Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Genesis 22:1-14


John Sammis wrote the hymn Trust and Obey after hearing the testimony of an uneducated young boy who came to know Christ under D.L. Moody's ministry. As the boy shared his conversion experience, it became clear that he knew little about the Bible and its doctrines. Yet, the last sentence of the boy's testimony inspired Sammis. He said, "I'm not really sure about everything. But I'm going to trust, and I'm going to obey."

In Genesis 22, God tells Abraham to sacrifice his uniquely born son Isaac. Some people voice trouble with this edict because no loving God would request such a thing and no loving father would heed it. In The Jerusalem Diamond, author Noah Gordon says through one of his characters: "I don't believe in sacrifice. If the story of Abraham and Isaac is true, Abraham was insane, not religious."

The context surrounding the events, however, makes all the difference. To date, Abraham had been growing in his faith, sometimes trusting and obeying and sometimes doubting and drifting. He came from a pluralistic pagan culture, but the Lord had called him out from it, and the Lord was continually shaping him in his faith journey. Does that ring a bell in your own spiritual life?

Abraham's background meant that he was well-versed in the idols of his day. One of those idols was Molech or Moloch, a Canaanite god which required child sacrifices. God is doing two things here: (1) He is testing the maturation of Abraham's faith, and (2) He is revealing to Abraham - and to us - that He is not like false gods. [Keep in mind how the false gods of success and wealth and prestige often call for us to sacrifice our children upon their altars while the true God calls us to cherish them and raise them in the hope of Christ.] 

No doubt God's instruction for Abraham in Genesis 22 was gut wrenching. Abraham had waited until his old age to miraculously have this child with Sarah, and now the Lord was asking for the unimaginable. Still, in the most difficult test to date in Abraham's life, he shows the fortitude of one who trusts and obeys.

Can you imagine traveling three days with your son, knowing that at the end of the journey you were called to sacrifice him? The time would seem like an eternity. I speak from experience in the sense that I had to wait over a week for doctors to perform a MRI on my oldest son's head to rule out a brain tumor when he was only a year old. I can tell you that the wait was excruciating. 

Yet, Abraham's obedience in these moments extends from his trust. Notice that on the third day Abraham tells his servants to wait at the bottom of the mountain. "The lad and I will go yonder and worship," he says, "and we will come back to you" (Gen. 22:4-5).

Abraham's words suggest that he believed God would resurrect Isaac even if the Lord actually required that he sacrifice his son (cf. Heb. 11:17-19). Abraham now completely trusted that God would fulfill His promise to bring about a great nation through Isaac, a promise that the Lord had spoken to him on five previous occasions (cf. Gen. 12,13,15,17,18).

The voice of the One speaking makes all the difference. Pastor Tony Evans tells the story of a young blind girl caught in a fire on the 10th floor of a building. As she somehow made her way to a window, the fireman yelled from below, "Jump or you will die!" She replied, "I am afraid to jump."

It is hard enough to leap from 10 stories, but it must be even more terrifying when you cannot see to whom or to where you are jumping. Yet, in the midst of the chaos and confusion, she heard a second voice: "Darling, jump. I've got you." She then smiled and said, "Okay, Daddy, I will jump."

Luke 1:45 suggests that faith is the belief God will fulfill His promises to us. It is the confidence that we can trust our Daddy's voice. Thus Abraham took his son to Moriah, and it is upon this hill where we see why we can trust God with what is most precious to us. 

Let this picture resonate in your mind's eye:
Abraham leads his son up a hill while Isaac carries wood upon his back. He straps Isaac to the wood that his son had carried. Only the Lord never intended for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as if He were a false god like Molech/Moloch; instead, He provides a ram in the thicket. 

Can you see it? The Heavenly Father led His Son up a hill called Calvary, even as Christ carried wood upon His back. Then, the only begotten Son of God was nailed to that wood. There was no lamb in the thicket for Him; Christ was the sacrificial lamb for us!

The central lesson from this account in Genesis 22 for us is that we can trust God with what is most precious to us because He gave the One most precious to Himself for us.

Henri Nouwen compares such trust to trapeze artists. The flyer is the one who releases from the swing, and the catcher is the one who catches. High above the crowd, the flyer lets go and soars out into the air. Her job simply involves waiting for the strong hands of the catcher to pluck her from the air. The flyer must never try to catch the catcher; she must wait, completely trusting in the strength and faithfulness of the catcher. 

Will you trust the supreme Catcher today - the One who caught a ram in the thicket to take the place of Isaac? Will you trust the supreme Catcher today - the One who sent the spotless Lamb to take your place? If you trust Him, He promises never to let you go no matter what (cf. Deut. 31:6; John 10:27-30).

Calvary was not the end. There was a third day, and the Father resurrected His Son. For those of us who trust Him, as made evident by our desire to obey Him, we shall share in that resurrection (cf. 1 Cor. 6:14). 


I struggle to trust and obey God's voice in seasons of my life when:



from Best Devotional Commentary - "Abraham acted in a manner consistent with his knowledge of God. That is he trusted Him, concluding that whatever God's purposes may or may not have been in this situation, God had at least shown that He could not be his enemy. God was his friend. When the command to sacrifice Isaac was first given, Abraham did not understand how, if the command were carried out, the promise could be fulfilled. But that was all right. Abraham left the difficulty with God, which is the essence of true faith. What is faith? Faith is believing God and acting upon it. This is what Abraham did. God had shown that He could be trusted, so Abraham believed God and acted, even though he could not understand the solution to the difficulty" (Boice).  

from Best Academic Commentary - "Finally they reach the top, 'the place which God had told them about.' Lest in the horror of the final scene we forget why Abraham is doing this, the narrator reminds us: he was obeying God. There an altar has to be built, and the wood must be laid on the altar. This was a real sacrifice according to proper ritual procedures, and there was plenty of time for Isaac to realize, if he had not before, what was going to happen and to run away. But he did not. In fact, he allowed himself to be bound before Abraham cut his throat. This action above anything indicates his consent. The OT nowhere speaks of sacrificial animals having their legs bound before slaughter, and if Isaac had been reluctant to be sacrificed, it would have been easier for Abraham to have cut his throat or stabbed him rather than tie him up first and then place him on the altar. But he was tied, indicating his own willing submission to God's command revealed to his father" (Wenham).
     Let me point out the jaw-dropping extent of typology within Genesis 22. Abraham represents the heart of a father tasked with surrendering his uniquely begotten son. Isaac represents the submission of a son to his father's will. So it is that we should know how excruciating it was for the Heavenly Father to surrender His only begotten Son. So it is that we should know that Jesus Christ submitted to His Father's will in order to save sinners like you and me from our sins.  

from runner-up to Best Preaching/Teaching Commentary - "For our present narrative, the important issue shown in this chiasm is the narrator's deliberate parallel development between Genesis 12:1-9 and Genesis 22:1-19 as well as further progression. In Genesis 12 the Lord commanded Abram to 'go' (lek-leka), offer up his past (country, kindred, father's house), and receive the promises of the Lord's rich blessings. In this narrative the Lord commands Abraham to 'go' (lek-leka), but now to offer up his future, 'your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love.' The stakes are raised. Now Abraham has to rely on the Lord even when the Lord seems to go back on His covenant promises. But when he obeys, the Lord speaks to him a final time - the promised blessings in even heightened form" (Greidanus).

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