And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. – Genesis 22-13
As Isaac watched the knife which was lifted by his father be plunged into the ram that had been caught in the thicket, what could have been going through his mind? As he watched as the altar was set ablaze to finish the burnt offering, the thought of his replacement must have astonished him.
Only moments earlier, Issac had been bound and laying on the altar. Not only him but the future existence of the children of God. As he watched his replacement, he watched for us all as God shows him that there is one who will come to bear our scorn.
The ram clearly being a shadow of Christ who was to come, finds us tied upon the altar of the wrath of God. We were bound in the sense that we loved our sin and wanted to continue in it. As it is with all those who are under the law, the dagger of God’s justice was raised above us, waiting until His sovereign and unstoppable hand plunged it down.
Yet while we were still sinners, fighting against His authority and grace, He began to untie us. Our hearts of stone He began to soften as we lay in defiance of Him. With the hammer of His word, He then destroyed the bonds of false philosophies and empty arguments which held us captive, and He continued His work until we, being freed, crawled off the altar. As we stood in astonishment, God Himself, in Christ, crawled upon the altar, freely, without bonds. He lay there perfectly still, as God the Father plunged the dagger of His justice upon His only Son.
By faith, the children of God look on in amazement as we claim the merits of His blood. We are entirely undone by the fact that all of this has been done for us. Had God left us upon the altar to strike us with His justice, He would have been perfect in His holiness and impeccable in His goodness, but He did not do it. He sent a substitute. Not because we were worthy, but because He loves us as the Father loves the Son; eternally without beginning and without end.