“Love.” I’d think we could all agree that “love” is a relatively important topic when it comes to God, right? But do you know where the word “love” first appears in the Bible? Yeah, didn’t think so.
It actually shows up for the first time in Genesis 22, when God says to Abraham, “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…”
So Abraham and Isaac set out for a mountain in the land of Moriah to make this sacrifice. Abraham brings a knife and a fire, while Isaac carries the wood. It’s a three-day journey, and on the third day Isaac looks around and realizes that Abraham forgot to bring a lamb. Apparently Isaac doesn’t know what’s about to happen. So he asks his dad, “Hey, uh… where’s the lamb?”
And Abraham says to Isaac, “God will provide for Himself the lamb, my son.” Now there’s two ways to read this: “God will provide the lamb, I say to you, my son.” Or, “God will provide the lamb, and the lamb is my son.” Frankly, either one fits, and both apply, so take it how you want.
Now we all know what happens next: Abraham binds Isaac on the altar—presumably with Isaac’s permission, as Abraham is well over a hundred years old and Isaac is probably around 20.
But before Abraham can lay a hand on the boy, God stops him and tells him, “Because you have not withheld your only son, in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” Abraham lifts his eyes and sees a ram caught in a bush, and sacrifices the ram instead of his son.
And all of this takes place on a mountain in Moriah. Now the first time I read this story when I was 17, that place stuck out to me. “Mount Moriah.” I had heard of it before. And then I realized: That was the same place… where Gandalf died in Lord of the Rings! He died while fighting the balrog on Mount Moria.
But that got me thinking: Does Mount Moriah show up anywhere else in scripture? And it turns out, it does. The Hebrew word “Moriah”—which means “chosen by Yahweh”— shows up in one other place.
In 2 Chronicles, we are told that “Solomon began to build the house of the LORD at Jerusalem on Mount Moriah.” The temple, of course, was the center of the Jewish faith, and the place where all the sacrifices—including the twice-daily burnt offering—were to be made.
So you have this mountain—Mount Moriah—where Abraham was commanded to make a sacrifice, which resulted in a promise that all of the people of the earth would be blessed by a descendant of Abraham. And a thousand years later, that is the exact location where Solomon—a descendant of Abraham—builds God’s temple, where all of the sacrifices were made on behalf of the people.
That’s cool, right? But does Mount Moriah show up anywhere else? Well we don’t see the word “Moriah” again, but there is a hint in 2 Chronicles. We just read that Solomon “built the house of the LORD on Mount Moriah,” but there’s more to the verse.
“…Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to his father David… on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.” So David had been to Moriah too! But what exactly did David do there?
Looking back in 1 Chronicles, we read that David was “moved by satan” to lead the nation in what is described as an “repulsive” sin that brings “guilt upon Israel.” As a result, a plague falls upon the land, which threatens to destroy the people of Jerusalem.
We then read that David “lifted his eyes and saw the angel of the LORD standing between earth and heaven, having in his hand a drawn sword stretched out over Jerusalem.”
And what does David do? He falls to his knees and declares, “Let Your hand, I pray, O LORD my God, be against me and my father’s house, but not against Your people that they should be plagued.” David begs for the punishment to fall on him and his descendants, and for the people to be spared.
God then commands David to “erect an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.” Where is Ornan’s threshing floor? On Mount Moriah, in the exact place where Solomon would build the temple a generation later. David buys the place from Ornan, builds an altar, and makes a sacrifice there. Then God answers him “from heaven by fire on the altar,” and the destroying angel “returned his sword to its sheath.”
So in the same place where Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his descendant to bring blessings upon the earth, David asks God to forgive the people of the destruction they deserve and punish his descendant instead, and then David makes a sacrifice on the altar. The same place where, a generation later, all of the sacrifices will be made. All of these events take place on Mount Moriah.
So with all of this context in mind, I have a question for you: Where do you think Jesus was crucified? On Mount Moriah. On the same mountain where sacrifices were made for hundreds of years, where Solomon built his temple, where David stood in the gap, where Abraham took his son. All of these events took place in the exact same spot!
Think about all the meaning packed into that location. Abraham had journeyed three days to get to Moriah while his son carried wood on his back, where he declared that God would provide his Son—his only Son, his beloved Son—as a lamb for sacrifice, and that all the nations of the earth would be blessed as a result.
Jesus—God’s beloved Son—is also called the Son of Abraham, the Lamb of God, and after He carried a wooden cross and was crucified on Mount Moriah and spent three days in the earth, His resurrection brought the blessing of Abraham upon all who would believe.
David stood on Mount Moriah—between heaven and earth—and implored God that the people should be spared from their justified destruction, and that the punishment for their sins should fall upon David and his descendant instead.
Jesus—the Son of David—was marched to the exact same location—between heaven and earth—and took our collective punishment upon Himself, that we might be spared our deserved wrath of God.
Solomon built the Temple on Mount Moriah, where his father had assuaged the wrath of God a generation earlier. Literally hundreds of thousands of sacrifices were made there, daily postponing the punishment for the sins of mankind.
And after a thousand years of sacrifices on that same spot, God finally provided His Lamb. The Son of David, the Son of Abraham, the Son of God—He carried a wooden cross up that mountain, where they nailed Him to it and raised Him up before heaven and earth. And with His last breath, He declared, “It is finished,” and gave up the spirit.
All that had happened on Mount Moriah before had been leading up to this exact moment. The promise made to Abraham, the forgiveness extended to David, the offering made by Solomon—it was finally finished. Fulfilled in the same place where it started. Through Christ, the seed of Abraham, all the nations of the earth would finally be blessed.
And all of this takes place in the very first place where we were introduced to biblical love.
I don’t know about you, but this blows my mind. Like, God is so incredibly good in all of this. But stuff like this is so easy to miss. If you don’t pay attention to where these stories take place, you’ll miss all of this meaning and goodness.
I once heard it said, “Geography is theology.” The Bible is 1,189 chapters. God wouldn’t waste His words telling us where these things take place if they weren’t important. The geography of the Bible is there for a reason, and when we make an effort to understand not only what’s happening but where it’s happening, God can show us things we never knew were there.
So next time you’re reading the Bible and God goes out of His way to tell you where the action is happening, take a minute and look it up. You never know what you’ll find.
Have a great week, and remember, you’re greater than you realize.