Mt Moriah, Mountain of Mystery

by Joseph Hunting

Ancient Mount Moriah provides the perfect stage and backdrop for a drama that began to unfold four thousand years ago. Whilst there may have been others included in the cast, the main roles were filled by Abraham and Melchizedek, king of Salem, the ancient name of Jerusalem. Something of a mystery still surrounds the "King of Righteousness" who made such a dramatic yet brief appearance in Scripture's hall of fame. A thousand years later David wrote of Messiah, "Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek" (Psalm 110:4).

The script that highlights Mount Moriah at centre stage only makes one brief mention of Melchizedek when he held court in the "king's dale" (later identified as the Kidron valley). "And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth. And blessed be the most high God which has delivered your enemies into your hand. And he (Abraham) gave him tithes of all. (Genesis 14:18-20).

The scenario now changes completely. Abraham has taken up residence far to the south in the land of the Philistines. Scripture again provides the script. "And Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the Lord, the everlasting God. And Abraham sojourned in the Philistines' land many days" (Genesis 21:33-34).

During those "many days" when Abraham was 100 and Sarah 90 years old the miracle child of promise, Isaac, was born. When the lad was about eighteen years old God put to Abraham the supreme test of his obedience. "Take now your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love and go into the land of Moriah: AND OFFER HIM THERE FOR A BURNT OFFERING UPON ONE OF THE MOUNTAINS WHICH I WILL TELL THEE OF " (Genesis 22:2). One of those mountains was Mount Moriah just to the north of Jebusite Jerusalem and adjacent to "the king's dale". No doubt Abraham vividly recalled the meeting he had many years previously with Melchizedek.

The amazing thing about Abraham is that he didn't demur. God was very explicit in designating Isaac to be sacrificed as a burnt offering, yet Abraham obeyed instantly. There wasn't even a question asked or a bid for time to try to side-step this awful act that must have shaken the Patriarch to the very core of his being. Was not Isaac the one in whom God had desposited all the promises He had made to Abraham long before Isaac's birth concerning his seed possessing the land of Canaan as far as the River Euphrates? So, if God required that Isaac be offered as a burnt offering on Mt. Moriah, then He would have to restore him to life again in order to fulfil His promises through this miraculously conceived child of promise.

If God was putting Abraham's obedience and faith to the supreme test, then surely likewise Abraham was testing God to raise Isaac from the dead. That three-day journey from Beersheba to Mt. Moriah must have been a nightmare. Abraham had plenty of time to think about the horrible act God was demanding of him. But to turn back would negate everything God had so far invested in this pioneer of faith.

Finally, when he saw Mt. Moriah in the distance he told the two young men who accompanied them to wait until he and Isaac returned. What chutzpah! At this point Abraham burned his boats irrevocably. He openly declared to those present that when his 'mission impossible' was completed he and Isaac would return.

Somewhere on the summit of Mt. Moriah Isaac was bound and placed upon the altar. Abraham's arm was upraised to plunge the knife into Isaac when the Lord intervened and provided a ram with thorns about its head to be the sacrificial substitute. "And Abraham called the name of that place "Jehovah-jireh'" (Genesis 22:14).

It was no coincidence that this was the very place where David offered sacrifices, and where again countless lambs were sacrificed when the Temple was erected on that spot.

A thousand years after David offered sacrifices on this holy place, Mt. Moriah was to yield up another mystery. And again a miraculous birth was involved, and like Isaac God's promises were bound up in the unborn infant. The angel Gabriel announced to His mother: "Behold, you shall conceive in your womb and bring forth a son, and shall call His name Jesus (Yeshua). He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David, and He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever" (Luke 1:31-33).

Thirty-three years later this Child of Promise shed His blood as the thorn-crowned "lamb of God" , bearing "the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6). And just as Isaac was seen alive after he returned from the place of sacrifice, even so Yeshua was also seen alive by those who had witnessed His ascent to Golgotha on that same sacred mount.

Mount Moriah has one final mystery that links the shadow with the substance. Just as there was a long lapse of time between the promises God made to Abraham concerning the Land and their final fulfilment under Joshua, so there has been an even longer time lapse between the promise, "The Lord shall give unto Him the throne of His father David, and He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever" and its fulfilment. How truly did Balaam testify of God's faithfulness, "Hath He not spoken, AND SHALL HE NOT MAKE IT GOOD?" (Numbers 23:19).