Through the Whole Bible: Genesis 22
Apologies for skipping Saturday. Through the Whole Bible continues on today, and I'll try not to make you wait too long for the next installment.
A second note: due to not preaching from written outlines this past Sunday, I really have no material for my typical sermon-wrap up post. Here is a link to the morning audio: Morning Sermon. Here is a link to the evening audio: Evening Sermon. Thanks!
Genesis 22 (link) is not really one of my favorite chapters in Scripture. I know that, for some, this chapter is one of the high points of the Old Testament. Here we see Abraham act in faith by offering Isaac as a sacrifice, only to be stopped by God. Instead, God provides a ram as a substitute here, and this picture the giving of Jesus as the substitute at Calvary. It really is a great picture of the love God has for us.
Moreover, the mountains of Moriah are in the Jerusalem region and tradition puts either the Temple at this spot or, less likely, Golgotha at this same place. I'd favor the Temple guess, that the Temple was built in the same place. We see the faith of Abraham when he tells the servants that "we will come back" in Genesis 22:5, the calmness of Isaac when he does not protest.
The whole thing reads well, and is a testament of faith. Even Hebrews 11:17-19 bears witness to that idea. The author of Hebrews (be it Peter, Paul, or Mary) sees Abraham believing in the power of God raise the dead here.
That's all well and good.
I just struggle with the story. After all, the same God told us that we must become like little children to enter the Kingdom (Matthew 18:3), forbad child sacrifice (Leviticus 18:21), and commanded humanity not to murder (Genesis 9, Exodus 20:13). He then commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, and Abraham apparently asks not one single question about the idea.
Not one. At least, none that are recorded. It seems out of character for God Almighty to ask for this sacrifice, and it seems odd that Abraham just floats along with the idea. To tell you the truth, I do not think I would take my son up that mountain.
Abraham, though, does. We have no idea how old Isaac is at this point: he's certainly no infant, as he is able to reason that the sacrifice is missing. He's not big enough to break out and run away from his century-old dad, either, so he's probably not in his 20s yet.
However, the text is not there to be liked, is it? It's there because God has inspired it and preserved it to us for a reason. So, what can we learn here?
#1: Sometimes God asks for the things nearest our hearts. Even when those things are what we have because of His promise. Even when those things are not things at all. That's a tough spot. We have to choose faith that obedience is better in the long-run of eternity than disobedience.
#2: We see the character of God. There were, historically, many regional deities and demigods and other such foci of belief. Nearly all of them were more pleased the better your sacrifice was. A big sheep was better than a little sheep, a cow better than a sheep, and so on.
That included religious beliefs that giving a child over to lifetime service was good, but a killed sacrifice was sometimes better. Moreover, a daughter was ok but a son was great. And an only son? Even better.
We see, though, that God does not want to be identified as like the other gods of the region. He is not the bloodthirsty, kill to gain my approval type of God.
He responds to faith and obedience. He responds to people living their life in step with His commands.
That's a good thing: bloodlust is not the answer, but rather lives living out Galatians 5:22-23 by the power of the Spirit of God. Lives surrendered to the One who died for them—not one who is like any other god any place else, but who is quite unique.