Good Friday, March 29, 2013
Submitted by Deborah Krabbendam
Scripture: Genesis 22
“God told Abraham: ‘Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering...’ So Abraham rose early in the morning...” Gen. 22:2-3.
Why do we find this story so appalling? God seems to go against his very nature, not to mention our own desire to be comfortable with our lives and our faith, and a man simply . . . obeys. For those who extol Abraham’s example of faith and obedience, can they disregard the human cost - to Abraham, to Sarah, to the young man Isaac?
To even try to understand this story, it’s important to consider it within the context of the whole book of Genesis, as the recent sermon series demonstrated – including God’s creation of a good world, the fall, the interactions between God and Abraham. At bottom, this is the starkest possible illustration of what it could mean if a person truly believed that God is God. Somehow, Abraham had faith that God was and would remain God, that from God’s perspective, this would all make sense. Abraham was no passive yes man – he pushed God hard in Chapter 18. And, he was no saint – in chapter 21, he was willing to sacrifice his first born simply to keep the peace. But when faced with the hardest test of all, Abraham would not cling to anything temporal, even his beloved son, his hope for the future. (Perhaps, after his treatment of Ishmael, he realized that what God requires of us is not necessarily more difficult than what we inflict on ourselves.)
The apostle Paul captured this message centuries later: God “made the world and everything in it,” and created humans “so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us; for in him we live and move and have our being.” [See Acts 17:24-28].
In the end, God did not require Isaac’s sacrifice, and renewed his promises to Abraham. But I doubt that erased the pain for Abraham, much less for Isaac. And, it certainly does not mitigate the horror of the story for a human reader today. We live in hope that God indeed “is not far from each one of us”, but we cannot gloss over the tensions, either in Scripture or in our present world.
Lord, help us to grope for You, and find You, though You are not far from each one of us.