All sorts of weird things happen in the Bible. A snake strikes up a conversation with a naked woman. A donkey chews out a cursing preacher. Ravens fly breakfast to a hungry prophet.
But it’s not just animals. A sea unzips its surface and bodybags a whole army of Egyptians. Rivers give a round of applause. All of creation has a part to play in the saga of salvation.
Let me tell you about one of those characters in this saga.
It’s not a snake or donkey or sea.
It’s a mountain.
Perhaps you’ve never heard this story before. If not, I bet it’s one you won’t soon forget.
Three Stories, One Mountain
There’s a man stretched atop firewood that’s been arranged on a makeshift altar. There’s his father, standing above him, the hilt of a knife clasped in his hand, the blade lifted high. “Take your son,” God had told Abraham, “your 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” (Gen. 22:2).
That’s where they are. On Moriah. The place where the father is to sacrifice his son. Yet he doesn’t. A split second before the knife plummets, an angel stops Abraham. In the stead of his son, the father offers a ram caught in a nearby thicket as a burnt offering. Here is where the story begins.
On Mt. Moriah, God provides a substitute to die in Isaac’s place.
Fast-forward a few centuries. In the latter years of his reign, David has incensed the Lord by commanding a census to be taken of all Israel (1 Chron. 21). Catastrophic casualties follow as a plague steamrolls through the land. Finally a skyscraping angel unsheathes his sword over Jerusalem.
David hurries up Moriah, to a threshing floor owned by a local farmer. He buys the plot of ground and the oxen used for threshing. He builds an altar, kills the beasts, and flames fall from the sky upon the altar to consume their bodies. The plague stops, the angel sheathes his sword, Zion is saved.
On Mt. Moriah, God provides oxen to die in order that his people might be spared.
The son of David, wise Solomon, built the temple of the Lord on this exact spot (2 Chron 3:1). On this mountain where the promised son, Isaac, had been spared by the sacrifice of a ram in his stead. On this mountain where Jerusalem was spared by the sacrifice of oxen in their stead. On this very mountain, Moriah, the house of God was erected and the massive altar set up.
Here, year after year, morning and evening, the blood of cattle, sheep, goats, and birds was spilled. Their bodies reduced to ashes. Until the time appointed, these beasts died in the stead of God’s people. They bore the guilt of sinners. Onto their heads was transferred the sin of the congregation. And through their blood shed and bodies burnt, the Lord provided cleansing and forgiveness to his people.
On Mt. Moriah, God provided sacrifice after sacrifice in order that his people might be spared.
But the story of Moriah was far from over. For these three stories are but the pre-story to why this mountain is so important. For what Abraham and David and Solomon did not do, could not do, a greater one did.
Moriah’s Last Chapter
Jesus wrote the last chapter of Moriah. He made this mountain his own. He climbed Mt. Moriah, to enter his Father’s house, time and again. He taught on this mountain. He overturned the tables of the money-changers on this mountain.
On Moriah, he declared, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will rebuild it.” He spend the last week of his life on this mountain. And he brought this mountain’s story to its peak.
Jesus was not killed in Bethlehem as a baby, as Herod intended. He was not thrown off the cliff in Nazareth after he angered the hometown crowd with his preaching. He was not murdered in a Samaritan village.
He couldn’t be, for it was a divine necessity that he die in Jerusalem, where Moriah is.
He is the promised Seed of Abraham, the new and better Isaac. He is the promised Son of David, the new and better Solomon. He is the tabernacle and temple of God. And he is the Son who is not spared, but given up for us all.
At his death, the angels outside Eden sheathe their swords and welcome us back into the paradise of God. He is the Lamb of God, upon the altar of the cross, who transforms Golgotha into Moriah. He is the substitute, by whose sacrifice we are not just spared, but welcomed into the life and family of the Father.
When Abraham offered a ram in the stead of Isaac, he called the name of this place Yahweh-Yireh, meaning, “The LORD will provide,” as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the Lord it will be provided” (Gen. 22:14).
Indeed, it will. And it was. God provided his Son. And in that Son, we receive everything.
To learn more about Hebrew words like Yahweh-Yireh and Moriah, and to trace their connections to the work of the Messiah, check out Chad’s book, Unveiling Mercy: 365 Daily Devotions Based on Insights from Old Testament Hebrew, available at Amazon or the 1517 Shop.
You may also wish to listen to the Unveiling Mercy daily podcast, where Chad reads the Hebrew word and devotion of the day (available wherever you get your podcasts).