March 29, the Eighteenth Day of Lent

March 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.”

-Hebrews 11.17, 18-

Today, we will progress a bit further in the thought that the author of Hebrews is developing in vs. 17-19. (The story can be found in Genesis 22.1-19.) He points out the high stakes involved in what God is telling Abraham to do. Isaac is more than a firstborn son, an only son… He is the key to the promise being fulfilled, as God told Abraham in Genesis 21.12.

In light of this fact, God’s command makes even less sense than it did when we looked at it yesterday.

So, once again, our minds naturally return to the question: “Why is God doing this?” It is interesting to note that the author of Hebrews does not rationalize God’s behavior. This passage does not present us with a window into the mind of God. It would appear that the author of Hebrews does not attempt to answer this question for us, leaving us with a tension that is difficult to resolve.

However, we are presented with Abraham’s thoughts. Why would God make a promise, supernaturally provide a means by which the promise would be fulfilled (and already had been, to a degree), affirm that providence, and then command Abraham to do something that not only runs directly contrary to the life that Abraham has lived to this point, but also wipes out the chance that the promise will be fulfilled? These are the thoughts running through Abraham’s mind. The trek to Moriah lasted several days; he had a lot of time to ponder these issues.

It is important to remember that this event took place within the relationship between God and Abraham. God and Abraham have interacted up to this point; Abraham has left his home, become a wanderer, and seen God supernaturally provide in ways that strengthened his belief that God would keep his promise. God has called him, protected him, and guided him up to this point. This background provides the context for the event that we are looking at here; this event, as shocking and challenging as it is, is one of many in which Abraham exercises his faith at God’s command. Therefore, we should not see this as an isolated command, but part of the greater story.

Tomorrow we will get a further glimpse into Abraham’s thought process and what enabled him to follow through on this action. For today, though, let’s think about Abraham’s experience and how he responded. How do Abraham’s actions here demonstrate a life of faith? Why is this event the penultimate example in Abraham’s life of what faith looks like?

As we journey through Lent together, may we obey God’s commands.

“Dear Lord, thank you for the relationship that you and I have. Thank you that you love your creation greatly; the creation of which I am a part. I ask that you would strengthen our relationship so that I am able to take you at your word, even when what you say doesn’t make sense. Please continue to guide and strengthen me. Amen.”

 

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