Thursday, January 12, 2012

Even more Faithlessness, Isaac, and the offering at Moriah

 As I continue this blog through the bible mission, We are on week 2, Day 4. Genesis 20-23

Genesis 20 shows that Abraham doesn’t seem to learn. Earlier, Abraham passes his wife off to the king of Egypt, saying, she’s my sister. Technically true, she’s his half sister. But you just want to yell common. Once again, with the words of God still fresh in their minds, they show amazing distrust. But are we any better? I know I can’t say I am. God provides, I sing his praises, and soon after, I go back to my old distrustful ways. “How will I…. how will we…” I don’t think I’m alone in this. Abraham is back at it.

Notice three things in chapter 20. 

First, the danger. Is God’s plan going to be undone by sin? Just as they are told, "within a year", Sarah is taken away. God’s plan is constantly under siege through sin, and through the schemes of the enemy.

Second, notice the theme of guilt. Abimelech on the other hand, is (as bible scholar G. Von Rad notes), objectively guilt (he took her- against her will?) but subjectively innocent (he hadn’t slept with her). Abraham is guilty of telling half truths, and yet is still called a man of God.

Third, Notice the blessings each bring on each other. Abimelech gives gifts to Abraham and Sarah. Abraham prays, and God heals Abimelech and those in his house, and opens the wombs of the house of Abimelech. This points to the fact that Abraham and his descendants, far from perfect, had a duty to foreign peoples (even those with no fear of God_, and could bring an Abrahamic blessing upon them, and in doing so, they would be rewarded themselves. 

Genesis 21 brings us to one of the most wonderful moments in the bible. Isaac arrives. The child long anticipated arrives, through supernatural intervention, “Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him”. At 100, Abraham gets the promised son. 25 years after the initial promise. His name, Isaac, means laughter. The woman who gets to laugh with joy.

The sequel to the story shows the domestic friction that comes from this even. Sarah wants Hagar and Ishmael sent away, but Abraham resists. This is still his son, and it was not culturally acceptable to send away a concubine, or her offspring. However, God instructs Abraham to do it, and what we see is that God shows provision to Ishmael.

Genesis 22 is a huge, mountaintop, paradigm pointing passage. Abraham is told to do the unthinkable. "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you." This is the supreme test of faith. This would render null and void every promise. This is the son of the promise. To obey would render the future meaningless. How would he react? He does as he is commanded. He trusts that God will work. That he will provide. He takes his son, and goes, all the way to Mount Moriah. And he took the wood, and laid it on Isaac (where will we see wood on the sacrifice), and they climb the mountain. You have to wonder what he was thinking. Notice that he says to the servants, “we will come back after worshiping on the mountain”. Was he speculating that God would raise him from the grave? Did he hope that God would intervene somehow? What must he have thought as he prepped the altar? And how must Isaac have felt, as he carried the offering, and then was laid on the altar.

Notice what he says to Isaac in verse 8. This is key, "God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." Did he see the cross in the distance? Unlikely. Its more likely that this is either a pius answer or a desperate hope. But in that answer, he speaks a truth that he can hardly grasp. God would provide a lamb. He provides a lamb for Isaac. Years later, on this same mountain, God would provide another substitute. The ultimate substitute. The Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. The one who, having lived the life we should have lived, died the death we should have died.

As the story closes, we see that Abraham walks away knowing one thing clearly. The Lord will provide. This lesson must have been seared into his mind, and the mind of every descendant as they heard the story. This moment is also a lesson to Abraham on the covenant. Because he loved God over all else, even the love of his son, and obeyed him regardless of the perceived ultimate cost, because he does not take God of the throne of his life in place of anything else, God swears by himself (because there is no one greater to swear by- See Hebrews 6:13-18), and reiterates the covenant. “I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice."

The final part of today’s reading is the death and burial of Sarah. Notice something here. This is the only land that Abraham owns. It’s his one chunk, the burial place of Sarah, and later, himself. This is the first claim that Abraham’s descendants will have on this Promised Land.

A few lessons from today’s reading. First, see that God is that God whose plan will not be thwarted by sin. Second, see that God fulfills his promises and moves his redemptive plan along. Third, see the hint of the gospel. God will provide a substitute. In Christ, we have the true and better Isaac, the ultimate substitute, the one that died not just for Isaac, but for all.

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