God Will Come Through For You
a sermon based on Genesis 22:1-14
by Rev. Donald Mishler
story we read today of Abraham preparing his son Isaac to be a burnt
offering to God is probably one of the most troubling stories in the
Bible. How could God ask Abraham to do such a thing, something that no
moral person, no loving father, would consider doing? Or did Abraham
misunderstand God? Either way, how could Abraham, whom we call the
Father of our faith, have possibly agreed to this human sacrifice?
Abraham had just argued with God (Gen. 18) over destroying the city of
Sodom. Why didn't he argue this time? Why didn't he beg for Isaac's
life? Why didn't he say, “ask me anything else, God, but I can't kill my
precious child!?” Why didn't he say, “take my life instead?”
have to understand that this is an ancient story. Ancient stories are
hard to understand if we only listen to them through our own values and
way of thinking. But if we look back into the ancient world, the story
may make more sense. In those days people in the surrounding cultures
did practice child sacrifice. And later, even in Israel, people would do
it although it was always condemned by scripture and faith. The God of
Abraham rose out of a violent culture, and understood and worked within
the parameters of the ancient times. It's interesting though how we can
be repulsed by the binding of Isaac, yet children are being sacrificed
in our world today as well.
Southeast Asian some parents actually sell their children into
prostitution, and its not just girls. In Northern Uganda children are
routinely kidnapped to serve in the Resistance Army. And we in America
send our young men and women to war too; I went to a CNN website not too
long ago to put some faces to the names of the service men and women
that have lost their lives in Iraq and I was shocked that the majority
of them are under or around the age of 20. Wouldn't common sense demand
that we protect our young folks. After all they are the ones that have
their whole life ahead of them.
Abraham had no Scriptures to read, no laws to follow, no role models of
faith. His ancestors lived in another land, and none of his neighbors
were following the same God. When God spoke to Him about sacrificing
Isaac, his precious son, he did not know a lot about this God was he was
following--at least not yet. In preparing my sermon I came across an
article entitled: "Who's Testing Whom? Was Abraham Really Ready to Kill
His Son?" ( Bodoff, Lippman, Who's Testing Whom: Was Abraham Really
Ready to Kill His Son? Bible Review, October 1993).
author argues that just as God may have been testing Abraham's faith, so
also Abraham may have been testing God. He was testing what kind of
covenant and religion he was being asked to be part of. And maybe
Abraham went through with this to see if his God was like the other
gods, or if his God would stop him. One of the things the article points
out is that Abraham did not seem eager to go along with what God
commanded. In fact, he never actually agreed to make the sacrifice.
Instead, the story describes him simply going through a series of
separate steps. First, he got up. Then he saddled his donkey. Then he
gathered his helpers. Then he cut the wood. Then he set out. Then he
looked up and saw the place from a distance. It's almost as if he's
moving in slow motion, playing for time, giving God a chance at every
point to stop him. We probably would be more comfortable with this story
if God hadn't waited until the last minute, hadn't waited until Abraham
had already bound Isaac, laid him on top of the wood, and taken the
knife in his hand.
at this point God calls out to Abraham, telling him to stop. Now, we
know that God never meant for Abraham to actually slaughter his son. In
fact, later in the Bible, there are laws that speak clearly against
child sacrifice. That kind of violence against children, no matter how
well-intentioned, does not evoke God's favor, neither is it the kind of
proof of loyalty that God desires. And this story is the beginning of
that message. But why didn't God just have a little talk with Abraham?
make Isaac and Abraham go through this ordeal? Most of us are
uncomfortable with a God who would demand something like that. We want
to worship a gentle God, not a tyrant.
Well, God may not be a tyrant, but . . . God does make demands on our
lives. Being a disciple costs your life. God is a demanding God who
asks us to give up everything that is dear to us, even life itself.
are asked to share in the faith of Shaddrach, Michach and Abednego who,
on their way to the be thrown into the furnace, said: we believe that
God has the power to deliver us from death, but even if he should not
deliver us, we will continue to confess our faith in Him.
are asked to share in the convictions of Martin Luther, who at the risk
of being burnt at the stake said to the emperor: "I can and will not
recant for to go against my conscience is dangerous. Here I stand. I can
do no other, so help me God.
Whether Abraham misunderstood in the first place or whether God was
testing Abraham with his demand, either way, God came through to rescue
Isaac in the end. God saved Isaac’s life and by doing so, God also made
good on the promise made to Abraham to become a father to many nations.
came through for Abraham and Isaac and if you put your life in God's
hands, God will come through for you too—God will keep God’s promise to
you as well. So let us trust and obey in God—no matter how hard the
thing seems that God is asking of us. Amen.