being destroyed by fire still exist today? Here is an interesting argument on the issue: “Is there any evidence for the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction by fire and brimstone (sulfur)? “, ChristianAnswers.Net

Peace, love and hope to you always,

The In-Place Missionary

Love Beyond Understanding

This blog post was written by my better half.  May it bless you and remind you of God’s promises, love and mercy. – The In-Place Missionary

One thing I will never understand is how much God loves us. I cannot begin to comprehend the depths of His love displayed by sending His son, Jesus, to earth to die for us. He is God. He didn’t have to do that. We definitely didn’t do anything to deserve that love, grace, and mercy.loch_oich_rainbow

I have been reading through the Bible starting from the beginning, Genesis, on forward. As I have made my way through the Old Testament, I am struck by God’s love and mercy. He could have given up on man after Adam and Eve sinned. He could have destroyed mankind with the great flood, but he chose to spare us through Noah and his family.

He made a covenant with Abraham and his descendants, but they constantly rebelled against Him. They constantly whined while traveling from Egypt, where God rescued them from slavery. When Moses went up the mountain to get God’s commandments, the people made an idol. When they got to the promised land and settled, they constantly worshipped other gods and idols. God always brought them back to Himself.

This brings us back to the cross. The place where God made a way for all who would believe in Him to have a relationship with the creator of the universe. After we make that decision to repent and give our lives to Jesus, we still sin. We still turn from God. But just like in the Old Testament, God is faithful. He still loves us and wants a relationship with us. It is a beautiful thing, this relationship. I cannot begin to describe it. I just hope you believe and experience it for yourself. Then you will know true love, joy, and freedom.