Genesis 22:1-3, 7-14, 26:2-5comment (0)
May 17, 2012
By James. R. Barnette
Related Scripture: Genesis 23:1-3, 7-14, 26:2-5
Bible Studies for Life
Associate Professor of Religion, Department of Religion, Samford University
A Legacy of Faith
Genesis 22:1−3, 7−14; 26:2−5
Faith Tested (22:1−3, 7−10)
This story is one of the most personal and captivating among the Patriarchal accounts. For Abraham, God’s command to sacrifice Isaac is incomprehensible. Abraham’s young son is given by God after long delay, and Isaac is the only link that can lead to the promised greatness of Abraham’s seed (see Gen. 15). Now it appears that the boy is to be given back to God in sacrifice. In following his call away from Ur (Gen. 12), Abraham had cut himself off from his whole past; now he must give up his whole future. The text makes it clear that God is fully aware of the greatness of this sacrifice: “Take your son, your only son. He is the one you love. Take Isaac.”
In the Old Testament, God’s prerogative to “test” His followers is often during times of syncretism — that is, when Israelites are tempted to incorporate other gods into their belief system. The Ahab-Jezebel period (1 Kings 17−19, 21) is one example among many such times. The testing of Israel by God is to determine if Israel would trust only the Lord or if it would at the same time look to other gods. In our present time of religious tolerance and cultural relativism, what severe tests might our church or our nation have to face in order to prove our unmitigated devotion to the Sovereign Lord? Some might find the notion of testing primitive and limited to the Old Testament. However, the early church in the New Testament knew there were times of testing (Mark 13:9−13; 1 Peter 1:7; 2 Peter 2:9). One dimension of testing is the temptation to accommodate the world in a way that leads to a compromised faith. Many complacent Christians cringe at having to decide between full devotion and compromise. When our faith is severely tested, God desires us to respond as readily as Abraham.
Faith Proven (22:11−14)
The fact that Abraham obeys shows that he trusts God will find a way into the future. God had found a way to fulfill the promise of a son when nothing seemed possible. Given that experience, Abraham trusts that this equally impossible situation will not be beyond God’s power. Abraham trusts that God’s promise and God’s command are not fully contradictory; whatever conflict there might be, God can resolve it if He wills it. Our calling is to be faithful to the God Who tests and provides, Who has sovereign authority and Who blesses with good gifts. One reason that Abraham remains faithful is that he realizes how blessed he has been to have the gift of Isaac at all. As Gerhard Von Rad states, Abraham recognizes and appreciates Isaac as a “pure gift.” This idea of pure gift is what began John Claypool on the road to healing after the death of his young daughter, Laura Lue. In “Tracks of a Fellow Struggler,” Claypool recounts his reading of this story and realizing that, just as Isaac’s life was a gift to Abraham, so Laura Lue’s life was a gift to Claypool. Indeed, Claypool realized that life itself is pure gift and, like Abraham, he should be utterly grateful and willing to give his daughter’s life back to the One Who created her and Who rules over all of life.
One cannot help but find parallels in this story to the story of Job. Like Job, Abraham is a blameless man (Gen. 17:1) who fears God; and like Job, Abraham is ready and willing to trust the God Who gives and Who takes away.
Faith Multiplied (26:2−5)
Famines occur in Palestine at times of insufficient rainfall. In such times the nomadic people are enticed by the distant and more fruitful Egypt. However, Isaac is told by God not to migrate to Egypt. Isaac is to live where God tells him to live. Here God reminds Isaac of the promise that He had issued to Isaac’s father, the promise of a blessed land where the number of their children would be “as many as the stars of the sky.” It is worth noting that the now deceased Abraham is mentioned eight times in chapter 26, and that the word “father” occurs six times. Isaac was his father’s son, and both of them were Patriarchs of the promise.
James Barnette is the teaching pastor of Brookwood Baptist Church, Birmingham.