Monday, March 25, 2013
In Search Of Truth, Genesis 22:1-18
The final passage we look at in Genesis is one of the most unusual. God had previously promised Abraham that his son Isaac would be his heir and that Abraham's countless descendants would come from Isaac. Yet God now asks Abraham to kill Isaac. This memorable story is a pivotal moment in God's interaction with humanity. It has incredible significance and foreshadows God the Father's sacrifice of God the Son, Jesus.
God already knows everything. So why test Abraham this way? We'd be arrogant to claim full understanding of God's motives, but it's worth considering that testing is not just evaluation, but part of the learning experience. In later years, God would test Israel to teach them to have reverence for God and train them not to sin. (Exodus 20:20)
Apologist Paul Copan observes that the Hebrew phrasing here indicates a request on God's part, not a command that Abraham would have been found guilty for rejecting. ("Is God A Moral Monster?", Paul Copan, pg. 47) God was not bullying Abraham into this, but requesting that Abraham take his trust in Yahweh "to the next level".
It's hard to imagine what was going through Abraham's mind right then. But the text suggests he believed that God would raise Isaac to life again after Abraham killed him. Notice that he tells his servants, "I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you." He anticipated that both he and Isaac would return together. (See also Hebrews 11:19)
It's interesting to note that like Jesus, Isaac was responsible for carrying his own tool of execution to the place where he would be killed.
Again my mind spins as I try to imagine Abraham's thoughts. Was he anticipating a literal lamb would take the place of Isaac, or was Isaac the providential "lamb" he was referring to?
I tend to conclude that Abraham didn't have one specific idea in mind about what God would do. He just believed that, one way or another, God would accomplish his will for both the sacrifice at hand and the descendants promised to come through Isaac. Abraham could imagine a few possible outcomes, but in the end simply chose to trust Yahweh and see how things played out as they happened.
This is incredibly challenging to me, as I usually want God's specific plan laid out in front of me so there are no unknowns to fear and little need to actually trust Yahweh with the future.
Again, Isaac parallels Christ. We typically think of Abraham's faith here, but notice that there is no sign if Isaac struggling or protesting as he is bound. (A bit strange, isn't it?) Like Jesus would so many lifetimes later, Isaac quietly submits to what is required of him, even if it means suffering and death.
Abraham's actions made his faith complete. The strength of our faith truly comes into being when it is exercised through action. In that moment it's not simply an ideal we decide we like or an intellectual conclusion. It becomes real and complete. (See James 2:21-23)
God called Abraham to pay a massive price. But he also remained consistent with his own word. And afterward, God expanded upon his previous promise to bless all the nations of the earth through Abraham by now including Isaac, along with the promise that "your offspring shall possess the gates of his enemies".
Control his hard to give up. (For people like me, REALLY hard.) I think for many of us geeks it feels much safer to remain isolated, surrounded by elements we can control, instead of people that we can't. But God is trustworthy even when he's asking us to step into the unknown or the uncontrollable. No matter what might happen, God will be consistent with his word.
When we're faced with giving something up, taking something on, or enduring something terrible, even through tears and gritted teeth we can cling to God's consistency with his word, knowing that his word says, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. " (Romans 8:28, ESV)