Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Moriah 6: Mount Moriah

I remember one eleventh-grade English class when I turned around to tell my friend I was going to make my first grand that year.

“You’re going to do what?” He asked, brushing his hair, sweat from an intramural basketball game dripping off his head.

“I’m going to make my first $1000,” I said, giving up on sounding cool.  “Our Youth Group is taking a trip to Israel and I’m making the money to pay for my airfare and hotel.”

“That’s cool G-man,” he said before the class started.

A snowstorm almost kept us from making our flight. We had to take the city’s rapid transit system to get to the airport.  The snow came so fast they actually pushed our takeoff time up an hour.  We were lucky to have made it to the airport in time. 

Twelve hours later we landed in semi-tropical Tel-Aviv where I saw palm trees for the first time.

We spent ten days touring the Holy Land, three of those in and around Jerusalem.  My favorite part of the whole trip was the to-scale, model replica of the ancient city.  It put everything into perspective, tying together what I knew about the Bible at the same time. 

It was there I heard the name Moriah for the first time.  As our guide pointed out the places of interest on the map, he pointed to Mount Moriah. It is where the ancient Jewish temple stood, "Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD at Jerusalem in mount Moriah, where the Lord appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had prepared in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.” (II Chronicles 3:1)  The name stuck with me, becoming the source for the sermon I should have preached.

Even before the trip to Israel, the Youth Group had been a central part of my life.  From the beginning of my teenage years to the end we had a solid group of 35.  We met together three or more times a week to have fun, do work for the church, study the Bible, and pray for one another. 

My first year in the group, I took part in the Easter pageant.  David, our Youth Director wrote a play showing the parallels between Old and New Testament events and how the miracle of salvation was foreshadowed for us. 

I played the part of Isaac in one of the scenes.  My scene had a split stage.  Abraham (played by Eric) and I were on the left side of the stage, while Christ on the cross (played by Randy) was on the right side of the screen. 

The scene portrayed the similarities between Abraham’s call to sacrifice Isaac and God’s choice to sacrifice himself in the form of His Son, Jesus. 

In our scene I have a large bundle of sticks on my back, and I’m following Eric.  We walk up a hill, and…

…“Father, I see the wood for the sacrifice, and here’s the fire, but where is the sacrifice?” my high-pitched boy’s voice breaks through the silence. 

“My Son, God will provide himself a sacrifice,” Eric’s much older voice responds. 

We freeze at that point and a narrator starts to read the scripture describing how Abraham obeyed God’s command to sacrifice his son, but before he could drop his knife to slay his son, an Angel interceded. 

“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.”  The narrator describes how Abraham found a ram caught by his horns in a thorny bush. 

At that point Eric repeats the verse, “God will himself provide the sacrifice.”  Our scene fades and the scene of Christ on the Cross lights up. 

The narrator explains how Christ became the sacrifice for all of us.  God in His mercy and Will provided our sacrifice through His own son, Romans 8:32 “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all”

That became a significant play for me.  In it I learned about Salvation, and I spent my time thinking about what it must have been like to have been Isaac.  I wondered when he put two and two together and realized he was the intended sacrifice.  I wondered if it crossed his mind to struggle when Abraham tied him down in preparation for sacrificing him.  I wondered what words they would have exchanged if any.  I wondered whether Abraham’s face remained stoic, or if he shed tears and how Isaac would have felt about those tears.

Five years later, preparing to preach the message for the Sunday morning Youth Group service, I turned to the account of Abraham sacrificing Isaac and tried to see if I could find something to say.