Saadia Gaon and Maimonides two of Israel’s most esteemed sages listed ten reasons why the Shofar is blown on Rosh Hashanah. Last night we considered two, that it was the anniversary of creation and to remember that God is King.
A third reason is the akaida the binding of Isaac. The portion of Scripture read in Synagogues this Shabbat is Genesis 21-22. Which discusses the two sons of Abraham: Ishmael and Isaac.
These two chapters focus on the testing of Abraham. Will he trust God’s Word and commands or rely on worldly wisdom and ways. We see the contrast in Gen 21 and 22.
Abraham is the father of both Jews and Gentiles. The Jews through his son Isaac, and his grandson of Jacob whose name was changed to Israel.
Abraham was born a Gentile, called out of Ur, a land that is now on Iran Iraq border. According to Gen. 17 Abraham was 99 years old when he submitted himself to circumcision.
When Gentiles come to faith in the Jewish Messiah Yeshua they are grafted into the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and New Covenants. That is how Abraham is the father of Jews and Gentiles.
In Gen. 21-22 Abraham must make decisions regarding his two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. This was a major test in Abraham’s faith calling for his complete surrender and trust in God and His Word.
There were other tests that led to this supreme test or trial.
Like Abraham we all face trials and tests in our walk with God.
The first test of Abraham was God’s call to leave his family in Ur of the Chaldees. He didn’t do so well at the beginning, but the break finally came when he separated from Lot.
Abraham loved Lot—he wouldn’t have been carrying Lot around with him if he hadn’t. But the time came when they had to separate, and Lot chose to live in Sodom.
Then came the test in Genesis 21 with Sarah telling Abraham to remove Ishmael and Hagar from their household. Ishmael is described in Scripture as a child of the flesh as opposed to the Spirit.
The flesh is a metaphor in Scripture to describe the will of man vs. the will of God. Genesis 6:3 Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless, his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”
The Holy Spirit is God in His unseen Presence in the world and on His children. The difference between the flesh and the Spirit is described by Paul in Galatians 5:16:
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.
Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, … the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
So here we learn that we can walk in this world in two different ways. According to the flesh or according to the Spirit. In Gen. 21 we see the fruit of the flesh and in Gen 22 the fruit of the Spirit.
God promised Abraham and Sarah’s that they would have a son. Through him they would have as many children as stars in the sky. They tried to make this happen in their own strength, their flesh.
When Abraham and Sarah were not conceiving, they decided that the Lord helps those who help themselves. Together they agreed to have a child through Sarah’s maid Hagar. Ishmael is described in Scripture as a child of the flesh in Gal. 4:22.
For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise.
Sadly, the fruit of worldly thinking always leads to unforeseen problems. Hagar became proud, thinking that since she conceived, she should replace Sarah. Abraham stood with Sarah.
Sarah responded to Hagar’s haughty attitude by making her life miserable and so she fled. In Gen. 16 God gently comes to her telling her to submit to Sarah. If she will, He will bless her son, for Abraham’s sake.
The peace lasted between Hagar and Sarah for 13 years, and then miraculously Isaac is born. Now the promised child is born, and Hagar and Ishmael become insecure in their standing.
Ishmael the child of the flesh began taunting Isaac the child born miraculously by God’s Spirit. Sarah understood the problem immediately and told Abraham that Hagar and Ishmael had to go.
Ishmael was Abraham’s first-born son and this demand from Sarah grieved him. In 21:12 “But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the lad and your maid; whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her, for through Isaac your descendants shall be named.
Paul gives us insight as well in Gal 4:21: And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, For the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman.”
Abraham prayed for his son ‘Oh, that Ishmael might live before Thee!’ and God answered His prayer and provided for him as we learn in Gen. 21. With Ishmael removed Abraham can now focus his attention on Isaac.
But in the next chapter Abraham is asked to give up Isaac: “Take now your son, your only son (note that God considers Isaac his only son), whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”
Moriah means “God sees”. We know this place is Jerusalem, In Abraham’s day it was known as Salem. It was there In Gen. 14 after his victory in the battle of the kings that Abraham offered thanks to God through Melchizedek.
Why would God want Abraham to offer Isaac? God had told him, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called.’ The key to understanding is knowing about “the seed” which is what the Bible is all about.
For that we must go back to Gen. 2-3. Adam and Eve like Abraham and Sarah failed to believe God. He gave them the freedom to choose to trust and obey His Word.
In Gen. 2:15 There was only one negative command: The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”
In Gen. 3 Adam ate from the tree and the result led to death. First was a spiritual death, separation from God. This is what it means when Scripture tells us we were dead in our sins.
It would be much later that the second death, Adam’s physical death would come. But God provided a way back to life. The first was atonement the second was for resurrection.
The spiritual death is seen in Adam & Eve hiding from God because they were now aware of their nakedness. Because of their spiritual death they could no longer stand before a holy God.
They went from innocence to shame by eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They tried to cover themselves with fig leaves but still hid from God.
But God provided a covering for him with the skin of animals. The Hebrew word is kippur, to cover their nakedness. This is root of Yom Kippur. On Yom Kippur sins were covered by the sacrifice of a lamb in the Temple to provide a spiritual reconciliation with God.
This covered the spiritual separation from God. But what about the physical separation at death? That was to be provided by the seed of the woman as we see in Gen. 3:15:
And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.”
You can read Gen. 3 later to see and understand the context of what I am saying here. This verse refers to 4 persons. The first person is “you”, this is the serpent as v. 14 makes very clear.
This serpent is angel Lucifer the exalted angel who with a third of the angels rebelled against God to this very day. The the second person Eve again, which is very clear from the context.
The third person is not just singular but plural as well. The Hebrew word zera is used as both singular and plural. The plural points to the offspring or children of the serpent. The singular to the antichrist who will be the devil incarnate.
The seed of the devil are the sons of disobedience described in Eph 2:1-3: And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
Unregenerate men and women are the seed of the serpent. This speaks of all mankind until we are born again and became children of God. Many verses discuss this theme in Scripture.
And the fourth Person plural is the offspring or children of the woman. These are the physical children who have been chosen from the foundation of the world, the elect of God.
This includes Able, Noah, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, Ya’akov/Israel and the Israel of God, the remnant. Today both Jews and Gentiles that have been born again are the righteous seed.
But it also points to a singular seed, The promised seed, the Messiah who will crush the head of the serpent, while the serpent will pierce the heel of the Messiah.
The entire Bible revolves around this battle between the seed of the serpent vs. the seed of the woman.
In Gen 22 God told Abraham to take his son, his only son to the land of Moriah and offer him as a burnt offering to Him. Isaac the child born of the Spirit.
This child is the seed of the woman, from whom the Seed will come, the Messiah. Again, Paul helps us understand this a little more clearly in Gal 3:16:
Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Messiah.
Yeshua said in John 8;56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” He understood that Isaac would fullfill God’s promise of as many children as the stars in the sky, But also that one of his children would be the Messiah.
Why would God tell Abraham to take the child born by the power of God’s Spirit to offer him as a sacrifice? There are many reasons but this morning I want to focus in on one.
Just before Abraham took the knife to kill his son and offer him the angel of the Lord told him to stop. God then said to Abraham “now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.
God then provided a Ram caught by it horn in a thicket to take the place of Isaac. Abraham called the name of that place The LORD Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the LORD it will be provided.”
1800 years later at the very same location God took the Seed of Abraham, His only son, Yeshua and did not stop the offering. Because He was being offered as a perfect sacrifice for our sin.
When we believe that God put Him to death for our sin and believe that He rose from the dead we become children born of the Spirit. We experience atonement for spiritual death.
We are restored to fellowship with God, no longer His enemies but sons and daughters of the King. We receive everlasting spiritual life.
But more than that we are told that He is going to return for us so that where He is we may also be physically in His presence. This is the promise of 1 Cor. 15:20-21 and many other verses:
But now Messiah has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Messiah all will be made alive.
We blow the shofar to remember the binding of Isaac and the horn of the ram that delivered him. We also blow the shofar to remember that with the trump of God we shall be brought physically into God’s presence to be with Him forever.
Gen. 21 & 22 speak of two sons, one born of the flesh one born of the Spirit. The Shofar blast is designed to wake us up and to turn to the Lord who is coming soon. To repent and find atonement in Promised Messiah, the seed of the woman, the seed of Abraham.
Which son are you, a son of the flesh or a son of the Spirit? Today if you have heard His voice do not harden your heart.