God’s provision and welcome

Robin WilliamsonPosted on Monday 3rd July, 2017 by Robin Williamson (based on his sermon in church at the 9am service on Sunday 2nd July).


Genesis 22: 1-14 & Matthew 10:40-42

I’ve memories of the story of Abraham nearly sacrificing his son Isaac from primary school – but I’m sure I didn’t really understand what sacrifice meant, or entailed – nor the absolute horror of a parent being asked to kill their child – let alone one who was much longed for, and then born miraculously. I believe however we can learn from the story.

According to a commentary, this is one of the most brilliantly told narratives in Genesis. It has generated an immense quantity of interpretative comment beginning way back when the book of Hebrews (NT) was written:

By faith Abraham when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice.
(Hebrews 11:17)

He who had received promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned”. Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

James 2.21 says,

Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?

The commentary says that it is widely agreed that no one interpretation is entirely accurate. It properly portrays the distress of Abraham when commanded by God to kill his beloved son and heir. God’s purpose in demanding Isaac’s death was to test Abraham’s obedience – to see whether he feared God. Abraham was forced to choose between obedience to an incomprehensible and abhorrent command, and his love for his child. The terrible irony here is that God did not intend that his command should be carried out – but Abraham had no means of knowing that!

Abraham obviously had a relationship with God – they communicated with each other. Earlier in Genesis (12:1) it says

The Lord had said to Abram [as he was then] leave your country, your people, and your father’s household, and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you.

And Abraham obeyed at least in as much as he moved from one country to another, but it appears that he took quite a bit of his existing family and household with him!

After some ups and downs, when Abraham had lied to get himself out of sticky situations, God again communicated with him, promised that despite his age, and that of his wife Sarah they would have a son. There is a wonderful verse (verse 13 in chapter 18)that says “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”

After Abraham and Isaac had left the servants with the donkey, and had already been travelling two days, so no doubt were a bit hot and tired, Isaac probably struggling with the wood bundle for the fire, sensibly queries the whereabouts of the lamb for the burnt offering. Abraham assures him that God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering – and in the nick of time, when the knife was raised to kill his son, God indeed provided an alternative sacrifice.

So what can we get from this somewhat horrific story:

  1. Our reading started with the words “God tested Abraham”. We need to note that it’s ‘tested’ and not tempted, for James 1:3 declares that God does not tempt; God tests in order to confirm our faith or prove our commitment.
    What is it, perhaps, he’s testing you and me with at the moment? I wonder whether the church fellowship is being tested at present: as we appear to be going through some financial difficulties, and the Diocese has agreed we may, for the moment reduce our parish share.

  3. God will provide for us (perhaps in the nick of time!) And Jesus especially ratified that…

    Ask and you will receive, knock and the door will be opened, seek and you will find
    (Matthew 7:7)

  4. We can rejoice that the Lord Jesus’ death for us is the perfect sacrifice; that we ARE forgiven, and welcomed not only to this Communion Service but also into Christ’s family, and ultimately to eternal life with Him.
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