Some time back I said to the Lord that I would like to blog on a teaching topic and left it at that. Earlier this week my thoughts were directed to Genesis 22 with the implication that this was to be the blog for my next posting. I was not particularly thrilled hence my normal Friday blog came and went as I struggled with this assignment.
Finally I could not be disobedient. Therefore I pray for clarity as I pen this blog so as to be able to bless those who read this posting.
As it happens this chapter captivated my attention while I was at Theological College for the way it was crafted to build up tension and suspense. Note the abrupt beginning and stark, emotionless fraught construction. It is absorbing, confusing, riveting and infuriating. This terseness and starkness is seen ever so clearly in the original language.
Because of this there has been much, to my mind, speculative commentaries and interpretations of this most ancient story.
Let us for a while stand back and after reading the narrative look at the bigger picture. In doing this let me say, as I see it the interpretations that it does not portray.
Firstly there is not a scrap of evidence that this chapter is about God finding favour with Abraham for his obedience. At first reading this may be so but the only reason God favours us is because of the righteousness of Christ as a robe over us. Let us not fool ourselves that we can earn Gods favour, even if it sounds spiritual. God never accepts us because of our spirituality, including obedience. We have no merit that compels God to look with favour on us apart from Christ in us.
Secondly the idea that this passage speaks to us about sacrifice misses the mark and therefore by implication we to must make hefty sacrifices Although there is a hint of spiritual sacrifice here this is not the real intention of the narrative, in my opinion. Yes it is biblical to present your bodies as living sacrifices but sacrificial giving is not the main point of this concise and terse narrative
Thirdly we need to scrap the idea that this passage teaches us that we need to obey God regardless of the call ~ blind obedience is not remotely consistent with Gods character. Do not be convinced otherwise. The Bible never teaches us that we must obey no matter how outrages the command is.
No the key to understanding this passage is found in verse one ~ God tested Abraham. This test is summed up in verse 12 ~ Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.
From our 21st C perspective such a test sounds grotesque and abhorrent. But before we close our mind to this barbaric request let us take a breather. Let us take off our cultural glasses of today and see this from Abrahams view point.
Take note. God does not say ‘Murder Isaac your only son that you love but to offer him a sacrifice. Secondly Abraham understood this request as it was not incomprehensible to him. In the cultural of the ancient east the first born son was the heir to the families inheritance and the hence belonged to God This concept is further developed in the Mosaic Law, hence the first born lamb, the first fruits belong to God himself. Why? Because Abraham understood that the first born is forfeit as there is a depth of sin that every family owes to God. If God has said to Abraham take Sarah your wife, he would have said to himself that he was hallucinating.
OK what does this have to do with us? I believe this passage has a challenge here for all of us. Are we prepared to give back to God the most prized blessing that he has given us? After all everything that we have has been given to us by God. He has blessed us with all blessings in Christ Jesus. Will we be greedy and hang on to them? Will we say that we deserve our blessings, they are ours - this is envy.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24
Abraham passed the test of giving back to God the blessing of his beloved son Isaac. How do we measure up? God will test us when we least expect it. How will we respond? To fear God is to acknowledge that he sits as the refiner and purifier of silver and gold. Faith to be real and practical needs to be tried and tested in the crucible of circumstances and the call of God our Father.
What do you hold most dear and close to your heart? Has this most prized and loved possession been given back to God?
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Colossians 3:5
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There may be more blogs from this chapter ~ watch this space