No Ram Caught in the Thicket (Camp Meeting, 8/11/19)

Posted by on Aug 14, 2019 in Pitman Camp Meeting, Sermons | 0 comments

Rev. Jim Hughes led our Camp Meeting Service on August 11, 2019.  By his estimation, it was the 23rd time he has spoken at the Pitman Grove Camp Meeting.  But this was was an unusual evening for two reasons.  First, this summer evening was cool and dry!  Secondly, Rev. Hughes didn’t wear a costume (“No costume, except for the one you see” as he put it).  No guests tonight; he appeared as “himself.”

Instead of portraying a character from the Bible, he weaved together two familiar Old Testament and New Testament narratives to paint a deeper appreciation and awe of what it means to be saved by grace.  Jesus died on the cross for our sins.  We’ve heard that message over and over, we’ve seen it on tracts, and we’ve accepted it and grasped it as a core foundation in our lives.  And yet- what was the cost?  Do we sense the depth of God’s love in His ages old and ages reaching plan of salvation?  Has the truth of God’s love penetrated into the inner depths of our being?  Do our day to day lives bear out the passion for a God who would love us so much?

 

A Tale of Two Hills

Through music and dramatic story telling, Rev. Hughes used his talents to present the message of two hills.  Two events written into the indelible path of human history, two events linked together by God’s eternal plan.

Golgotha

The lyrics of his opening song set the mode:

“Mercy:   
Weep over me.  Let your tears wash me clean.”

“Majesty:
Be merciful to me, for my eyes have seen Holy.”

“We are tired, weakened by the Fall.”  This sentiment drives us to the first hill- Golgotha.

A couple of days before climbing Golgotha, Jesus walked up the hill that leads into the city of Jerusalem.  Upon seeing the eternal city, He expressed His love and grief over it…

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!

Luke 13:34-35

 

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace — but now it is hidden from your eyes.  The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side.  They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

Luke 19:41-44

 

We all know the story of what else happened that week.  The Mt. of Olives and the hill of Golgotha conspired together to end Jesus’ life.  Several days after weeping over Jerusalem, the city killed Jesus as it had killed so many prophets in the past.  There were the final moments in Gethsemane.  There was the unjust trial.  And there was the crucifixion.

Loneliness and sadness gripped His heart that week.  But none of this was a surprise.  Jesus knew of this city and of the events that it held for Him.  He knew this week was coming.  For millennia, this had been part of the future He knew.  Jesus was (and is) “the Lamb slain before the foundations of the earth” (Revelation 13:8).   At the foundation of the earth, Jesus had glimpsed this cross.  He hadn’t seen it for over 2000 years, but now it was upon Him.  All of this was linked to Him since the beginning of time.  All through the ages.  There was no escape.

And so He prayed, “all things are ready Father.”

Rev. Hughes then concluded this narration by singing the hymn, “Wonderful Merciful Savior.”

 

 

Moriah

The Old Testament and New Testament are tightly linked together.  The Old Testament illustrates truths contained in the New Testament.  The New Testament illustrates and fulfills the ways of God which are described by the Old Testament.  And through the entire Bible, we see Jesus.  We see our sin, we see God’s Righteousness, and we see God’s grace.  A familiar Old Testament story from the book of Genesis (Genesis 22) tells of another hill.  It tells of another man who obeyed God fully, and it describes another sacrifice.

About 1500 years before Jesus walked the “lonesome valley” to Golgotha, another son and his father made their way towards another hill: Moriah.  Abraham and Isaac had traveled the road before.  Isaac knew what it meant to make a sacrifice and to worship the Lord.  But something seemed different this time.  Abraham’s long awaited and promised son began to notice that somehow this sacrifice was unlike the many others that he had experienced with his father.

Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”  “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.  “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

Genesis 22:7-8

God promised Abram that his descendants would be as many as the grains of sands on the seashore.  God even renamed Abram (“exalted father”) to Abraham (“father of many”).  And yet- in his old age, God still hadn’t given Abraham a son.  But in a miracle that nobody could comprehend, Abraham’s wife Sarah conceived and gave birth to Isaac.  They laughed at God’s promise, but Isaac was born.  Precious Isaac; the fulfillment of God’s promise.

And as the father and son trudged up that hill, Abraham harbored an ugly secret.  Isaac was to be the sacrifice.  There was no lamb. God told Abraham to sacrifice his only son, and Abraham was going to obey. And so when Isaac had gathered rocks and completed building the altar, his father had an unusually serious and intent look on his brow.  The Father of Many looked into the eyes of his only son, and said “trust me.”  He then began to wrap the leather thongs around his son. 

At first Isaac thought it was all a joke.  Father- what’s going on?  What are you doing?  But as the thongs became tighter, Isaac realized that this wasn’t a joke.  As the heartbroken father lifted his bound son on to the altar, there was no more possibility of levity.  As Abraham raised the knife over his terrified son, there was no escape.

But- But God called out to Abraham:

But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”  
“Here I am,” he replied.

“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him.
Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns.
He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.

Genesis 22:11-14

God provided Abraham and Isaac a ram.

And so they sacrificed this animal as they had done many times before, and they began the descent down the hill.  Father and son together, lost in thought.  Terrified and awed by what had just happened. 

God provided Abraham and Isaac a ram.

 

A Ram for Abraham, but None for God

These two hills are separated in time, but linked in history and in geography.  Isaac’s substituted sacrifice occurred on Mt. Moriah, which later became the site of the Temple in Jerusalem.  Jesus’ sacrifice occurred on Golgotha, which is just outside of Jerusalem’s first century city gates.  Two events with opposite outcomes, but two mileposts on God’s eternal plan of salvation. 

There was a ram for the “father of many”, but there was none for the Heavenly Father.  There was a substitute for Abraham’s son, but none for God’s Son.  God had no choice but to plunge the knife into His Son and to turn away.

Jesus is our “ram caught in the thicket”.  His sacrifice saves us from the wrath of God.  There was no substitute for Jesus on Golgotha; He was the substitute for us.  Jesus was caught in the thicket of our sins. 

When we come to that “Ram”, the Great Exchange takes place: 

  • His holiness for our sins. 
  • His perfection for our shortcomings
  • His eternal life for our mortality

God looks at us and sees perfection.  His perfect love drives out all fear.  God justifies us (“Just as if we never sinned”).

We know the theology, but does our life bear out the passion for God?  Have we turned to the Ram in the thicket?  Do we trust this infinitely loving God who would  send a substitute for Abraham, Isaac and us… but not for His own Son?

 

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