George Methodist Church
God with us in the sacrifices we make – Isaac
Genesis 19 – 35 (Isaac dies at 180 years old Gen 35 :27 -29) Genesis 24
Sunday 27th January 2019 8am and 10am
We are journeying together over the next couple of weeks to discover how God has been with us from the inception of time (obviously) however through the stories of the Old testament we see a God who seeks out his people and longs for relationship although He still requires certain boundaries to be put in place from the garden of Eden to the covenants he made with his people and now today to the life and times of the son of Abraham – Isaac. So we pick up the story in summary from Genesis 19 :-
Faithfully Abraham responds to God in the middle of a huge storm in his life ( having left his home in Ur and now travelled many km’s to a new land with all it’s challenges Sodom and Gomorrah, Lots wife as a pillar of salt, lying about his wife being his sister, almost being taken out by Abimelek and then blessed by him Genesis 19 and 20 and then the promised child is given to Sarah and his name is Isaac which means he laughs and he is then told by God that both Hagar his slave woman and Ishmael the child born to Abraham would be sent away and that his son Isaac would be the bearer of the nations which God had promised to Abraham) . He is asked by God to let go of his past and now as we continue with the story he is challenged by God to let go of his future. (The Land Between Jeﬀ Manion)
is where the temple sight in Jerusalem is today with his two servants a donkey some wood and his son and God calls him to sacrifice his son!!! It’s the third day as Abraham and Isaac climb this holy hill. He leaves his servants and him and Isaac take the rest of the journey alone !!!
We can hear all the language around the death of Jesus and the expression of complete commitment to the voice of God even if it means death or sacrificing something or in this case someone so dear to our hearts. Would I be able to do it ? I think not but when something deeper is going down then we need to hear that in the middle of the messiness of the story.
He says in vs 5 of Gen 22, “we will worship and then WE will come back to you.” VERSE 6 – 10 ARE TRAUMATIC – SO WHERE IS THE
LAMB ASKS ISAAC. Abraham responds “God will provide it” still more trauma and he then lays his son on the altar on top of the wood and is about to kill him with a knife when the angel of the
~Lord stops him. YOU HAVE NOT WITHHELD YOUR ONLY SON FROM ME !!!
So here we go while I still struggle and wrestle with this story we have some clues in history which will help us to make more sense of it :
A University professor once said : “What kind of God,” he scoﬀed, throwing open his palm and leaning over the lectern, “would tell Abraham to kill his own son?”
Well, it’s a fair question.
After all, here we have God “testing” Abraham by telling him to sacrifice Isaac—to sacrifice the child that God himself promised, the one in whom God said all the nations of the earth would be blessed.
You’d think Abraham might have balked, but his response to the imperative is stunningly matter-of-fact: “So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey…” (Gen. 22:3).
God commands; Abraham obeys; no questions asked.
The command was bizarre, yet the Bible approves of Abraham’s obedience, on the face of it. Hebrews 11, for example, praises Abraham’s demonstration of faith, and modern believers hold him up as a model for us all.
Abraham’s faith, we’re told, is the kind of faith we should aspire to: the kind of faith that is willing to follow God’s instructions with perfect trust and perfect obedience, no matter whether or not the instructions makes sense.
But the problem with this becomes obvious when we note that the plain and repeated command of the Old Testament is that human sacrifice is prohibited (Deut. 12:31, 2 Ki. 17:17, 2 Chron. 28:3, Jer.
19:5, Eze. 16:20, 21).
Should Abraham be commended for doing what God himself has said is wrong? Surely not. How could true faith involve a willingness to obey even when it means disobeying? It’s a truly bizarre God who would ask for that kind of faith.
- How, then, are we to understand this story?
Ancient Canaanite religious rites called for human sacrifice, so Abraham was probably familiar with the practice. Though Abraham’s faith is remarkable, there is no reason to assume he had an advanced knowledge of God: Given his cultural context, he likely would have seen the sacrifice of his heir as the ultimate oﬀering he could make to God. It is only in such a setting that this “test” makes sense.
The point of the story, though, is not that God actually wanted Abraham’s sacrifice. Of course, God commends Abraham’s faith and his willingness to give up his son, for Abraham’s faith was laudable. But the significance of the passage is that God stops the sacrifice and provides a substitute ram in Isaac’s place.
The story, then, has nothing to do with praising Abraham’s willingness to comply “on faith” with the bizarre “tests” of an arbitrary God.
Nor does the story imply that truly faithful people should be willing to sacrifice their own children if God asks.
On the contrary, the message is that the Israelite God, unlike the Canaanite gods, neither needs nor wants human oﬀerings of propitiation.
“This is the line of Isaac son of Abraham” (Genesis 25:19), indicating that the text is now going to focus on Isaac, the second
of the Patriarchs. And, indeed, he figures prominently in the stories of this portion.
However, he still seems to play a subordinate role to his father, Abraham, and his son, Jacob. In the stories of two of the major incidents of his life, the Akeidah (Genesis 22) and the blessing of his sons (Genesis 27) he is not even the central figure.
While it is easy to overlook Isaac and his role in the biblical narrative, we can learn quite a lot from three aspects of his life that distinguished him from both his father and his son.
- LAND -Isaac never leaves the Land of Israel – commitment Abraham was born in Ur and-after arriving in the Land of Israel- goes down to Egypt because of a famine. Though Jacob was born in Israel, he escapes the wrath of his brother, Esau, returning to his mother’s native land, and ultimately dies in Egypt. Isaac, on the other hand, lives his entire life in the Land of Israel. In fact, the Torah twice warns that Isaac must not leave the Land. When Abraham’s slave suggests bringing Isaac to the Land of Abraham’s birth if the woman the slave finds to be Isaac’s wife refuses to come to Israel, Abraham warns, “Take great care not to bring my son back there!” (Genesis 24:6). (I prefer this stronger translation of the Hebrew text, “Don’t you dare bring my son back there.”) Later, when Isaac travels to Gerar because of a famine, God warns him not to go down to Egypt: “Stay in the land and I will be with you and bless you” (26:3) God promises
While Abraham and Jacob reflect what will become the tradition of the “Wandering Jew” that has characterised so much of our history, Isaac can be viewed as the Jew who will not need to wander from place to place, but will be able to call one place home. What is our response as we go forward in this land South Africa which God has clearly given to us ?
A call to remain faithful to stay to the end.
- FAMILY – he only has one wife and only fathers children with one woman- faithfulness
Isaac is also diﬀerent from his father and his son in that he only has one wife, Rebekah and only fathers children with her. When
Rebekah is barren, Isaac does not have a child with his wife’s concubine (as does Abraham); rather, he “pleaded with the Eternal on behalf of his wife” (25:21). God answers his plea and they soon become parents of twins. Isaac’s loyalty and commitment to Rebekah are admirable, especially in a culture that encouraged men to take multiple wives and increase their progeny at almost any cost. He serves as an example not just for couples who stay together when they are not able to bear children, but for any man or woman who remains committed to his or her partner despite significant challenges.
Our call this morning is to be faithful to the family God has given us even when it seems like everything is not easy. Church and home family.
- GOD NAMES HIM -his name is not changed – unchanging
The third distinguishing factor of Isaac’s life is that his name is not changed. Whereas Abram becomes Abraham and Jacob becomes Israel, the new names symbolising important transitions in their lives, Isaac remains Isaac. One reason that his name is not changed is that God names him: “Nonetheless, your wife Sarah shall bear you a son, whom you shall call Isaac” (17:19). His name, of course, means “he shall laugh,” reflecting Abraham’s reaction when he hears that he and Sarah would become parents at such advanced ages (17:17). But it seems that Isaac remaining Isaac also indicates a certain stability and consistency of character. It must have been diﬃcult for him to bear a God given name which means “he laughs”. Some of you might find that your name is not that fancy like Peter means “small pebble” but God knows your name.
Abraham and Jacob had to go through significant changes in their lives to become the persons that they needed to be. Isaac, on the other hand, required no such change. He has the same basic character and essence throughout his life.
What are we to make of these three diﬀerences between Isaac on the one hand and his father Abraham and son Jacob on the other? Abraham and Jacob seem to characterise the realities of this life: wandering from place to place with no place to call home; the need to reinvent oneself because of the challenges one faces; the diﬃculties of life when faced with barrenness or other realities.
Abraham and Jacob represent this world, the challenges that we face as individuals and as a people, life in all of its messiness.
Isaac, on the other hand, represents the ideal, the messianic world we strive to become: a person (people) with a place to call home and he is faithful to this land ; the ability to be true to oneself (ourselves) and not need to reinvent oneself (ourselves) because of circumstances beyond our control; the ability to remain faithful and loyal to one person. In the midst of all the challenges of the Israelites in the ancient world, and in the midst of the all too real challenging stories of Abraham and Jacob, the Torah oﬀers a glimpse of what it will be like some day when we have mastered the challenges we face to be able to live where we want to live and be true to who we are.
Our name is precious in God’s sight and even if you may not enjoy the name that has been given to you, rejoice in the fact that the Lord knows your name and that name is written in His heart.
THE STORY OF THE ROLL CALL AT SISTER KHOLI MAZALENI’S FUNERAL ON THURSDAY.
OUR COMMITMENT TO LAND,FAMILY AND THE NAME GOD KNOWS US AS IN SPITE OF THE CHALLENGES AND SACRIFICES WE HAVE TO MAKE