Sermon titled Abraham’s Greatest Test (Genesis 22) – August 4th, 2013
In last weekend’s sermon, Pastor Reimer talked about Abraham’s greatest test (and I’ll get to that shortly), but he also managed to weave in other examples of Abraham’s faith that serve as great lessons for all Christians, and perhaps even more so to Christian men, specifically husbands and fathers. Much of Abraham’s life, as told in the bible, is a model of how Christian men ought to lead their families and treat their wives and children with love and respect. Abraham is rewarded in many ways for his faith and obedience, but I believe the blessings he sought were of a tangible nature as opposed to material.
Abraham believed in His heavenly Father, and therefore sought to please Him, just as we sought to do the same as young children under the authority of our biological fathers. Children love material rewards, but they mostly desire praise from their fathers and a sense of security and protection. They simply trust that their fathers will take good care of them and give them the things they need, and as such they are usually willing to do as they’re told. Abraham demonstrated this child-like love, trust, and obedience, and God says that those of us who follow Abraham’s example will be blessed as he was.
The greatest show of Abraham’s faith is told in Genesis 22, and this was also his greatest test, as mentioned above. It’s in this chapter that we learn of Abraham’s trek up to Mt. Moriah, with his son Isaac (whom bible scholars believe was probably a teenager at the time), and with the express intent of offering up Isaac as a sacrifice to God. Read the following passage of scripture:
- Genesis 22: 1-3, 9-12 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. 2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” 3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey…….. 9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. 12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God,because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
Understandably, this has, and always will be, a widely discussed bible chapter. I remember my college philosophy professor presenting Genesis 22 to us as a topic for discussion and debate. At that time I could not wrap my mind around Abraham’s willingness to comply with such an extreme and seemingly cruel instruction, and as I was forced to consider the whole scenario again last weekend in church, I still did not get it.
As much as I would like to discuss why God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, and why Abraham agreed to do so, I don’t think I’m capable of doing so without throwing up my hands in frustration. Because as I sat in church and listened to Pastor Reimer talk about the incredible test that Abraham was faced with, and the enormous amount of faith he must have had to obey God in that situation, I just got more and more confused. So, I prayed instead.
I realized after some time of quiet reflection and prayer, that I was still stuck in a state of disbelief, still as shocked as I was years ago in my philosophy class when I tried to understand how Abraham had the courage to slay his own child. I have to be completely honest – if God asked me today to take the life of one of my daughters and offer her up as a sacrifice to Him, I’m pretty sure I would act like Jonah did and start running (with my daughter in toe!).
But here is what I believe God said to me when I asked Him what I should write in this blog post. I sensed His spirit telling me that my inability to make sense of it all is exactly the point! The reason I could not (and still cannot) comprehend how Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son, is because the thought of sacrificing, or losing my own child, is just too much to bear.
My eyes were suddenly opened up to the revelation that the sacrificial killing of one’s own child was never meant to be understood, because if we could understand it, then we would never be able to fully grasp the sacrifice God made for us, when He gave up His only son, so that we might live.