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“On the Mountain of the Lord”
Genesis 22:1-18


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
First Sunday in Lent—February 26, 2012

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Our message for the First Sunday in Lent is based on today’s Old Testament Reading, the story of Abraham and Isaac on Mt. Moriah, especially this verse: “So Abraham called that place ‘The Lord Will Provide.’ And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.’”

When I tell people that I grew up in Kansas they almost always say something like, “Oh, I drove across there once.  Boy, it sure is flat.”  That impression people get is partly due to where they put Interstate 70, but I admit Kansas is not known for its mountains.  A few years ago there was a mountaineer who climbed to the highest point in every state.  Of course that was quite a feat in mountainous states like Alaska and Colorado.  But, when he got to the top of Mt. Sunflower, the highest point in Kansas, he was greeted by a high school band and a Boy Scout troop, who had just walked up the other side.

Although Kansas is not known for its mountains, a few miles north of Canton, Kansas, where I grew up, there is a pair of hills that are fairly large by Kansas standards, and sure seemed like mountains to me when I was a boy.  They are known in that area as the Twin Mounds, because they’re right beside each other and almost identical in size and shape.   We used to bike out and play for the afternoon on the Twin Mounds.

The Bible also has its own twin mounds, Mt. Sinai and Mt. Calvary.  Like one of the mountains in Alaska or Colorado, Mt. Sinai was a large, rugged, full-fledged mountain, in the desert badlands of the Sinai peninsula.  At Mt. Sinai the Lord Almighty gave his holy Law through Moses with great majesty and awe.  As the book of Exodus reports: “There was thunder and lightning, a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast.  Everyone in the camp trembled.  Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.  Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. . .  When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear and stayed at a distance.”

The thunder and trumpet blast at Mt. Sinai represent the demands and commands of God’s Law, which we all have failed.  The fire and smoke on Mt. Sinai represent eternal damnation in hell, which we all deserve because of our sin. 

The one symbol that sums up Mt. Sinai is the Two Tablets of the Law, by which we are condemned to damnation.  But, the Good News is, there is another mountain in Scripture, a twin mound to Mt. Sinai, Mt. Calvary.  The one symbol that sums up Mt. Calvary is the cross, by which you are forgiven and granted salvation and eternal life.

“[God] said to [Abraham] . . . ‘Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.’”  Geographically, Mt. Moriah refers to the entire range of hills on which Jerusalem is built. On the east side of Jerusalem is Mt. Zion, on which the ancient Temple stood, where lambs and other animals were sacrificed.  On the west side of Jerusalem, just outside the ancient city walls, was Mt. Calvary, on which God sacrificed his own Son.  Mt. Zion and Mt. Calvary are only about a third of a mile apart, peaks on either side of Jerusalem, in the range of Mt. Moriah. 

It’s very significant that Mt. Moriah, Mt. Zion, and Mt. Calvary are essentially the same place.  Because, the story in today’s Old Testament Reading of Abraham nearly sacrificing his son Isaac on Mt. Moriah is prophetic, pointing forward to God carrying out the sacrifice of his own Son on Mt. Calvary.  And also prophetic of Christ’s sacrifice were the sacrificial lambs slaughtered in the ancient Temple on Mt. Zion.  Abraham prophetically told Isaac, “God himself will provide the lamb,” and some 2,000 years later John the Baptist identified who that ultimate sacrificial Lamb is, when he pointed out Jesus and declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Abraham nearly sacrificing Isaac; the sacrificial lambs being slaughtered in the Temple; God finally sacrificing his own Son; all this took place on the same holy hill.

Like the Twin Mounds north of Canton, Kansas, the twin mounds in Scripture are Mt. Sinai, and Mt. Moriah/Zion/Calvary.  On Mt. Sinai, God thundered his Law, and the damnation we deserve.  But, through the prophetic actions of Abraham nearly sacrificing his son Isaac, and the lambs sacrificed in the ancient Temple, God proclaimed the Gospel, the promise of a Savior, who would sacrifice himself for us and our salvation.  And on Mt. Calvary God fulfilled the promise.  At the last moment Isaac was spared, but Paul says in Romans, “God did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all.”

The book of Hebrews compares these twin mounds of Scripture, Mt. Sinai, and Mt. Moriah/Zion/Calvary, this way: “You have not come to a mountain . . . that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded . . . The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, ‘I am trembling with fear.’  But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. . .  to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come . . . to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood . . .”

“Isaac spoke up and said to his father . . . ‘The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’  Abraham answered, ‘God himself will provide the lamb.’”  Paul says in 1st Corinthians, “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed for us,” and Peter says, “You were redeemed . . . with the precious blood of Christ, a Lamb without blemish or defect.”  God’s Son Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who was offered up for you.  We remember especially during the season of Lent, which we are now in, the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, his suffering and death for you.  The Good News of Lent is that by his sacrifice your sins are all forgiven.  As the book of Hebrews says, “He came to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. . .  we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

“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.  So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.’”  On Mt. Sinai, the Lord provided his holy Law, which shows us our sin.  On Mt. Moriah, the Lord provided a ram, to sacrifice in place of Isaac, pointing forward to Mt. Calvary, where the Lord provided the Lamb of God, to sacrifice in your place; the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world; the Lamb of God, who by his sacrifice makes you holy in God’s sight; the Lamb of God, who redeemed you by his blood.

Like one of the mountains in Alaska or Colorado, Mt. Sinai was a large, rugged, full-fledged mountain.  Mt. Calvary was probably more like Mt. Sunflower, a little hill outside the city wall.  But, that little hill is really the greatest mountain in all history, for it was there that God provided us with what we need most, a Savior.  It was on Mt. Calvary that the prophecy of old was fulfilled, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

Amen.

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