Lesson 9: God Will Provide A Lamb
Kings Shall Come Out of Thee
Genesis 15–17; 21. Later in his life, Abraham desires and is promised seed (15:1–6). Sarah gives Hagar to Abraham as his wife; Hagar bears Ishmael (16:1–16). God again speaks of his covenant with Abraham, promising that he will be the father of many nations (17:1–14). Genesis 17:6 – “Kings shall come out of thee.” (This is describing the Church of the Firstborn, those Saints who will be exalted, who will eventually live the life that God the Father lives. This is also termed Deification.) 1
To me, this verse has everything to do with the kind of kings and queens God wants us to become. I do not think he really cares about worldly kings and influence, rather he is telling Abraham that from his line thousands will be exalted. These exalted saints are called kings and queens throughout scripture. They are members of the Church of the Firstborn, those that inherit eternal life, or the life that God lives.
I like to emphasize the truth of what these kings and queens are that are referenced in this passage, as well to as analyze how the sacrifice of Isaac foreshadowed the future atoning sacrifice of the Son of God – Jesus Christ. It is also noteworthy to see examples of Abraham-like faith in the lives of those who lived in Church History. It strengthens me when I see their lives and read or hear of their sacrifice!
The Success of God’s Plan of Happiness
The God we worship is a successful God! The plan he put forth will maximize returns and see many of his children exalted through the atonement of Jesus Christ (see D&C 76:53-60; 77:11; 88:107; Romans 8:16-17; Rev. 1:5-6; 3:21; 21:6-7; 3 Ne. 28:10). Many prophets have stressed the success of the plan of happiness that the Lord has put forth for his children.
Elder Maxwell stated, “Of the approximately 70 billion individuals who, up to now, have inhabited this planet, probably not more than one percent have really heard the gospel. Today no more than one-tenth of one percent of the world’s population are members of the Church. Even so, before the final judgment and resurrection all will have had an adequate opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. This underscores the mercy of God and the justice of God.” 2
The success on the other side of the veil is tremendous. Lorenzo Snow shared that the majority of those in the Spirit World are accepting of the gospel of Jesus Christ, “A wonderful work is being accomplished in our temples in favor of the spirits in prison. I believe, strongly too, that when the Gospel is preached to the spirits in prison, the success attending that preaching will be far greater than that attending the preaching of our Elders in this life. I believe there will be very few indeed of those spirits who will not gladly receive the Gospel when it is carried to them. The circumstances there will be a thousand times more favorable.” 3
President Woodruff said that “very few, if any” in the Spirit World would reject the gospel. 4
Elder Bruce R. McConkie stated that, “Good and faithful members of the Church will be saved (by which I mean exalted) even though they are far from perfect in this life.” 5
He also said, “Who can count the number of saved beings in eternity? Our God, who is triumphant in all battles against the forces of evil, will surely be victorious in the numbers of his children who will be saved.” 6
Isaac is Born
The birth of Isaac, through whom the covenant would continue, is announced (Genesis 17:16–22). Sarah bears Isaac (21:1–12).
Note that while the King James Version of the Bible says that Abraham “laughed” when he heard that Sarah would bear a son, an alternate translation of the Hebrew word is “rejoiced.” The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible says that Abraham “rejoiced” at the news.
Q: What was the meaning or purpose of circumcision? A: The significance of circumcision was that it was the manifest token of the covenant that the Lord had made with Abraham and his seed. 7
The Sacrifice of Isaac
Genesis 22. God commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (22:1–2). Abraham prepares to sacrifice Isaac, but God provides a ram to be sacrificed instead (22:3–19).
Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained: “When they came to the prescribed place, Abraham built an altar and laid wood upon it. Then, the Bible says, ‘Abraham … bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood’ (Genesis 22:9). What did Isaac think when Abraham did such a strange thing? The Bible mentions no struggle or objection. Isaac’s silence can be explained only in terms of his trust in and obedience to his father” 8
Elder Dallin H. Oaks said: “This story … shows the goodness of God in protecting Isaac and in providing a substitute so he would not have to die. Because of our sins and our mortality, we, like Isaac, are condemned to death. When all other hope is gone, our Father in Heaven provides the Lamb of God, and we are saved by his sacrifice” 9
The following from Truman G. Madsen is insightful:
Once I was in the valley known as Hebron, now beautifully fruitful and where tradition has it, there is a tomb to father Abraham. As I approached the place with Elder Hugh B. Brown, I asked, “What are the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?” Elder Brown thought a moment and answered in one word, “Posterity.” Then I almost burst out, “Why, then was Abraham commanded to go to Mount Moriah and offer his only hope of posterity?” It was clear that this man, nearly ninety, had thought and prayed and wept over that question before. He finally said, “Abraham needed to learn something about Abraham.”
You are aware that the record speaks of the incredible promise that Abraham after years of barrenness-which in some ways to the Israelites was the greatest curse of life-would sire a son who would in turn sire sons and become the father of nations. This came about after Abraham had left a culture where was performed. Abraham was then counseled, and if that is too weak a word, he was commanded to take this miracle son up to the mount.
We often identify with Abraham; we sometimes think less about what that meant to Sarah, the mother, and to Isaac, the son. If we can trust the Apocrypha, there are three details that the present narrative omits. First, Isaac was not a mere boy. He was a youth, a stripling youth on the verge of manhood. Second, Abraham did not keep from him, finally, the commandment or the source of the commandment. But having made the heavy journey, how heavy! He counseled with his son. Third, Isaac said in effect, “My father, if you alone had asked me to give my life for you, I would have been honored and would have given it. That both you and Jehovah ask only doubles my willingness.” It was at Isaac’s request that his arms were bound lest involuntarily, but spontaneously, he should resist the sinking of the knife. Only in the Book of Mormon, though many have assumed this, has a prophet said that this was in “similitude of God and his Only Begotten Son” (Jacob 4:5).
As we later ascended the mount traditionally known as Mount Moriah-it is just inside the east wall of Jerusalem-we remembered a statement of Brother Ellis Rasmussen of BYU: one can believe that it was to that same mount that another Son ascended. And this time there was no ram in the thicket.
Scholars are widely split over this account. At one extreme are those who say that it could not be, that it did not happen, that this is an allegory. We have here a description of the internal struggle that Abraham went through in trying to leave behind his boyhood training in . God would not require such a thing. One man put it to me this way, “That is a terrible way to test a man. A loving God would not do it.”
At the other extreme are those who have held that the story, if not true to history, is nevertheless true to life. However, they go further. They almost rejoice in the contradiction. They say this story illustrates that faith must do more than go beyond reason. Faith, if it is genuine, pulverizes reason. We must, as Kierkegaard put it, be “crucified upon the paradox of the absurd.”
My testimony is that both the rationalists and irrationalists have misread. For in modern times, we have been taught that this story does not simply lie in our remote past but in our own individual future. As modern revelation states, we must be “chastened and tried, even as Abraham” (D&C 101:4). Do you remember after that more than 900-mile march from Kirtland to Missouri we call Zion’s Camp-a march that from all mortal appearance was a failure, for it achieved nothing, someone came to Brigham Young and said, “What did you get out of that fiasco?” He replied, “Everything we went for–experience.” He could say that because he had only within hours been with the Prophet Joseph in a meeting where the Prophet had declared in substance, “Brethren, some of you are angry with me because you did not fight in Missouri. But let me tell you, God did not want you to fight. He wanted to develop a core of men ‘who had offered their lives and who made as great a sacrifice as did Abraham.’ Now God has found his leaders, and those of you who are called to positions who have not made that sacrifice will be required to make it hereafter” (Documentary History of the Church, p. 182.)
There is the recorded testimony of Wilford Woodruff and John Taylor, who described the Kirtland Temple experience-an outpouring so rich that some of those present honestly believed that the Millennium had come, that the era of peace had been ushered in, for they were so filled with the spirit of blessing and love, The prophet arose in that setting and said, “Brethren, this is the Lord that is with us, but trials lie ahead. Brethren [he was speaking to the Twelve], God will feel after you, and he will wrench your very heartstrings. If you cannot stand it, you will not be fit for the kingdom of God.” All too prophetic was that statement. Half of the original Council of Twelve later, as the Prophet put it, “lifted up the heel” against him and against Christ. Four others were at least temporarily disaffected. Only two, Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, did not buckle under the pressure, and they were tried, too…
May I speak only for a moment, out of the abstractions about some modern examples? You are aware that the Donner party, under the terror of their trauma west, lapsed into cannibalism. Not so with these modern human yet superhuman Latter-day Saints. Some of them died in each other’s arms. Some died with their hands frozen to the crossbar, always with their faces west.
Then there were the three young men – Brother Huntington, Brother Grant, Brother Kimball, all only eighteen years of age, who went with the relief party the second thousand miles to help with the Martin Handcart Company. On this trip they faced a stream that was swollen with ice and snow. Have you ever walked, even to the knee level, through such water? The pioneers almost hopelessly stood back, unable to go through in their weakened and emaciated condition. Those three boys carried every one of the company across and then crossed back, sometimes in water up to their waists. When Brother Brigham heard this, he wept and then rose in the majesty of his spirit and said, “God will exalt those three young men in the celestial kingdom of God.”
What about Brother Helaman Pratt, who had been in four states, driven from all, and who now had a toehold within an adobe house in the valley. Brigham Young called him in and said, “Brother Pratt, we are calling you to colonize in Mexico. You will be released when you die. God bless you.” Brother Pratt went. He was released when he died. One of the great things that came out of that Nazareth was a man named Henry Eyring.
There are sacrifices. But the prophets again and again insist that we ought to use a different word. How can it be called a sacrifice to yield up a handful of dust when what is promised is a whole earth? But we think we know better than God. We think that what we want for us is greater than what he wants for us. Then we simply violate the first commandment, which is to love God first and over all. The moment that pattern is followed he seeks in us the one thing that we do not really want to give up. Many of us will say that we do not have that kind of faith. But I submit to you that you do not have that kind of faith until you pass that test…
John Taylor said that the Prophet taught that if God could have found a deeper way to test Abraham he would have used that (See Journal of Discourses 24:264). As Paul looked back and wondered how Abraham could have his willingness account for righteousness, his conviction was that Abraham believed Jehovah could raise his son from the dead if necessary in order to fulfill the promise, which that sacrifice scene contradicts. That is what God did ultimately with his own Son. (See Hebrews 11:19) 10
1. Becoming Like God, accessed on LDS.org.
2. Elder Neal A. Maxwell, But for a Small Moment, p.115-166.
3. Accessed on LDS.org, Introduction to Family History Student Manual, chapter 9. See also: Lorenzo Snow, Millennial Star, Jan. 22, 1894, 50. One historian noted: “Lorenzo Snow and Wilford Woodruff both agreed that ‘very few of those who die without the Gospel will reject it on the other side of the vail’” (Alexander, Things in Heaven and Earth, p. 322). See also Parry and Parry, Understanding Death and the Resurrection, p. 110-111.
4. Wilford Woodruff, in Stuy, Collected Discourses, 4:74-76. See also President Boyd K. Packer, Holy Temple, p. 203, 206. Also: Robert Millet, Within Reach, p. 12-13.
5. Bruce R. McConkie, Seven Deadly Heresies, in Charge to Religious Educators, p. 149.
6. Bruce R. McConkie, as cited in McConkie, Millet, and Top, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 4:95: Millet and McConkie, Life Beyond, p. 137; Millet, Within Reach, p. 12-13.
7. Bible Dictionary, Circumcision, p. 646.
8. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, in Conference Report, Oct. 1992, 51; or Ensign, Nov. 1992, 37.
9. Elder Oaks, Ensign, Nov. 1992, 37.
10. Truman G. Madsen, The Power of Abrahamic Tests, Bookcraft Recordings, 1979. This recording is also entitled: Sacrifice, the Key to Power.