Jesus in the Old Testament?
This month begins a new series of materials for teaching Sunday School. Christians often view the Old Testament as intimidating, irrelevant, evidence of God’s judgment and wrath—a long, boring history of a people long gone. Far from this, the Old Testament prepares us for the New Testament or, more precisely, Genesis through Malachi points us to Jesus Christ.
Remember, Christianity is distinctive from all other religions in that God is the actor; we receive the Lord’s grace. He creates, redeems, and saves. Although God does teach in His Word how we are to live in obedience to Him, the overarching message is Christ. Without Jesus, the Bible would be just another recipe to earn our way into heaven.
This series will present events in the Old Testament that point us to Jesus, either by comparison, prophecy, or direct action by the Son of God before He was born to us in human flesh. This will include text studies, help finding Law and Gospel, and finally, tips for teaching.
After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”
- The time and place are so important. Recall that God kept His promise to give a child to the elderly Abraham and Sarah, and through that son, to create a great nation. The surrounding nations likely confused Abraham as well. Canaanites practiced human sacrifice. Abraham may have thought that God was no different than the gods of those pagans!
- It’s also worth noting that the land of Moriah would be the location of Jerusalem and the temple. Jesus died outside of Jerusalem. The event of God’s command to sacrifice Isaac in Moriah points to the eventual sacrifice of Jesus for the sins of the world.
And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.
- The paramount connection is the ram to Jesus Christ. The Lord does provide the sacrifice. Isaac represents fallen humanity, me and you. Notice as well that God does not simply overlook the need for sacrifice by telling Abraham to forget the whole thing. Blood must be shed.
Law and Gospel
- Although we know that Abraham is a sinner like everyone else, he demonstrates a singular willingness to obey the Lord, even to sacrifice his only son, after years of waiting for this child. The connection for us today is not necessarily to return such a treasured gift from God back to the Giver, but rather to be willing to do so. This is the essence of stewardship. Rarely does God ask us to surrender nearly so much as He asked of Abraham, but we are stubborn to withhold even the most meager of possessions. Ironically, by denying God’s call to stewardship, we surrender the divine gifts of gratitude, a sense of safety, and peace—all of which are to our benefit, not God’s. As usual, God benefits us through His activity.
- Isaac shows us the high price of sin. What could be more important to a father than his child? God demands the highest price. Similarly, God demands the highest price for our sin. Sin means death and eternal hell; the only sufficient payment is God’s only Son, Jesus Christ. Notice that when the angel calls Abraham to relent from murder, God doesn’t end the matter there. He provides a replacement. God does not overlook sin; He forgives through the punishment placed on Jesus.
- We often consider Abraham as the hero of obedience in this account, discounting Isaac. We could assume that Isaac had second thoughts about being murdered by His father, but He obeyed nonetheless. Similarly, Jesus obeyed the will of His Father, even to the point of sacrifice on the cross. There are two important differences between Isaac and Jesus. One, Jesus is perfect, where Isaac is a sinner. Second, Isaac likely had doubts, where Jesus was flawlessly committed to our redemption.
- Perhaps the highest message of this account is God providing the ram of sacrifice. Like Isaac, we lay on the wood; yet Jesus came from heaven into the brambles of this broken world. Jesus paid the highest price in order that we might live in grace, know the certainty of forgiveness, and have life eternal.
Tips for Teaching
Consider these questions to help retention and understanding. Each one ends with a number in italics, which refers to a suggested grade level. Use each one to develop more questions at the same level.
- What did the angel tell Abraham to do? (1)
- Why do you think Abraham obeyed? (1)
- How do you think Abraham felt about this? (2–3)
- Name the three things you value the most in the world. Would you give them to God if He asked? (4–5)
- What do you think Isaac was thinking when his father held a knife over him? What do you think Abraham was thinking? (4–5)
- The Bible is always teaching us about Jesus and what He did on the cross. Consider Abraham, Isaac, the donkey, and the ram. Which one of these points to Jesus? (7–12)
Teach the Old Testament with five units of curriculum.