Another Crown of Thorns
A younger me often heard older saints speak of the Word of God with such reverence and love. I could tell that the Scriptures were like an old friend to them. They approached their Bibles with excitement. They recounted how God was showing them new things all the time! I desired the experience they enjoyed. That desire gave me hope as I struggled to form good habits of Bible reading in the midst of all the distractions that were dangled in front of a twenty-something.
Now, after another set of twenty years, by God’s grace, I have joined their ranks. The joys that come from reading God’s Word have been compounded by regular visits to the same pages over the course of years. Familiarity has brought about connectedness, rather than contempt. On many occasions, the Lord graciously opens my eyes to see something that I have never seen before. God has kindly let me experience what my senior brothers and sisters attested to years ago. As I have been working on a new painting, another one of those moments took place.
Abraham and Isaac
Genesis 22 contains the story of Abraham’s fearsome act of faith. You know the act of faith I’m talking about. The one that makes all parents cringe at the thought of it. He walked with Isaac, the son he loved dearly, to the region of Moriah in order to sacrifice him, as God had commanded him to do.
Those who have been in God’s Word for a number of years are well-acquainted with the background of the story. God promised Abraham that he would have descendants more numerous than the stars, and that they would come through his son Isaac. Yet, prior to Isaac marrying and having an heir, God interjects His shocking command into the narrative. Amazingly, Abraham obediently begins the journey with Isaac and finishes his obedience with his knife raised high. The incredible intervention of God as He provided a ram to take Isaac’s place releases the incredible stress of the situation. God’s reaffirmation of His pleasure in and His promise to Abraham follow as a result of the man’s faithful obedience.
Through New Covenant eyes, we see this sweeping story as prefigurative of Jesus Himself. He was the only Son of the Father, and dearly loved. He was willingly sacrificed as an offering to atone for our sin. Many commentators believe that Mount Moriah and Golgotha are one and the same geographic feature. The connection would certainly make sense, knowing the way our God works in the details for His glory.
I don’t know how many times I have read through this passage. All I know is that I’ve read it enough to be familiar with all the elements above. However, when I dove into the text to prepare for my painting, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to see this for the first time:
Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns.
God Speaks to Us
Is this simply a sentence describing what happened? My eyes got wide as the Holy Spirit illumined my eyes as I read. This innocent, straightforward statement is much richer than we first expect.
The key words for me that sparked new understanding of another layer of meaning were “thicket” and “horns.” The verse laid out a scene for me. I pictured the ram. Its’ head was majestically capped and flanked by mighty ridged horns. The horns swooped downward from the top of the head–circuitously–until they ascended once again in the course of their curve. These structures of strength and power were trapped in the branch of a thornbush. And it is there that I saw Jesus Christ in the Old Testament narrative more graphically than I have seen Him before. My Savior’s head was crowned with thorns, just as the head of the ram was.
God’s Word was written for us, that we might find repentance and faith (John 20:31; Romans 15:4). I believe that it is written so beautifully, so gloriously, that it is rich in meaning. The Spirit of God speaks through the Word to all who read it in such a way that it speaks through the corridors of time to our very situations. It reaches us with the same authority as it had when it was written long ago. It is designed to be living and active for as long as earth endures and afterward in glory. Each word is a lovely and intricate tapestry that the Holy Spirit has woven that we may marvel at and declare, “Surely, God is speaking through these words.”
Yes, friend, God speaks. He continues to testify to the glory of His Son, who wore a crown of thorns on his head when He laid down His life for our salvation. In the actual physical act that prefigured His death, Abraham and Isaac are a picture of the gospel for us. And the ram represents the offering God provides–so vividly and exactly, in fact, that even his head is crowned with thorns.
Look and marvel, all God’s people, at the wonders He has done!