The Arabic expression “Eid al-Adha” means “Feast of the Sacrifice”. Islam teaches that this feast is the commemoration of the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael (who in fact is Isaac) as an act of obedience to God, before God intervened to provide him with a sheep — to sacrifice instead. But the real Eid al-Adha is not that; that was only a shadow or an image that pointed to the real Adha that God would make. We will see together what the real Feast of the Sacrifice is.
From the beginning of the world, God has given us, humans, many images that pointed to the real Sacrifice. The earliest picture or image of this Sacrifice was when God gave Adam and Eve clothes made of the skin of an animal instead of the fig leaves that could not cover them: “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21) So the Lord God sacrificed an animal to make clothes of its skin. This was a declaration from God to Adam and Eve that fig leaves, symbols of personal achievements and self-righteousness, cannot cover their sinfulness or ransom them; only blood can. Fig leaves represent self-righteousness and personal merits, while the sacrifice of blood represents God’s Righteousness who ransoms man by blood, because the life of a living being is in its blood. And that animal sacrifice was the symbol or the image of the true Sacrifice that would be offered instead of all sinners, as we will see. Adam and Eve learned this lesson, and they transmitted it to their children, and their children transmitted it to their children. In the whole Old Testament, we see this principle that God has put: that sin causes death, and that the life of the sinner can only be ransomed by a bloody sacrifice. Another image of the true Sacrifice was given when God accepted the offering of Abel and refused the offering of Cain. Cain rebelled against the instruction given by God to his parents, and he presented to God an offering of plants: “And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.” (Genesis 4:3) This was clear unbelief, as Cain refused God’s way and God’s Righteousness, and he wanted that his own righteousness be accepted by God; he did not present a bloody offering, because he believed he could make himself acceptable before God by his personal achievements. His brother Abel believed God, and that was counted to him for righteousness, just as it was counted for Abraham; Abel offered to God a bloody offering: “And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect.” (Genesis 4:4-5) Later, God taught Abraham the same lesson: He taught him that a substitute animal could take the place of his son as a ransom. God commanded Abraham to offer to Him his only son of the promise, his beloved son, the son through whom all Abraham’s true descendants would be named (see Romans 9:7). Abraham the believer obeyed. “And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.” (Genesis 22:9-13) As you see, this ram was offered instead of Isaac’s life; and this ram was an image of the true Substitute who would be sacrificed instead of all sinners, as we will see. This was not the real Eid Al-Adha; this was just an image of the true one that would come later, as we will see. Later, when God was saving His covenant people, Israel, from the slavery of Egypt, He gave them again another image of the true Adha or Sacrifice: He commanded them to slay a Passover lamb (see Exodus 12:21) so that they would not bear the judgment of death (see Exodus 12:23). Thus once again the image of a substitute was given. Then in the Law, God revealed to the children of Israel this principle of Substitution in explicit words: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” (Leviticus 17:11)
One should be a blind in order not to see this principle of Substitution and Atonement (in Arabic, kaffara) which is so clearly displayed by God in the whole Law and Prophets, and particularly in the life of Abraham! All antichrist religions try to hide the importance of this principle of Substitution and Atonement, because Satan does not want people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
And the Old Testament does not stop at the point of giving mere images of the real Sacrifice or Adha; it passes beyond that: the prophets gave us also detailed descriptions of the true Sacrifice that would be offered instead of all sinners who put their hope on that Sacrifice. We will now read one of those detailed descriptions of the true Sacrifice, written by the prophet Isaiah almost 700 years before the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ:
“Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.
As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:
So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.
Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?
For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 52:13-53:12)
As you see, the image of the substitute sheep is again used in this text to describe the true Lamb or Sacrifice to whom all the images of the Old Testament pointed.
But who is the Lamb described in this prophecy of Isaiah? Who is this Lamb who bare the sin of many (i.e. of those who would put their trust on Him)? Who is this Servant of the Lord who was oppressed, afflicted and brought as a dumb lamb to slaughter? Who other than Jesus Christ comes to your mind as you read these lines, dear reader?? For indeed John the Baptist testified about Him, saying: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) Yes, it is the Lord Jesus “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” (Romans 4:25) The Lord Jesus is the only Substitute who could bear the sins of all sinners and pay His blood as a ransom. Even the Qur’an admits that the ram offered by Abraham was a ransom offered in order to be a substitute for man’s life; the Qur’an says in Surah As-Saaffat:
“وَفَدَيۡنَـٰهُ بِذِبۡحٍ عَظِيمٍ۬“
“Then We ransomed him with a tremendous victim.” (37:107)
But this principle of the ransom or the Substitute offered as Atonement (Arabic, Kaffara) is clearly hidden and avoided in Islam, therefore they do not see the real Adha or Sacrifice which is Jesus Christ. Not even the Old Covenant Passover was the real Eid Al-Adha; that also was an image of the true one. The true Adha is the true Passover, Jesus Christ: “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Corinthians 5:7-8) So the true Eid Al-Adha was when Christ our Passover Lamb offered Himself for us once for all. And we’re now in that Eid or Feast all the days of our lives, keeping it with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
To forget this truth of the Substitution and to concentrate only on the image given through the obedience of Abraham is to misunderstand the whole thing. To teach the Muslim that the main thing in Adha is Abraham’s obedience is catastrophic, because it gives to Abraham’s obedience a self-righteous character, as if Abraham would boast of having obeyed God and would refuse the substitute ram! Today Muslims normally refuse the Substitute, Jesus Christ, whom God gave to the world to bear our sins, and they boast that they can please God by their obedience… This is catastrophic, because God refuses this self-righteousness, and those who have this boasting will be lost forever from His Presence! If Abraham refused the substitute ram and boasted in having obeyed God’s command to offer his son, then his son would die! We should be careful to accept the Substitute, Jesus Christ, just as Abraham accepted the substitute ram which was an image of Jesus Christ.
It is unbelief and rebellion against God to refuse to be covered or ransomed by the blood of the Savior (i.e. by the death of the Substitute) and to try to offer to God our own righteousness and piety and good works; God refuses this self-righteousness. Even if we present a bloody sacrifice with self-righteousness, God will refuse it: God refuses the one who presents a sacrifice with the expectation that God will consider his act of offering that sacrifice as a righteousness in him and thus forgive him his sins based on that work of righteousness; for this also is self-righteousness. The one who comes to God for forgiveness and acceptance and approval, whether he is a believer or an unbeliever, he should come with humility, admitting his total sinfulness and inability to cover himself by any human means, and receiving God’s Substitute. Otherwise, the sinner is relying on his own merits, so he thinks he’s not a totally lost sinner; he thinks he is meritorious for the fact that he presented an offering. The prophet king David explained the danger of such a mentality that relies on the act of presenting burnt offerings to satisfy God’s wrath on our sins; he said they will not be accepted by God: “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Psalm 51:16-17) The boastful heart thinks that his act of offering a sacrifice has some merit in it that should be accepted by God; God does not accept such a heart. But a broken and contrite heart admits that he is totally lost in sin, unable to do anything meritorious in order to deserve forgiveness and acceptance, and fully relies on God’s sovereignly provided Substitute. This heart is accepted by God, because it doesn’t offer its own righteousness, but relies on God’s Righteousness. This is what our father Abraham did; he relied on God’s sovereignly provided substitute, and he said it to his son when he asked him where the lamb of the offering was: “And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering“ (Genesis 22:7-8).
This is what real faith is! Let’s do like Abraham, and let’s accept the real Adha, the real Sacrifice Jesus Christ who was sovereignly provided by God.
Posted in Islam