sacrificial service from genesis 22

Genesis 22 continued…                                                                                      

As we come to the close of this chapter I thought we might pause here while I slip in some of my research that I have discovered concerning this, to many, an enigmatic passage.  Does it surprise you that not only do Christians have an interpretation for this chapter but so do the Jews and Muslims?

Many Rabbis see this story as a teaching to accept Jehovah and his law in full obedience.  While other Rabbis explain this passage as a polemic against child sacrifices that were rife in the heathen tribes surrounding Israel.

Muslims explain this story as an example of complete submission and acquiescence to Allah. 

Then again many of the early church fathers taught this story of Abraham and Isaac as a pre-figuring of Christ’s atonement and substitution.   Others within the Christian faith see this merely as a pious moral story that offers encouragement when one is in a ‘tight spot.’

In this series I have tried to be faithful to the text and to the Holy Spirit who has been my guide and revealer.  To this end I encourage all readers of this series to search the scriptures yourself as the Berean’s did for each believer must ‘own’ their understanding.

Now on with the text.  We continue with verse 13ff

We are not told of the thoughts and emotional feelings of either Abraham or Isaac when the voice from heaven stopped them from the sacrifice.  I would expect a huge sigh of relief from both father and son but we are not made privy to this.  All we encounter is silence and an isolation of thoughts from either party.  What we are told is that Abraham happens to look up and notices a ram caught in a bush.

Was the ram there before?  If so, did Abraham not notice the animal?  Or at least Isaac should have.  Or where they so wrapped up in their emotions and inner torment that they were oblivious to their surroundings?  What we are told is that the ram was noticed immediately after the call of the angel.  Some commentators say the ram cried out but the text does not support such a bleating

Abraham then uses the ram as a substitute for his son Isaac.  Is this a bridge too far to say this is a shadow of Christ’s substitution?  Many within the Christian faith past and present would eagerly agree.  I am not so sure that the text supports this Christological interpretation.  Neither do I believe that the writer had this understanding.  The writer of this passage had other points to draw out from this story as I have tried to highlight.  Namely that faith is not rational and can only be understood after the rational has been fired in the crucible of testing and struggles to become purified gold of experience.

Lessons from these verses:

1/ As I have said before, the timing of the Lord is so impeccable.  It is so exquisite that we often are blinded to seeing the miracle of God before our eyes.  But by lifting our eyes heavenward these little ‘love notes’ are clearly seen and valued.  Look up and see the hand of the Lord in the little often mundane routines of life. 

When we commit our ways t the Lord he will arrange our routines.  God will often arrange our often haphazard moments and then stands back to allow us to fulfill his arranging.  Many of us have been captured by movies of magic and spectacular and blinding happenings as to the norm of miracles.  Wrong.

2/ Many of us build our alters but fail to lay a sacrifice on them.  Abraham did not think ‘Whew I’m glad that’s over, now let’s go home.’  No, he knew his duty to the Lord that of thanksgiving and worship.  How often we build up our holy faith but fail to lay our life open before the Lord tied to the horns of the alter. 

A living sacrifice is the requirement to live and move in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Bible reading and study coupled with devoted prayer and church attendance may well build the alter but until we place our life on that alter as a burnt offering we cannot be of real use in the Kingdom.

A quick word here to clear up any mis understandings of the meaning of a living sacrifice.

A/ People strongly believe that giving up a possession is akin to sacrifice.  This belief is particularly strong around the season of Lent.  We are not asked to give up things for the sake of giving up things.

B/ People often explain with a sense of martyrdom in their voice that this ailment/burden is their cross to bear.  They do so with a hint of pride in their voice as if they are seeking the approval of God.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

True sacrifice is to give to God our dearest possessions – our work, marriage, spouse, home, family career, our right to ourselves.  Lay these upon the alter and watch the fire of God consume the sacrifice destroying every affinity that God has not started in your life and every attachment that is not attached to God.  This is biblical sacrifice.

To be continued.

 John Knox
I have been a member of ChristianBlog.Com for 5 years, 9 months and 4 days.
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K Reynolds (@kreynolds)

After reading your blog I recalled something else about sacrifice. It is not easy and it involves loss. If it were simple and we were not releasing something valuable to us, something we hold dear, something difficult or painful to give up... it would not be a sacrifice.

You wrote: "True sacrifice is to give to God our dearest possessions our work, marriage, spouse, home, family career, our right to ourselves."

I agree.

Deepa N (@deepaanne)