Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Abraham and Isaac

Today’s sermon is about God’s test of Abraham, which comes to us from Genesis in The Old Testament.

God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Mori'ah, and offer him there as a burnt offering . . . Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, "Behold, the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" Abraham said, "God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." So they went both of them together. When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. Then Abraham put forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.
– Genesis 22
What must be going on in Abraham’s mind? He and his wife Sarah are over 90 years old. God has been promising them a child and a long line of descendants, and finally their son Isaac is born. Imagine Abraham and Sarah’s joy. The miracle of Isaac, a creation and gift of God when there was none. But then God tells Abraham to take that only son and sacrifice him. Abraham’s own son. His flesh and blood. A creation of the Lord. And now Abraham is holding the knife to his own son Isaac’s throat . . .

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God was testing Abraham’s obedience. Loyalty to his Lord and creator. What greater sacrifice could there be than one that you love the most? What greater sign of devotion?

God would later make the same sacrifice of His own son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Was that any different? Was it easier for God to give us his own son as a sacrifice? Is His request of Abraham excessive? If God was willing to sacrifice His own son, is it unreasonable to ask Abraham to do the same? Does Abraham not owe God that much respect?

Abraham had no idea that this was only a test. He was ready with his razor sharp knife poised – his human sacrifice bound and lying on the altar – the act of loyalty one swift motion away. He was willing to do this deed – willing to follow the direction of his Creator – to carve into his own flesh and blood and kill his only son. He could have asked God to reconsider. He could have protested. He could have denied his Creator’s wishes – but he did not. He was ready to kill as a demonstration of his love and obedience.

How will we make a sacrifice to the Lord? Behold, the fire and the wood all around us. The altar is ready. The knife is in the air. But where is the lamb for a burnt offering? Where is the lamb, my friends?

The Creator will provide the lamb for a burnt offering.

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