Abraham Saw My Day!
By: Dr. Jürgen Bühler, ICEJ President
The article “Heir to the Whole World” in our last issue of Word From Jerusalem showed that Abraham was perhaps the most prominent figure of the Old Testament, whose impact is still felt today. Jesus said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). This statement presents a puzzling truth. Jesus indicates that Abraham received a prophetic glimpse into his life and ministry some 1,900 years ahead of time—and it caused him great excitement.
Several events gave Abraham insights into various facets of Jesus’ ministry. We find the first one in Genesis 14, which contains what historians say is the oldest report of an armed conflict. Four invading kings (Amraphael, Arioch, Chedorlaomer, and Tidal) conquered the land of Canaan, placing their rulers under tributary submission. Some rabbis see these kings as prophetic foreshadows of the later world empires of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome.
During their conquest, they took captives, including Abraham’s nephew Lot. But Abraham undertook the impossible. He summoned his personal militia of 318 soldiers, chased after these conquering armies, surprised and defeated the four kings, liberated the captives (including Lot), and returned with the bounty they had taken from the Canaanite tribes (Genesis 14:13ff).
Then as Abraham returned in victory, he approached Jerusalem (the King’s valley) and “Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High” (Genesis 14:18). This mysterious figure Melchizedek was ruler of Jerusalem, as well as the King of Righteousness (which translates “Melchizedek”) and King of Peace (“Salem”). He also served as priest of El Elyon, the Most High God, and he blessed Abraham, saying:
Blessed be Abram by God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything. (Genesis 14:19–20 ESV)
Much can be said about this amazing person, yet the Bible is silent about Melchizedek until King David arises as another king-priest of Jerusalem (he was the only Israelite king to minister before the ark of the covenant). Thus, David prophesied:
The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” The Lord shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies! … The LORD has sworn and will not relent, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” The Lord is at Your right hand; He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath. He shall judge among the nations. (Psalm 110:1, 4–6a)
In this passage, David sees the appearance of a future Melchizedek-type who would be elevated to the right hand of God and rule the nations. The book of Hebrews connects the dots. The writer clearly presents him as a prophetic shadow of Jesus the Messiah, who passed through the heavens to the right hand of the Father, “having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 6:20). Hebrews 7 then sets out the many parallels between Jesus and Melchizedek and concludes: “Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Hebrews 8:1).
Even today, Jesus stands before God interceding on behalf of every believer. So just as Jesus said, we, too, can see how “Abraham saw My day, and was glad” when he returned from battle and encountered Melchizedek in the King’s valley.
The Day of the Lord
There is another occasion when Abraham saw Jesus’ day. Genesis 18 records that three men appeared to Abraham (many theologians say they represent the triune nature of God), and one informed him that in a year’s time, he would hold the son of promise in his hands. As the three departed from Abraham, the same one hesitated, saying in Genesis 18:16ff: “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing?”
What unfolded next was God’s righteous judgment on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. In this passage, Abraham remarkably negotiated with God, but at the end, not even 10 righteous were found in these sinful cities: “And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the LORD. Then he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain; and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land which went up like the smoke of a furnace” (Genesis 19:27–28).
In Luke, Jesus recalled the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah, saying the “day when the Son of Man is revealed” will be like the days of Lot (Luke 17:28–30). Abraham, in a way, received a glimpse into the end times. He saw what it will be like on the great day of the LORD when Jesus returns. As in the days of Lot, Jesus said people will live superficial lives of prosperity and self-centeredness, then sudden judgment will come. In a very real sense, Abraham witnessed the severity of God’s righteous judgment.
One thing we can learn from Abraham: he did not fatalistically submit to the announced judgment, but he stood in the gap, earnestly interceding for a lost world. Likewise, the prophet Joel pleaded: “Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him” (Joel 2:14a). Let us follow Abraham’s example; as we see the terrible day of the Lord coming, let us intercede for a world ripening for God’s judgment.
The Day of Redemption
Finally, the greatest moment in Abraham’s life of seeing “My day” is recounted in Genesis 22, in the story of the binding of Isaac. It was a most difficult test for Abraham, whom God commanded to “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:2). Abraham responded immediately. Early in the morning, he departed and “took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son” (Genesis 22:6).
In these verses, we see the most profound moment in Abraham’s journey—when Abraham’s life became personally intertwined with God’s eternal purposes. He experienced a prophetic projection of what would take place 2,000 years later, again on Mount Moriah, when God would give His beloved, only begotten Son to redeem the world. Abraham’s sacrificial dedication to God’s purposes reflected the very character of God, who was willing to give His utmost to save the world. When he watched his son climbing the hillside with wood on his back, Abraham also saw Jesus of Nazareth carrying the cross to give eternal life to all the families of the earth.
Consider two highlights in this remarkable prophetic scene. We can only imagine Abraham painfully making his way up the mountain. Yet a spark of faith emanates from his prophetic reassurance to Isaac: “God will provide for Himself the lamb” (Genesis 22:8). Isaac was already bound upon the altar when an angel of the LORD stopped Abraham, and he saw a ram caught in a thicket. Abraham received a sacrificial ram (ay’il in Hebrew)—a grown, horned, male sheep. Then 2,000 years later, God provided the promised lamb (seh in Hebrew). This blameless Lamb of God, a direct descendant of Abraham, carried away the sins of the world for all who trust in Him (John 1:29).
Then, when Abraham ascended Mount Moriah with his son, he was not only obedient to the fullest but trusted that God would raise Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11:19). From the start, he believed they would return from the mountain together. So in in a very real way, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.
Abraham understood beforehand the great significance of the redemptive work of Jesus, the center point of salvation history. On Mount Moriah, where Abraham declared that God would provide, the Lord indeed provided forgiveness of sins, released the resurrection power of God, and opened a way of escape from God’s eternal judgment on that great and terrible day of the LORD.
Abraham indeed looked ahead and gladly saw “My day.” I pray that we all can look back and see it too! Jesus is our Royal High Priest seated at God’s right hand, interceding for us. He is also the One who will come one day to judge the living and the dead (1 Peter 4:5). So let us rejoice in the Lamb of God who forgives our sins and offers us His resurrection power even today.
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