Reading Ramblings – July 13th, 2014

Date:  2014 Narrative Preaching Series #4, July 13, 2014

Texts: Genesis 22:1-18, 8:13-22; Psalm 111; Matthew 27:45-54

 

Context: The waters of the flood have subsided and humanity once again flourishes.  God has selected someone to start the family that will give birth to a nation that will give birth to a Savior.  He has selected a rather unlikely Patriarch—an older, childless man and his wife.   They do not have a family of their own and no longer expect one.  Their time for children has passed and they face a life with no descendants other than perhaps their adopted nephew, Lot.  But God has other plans.  Out of barrenness and hopelessness He brings life and hope in the birth of Isaac!

Genesis 22:1-18— Have you experienced this primal fear at the back of your mind?  What if God demands that I sacrifice the person I love most?  Is this how God strips us of our worship of false idols and ensures we are committed to him alone?  We should be quick to note that this is hardly standard faire in terms of God’s demands of his people.  The narrative clues the reader in right away that this is a test, an artifice.  But why Abraham? 

Abraham is the first person we are introduced to after the Flood.  While it’s clear that God knows mankind remains sinful, Abraham also begins a new chapter in God’s dealings with his creation.  Abraham will serve as the human foundation for a lineage and plan that extend literally two thousand years or more to the birth of Jesus.  Through Abraham all creation will be blessed with the birth of a Savior who is not only the son (many generations removed!) of Abraham, but the Son of God.  Abraham is by no means perfect.  He has exhibited great fear and great cowardice during his twenty-five year wait for the offspring God promised him.  He will never personally possess more than a sliver of the vast land God has promised his descendants.  Abraham must truly trust that God will fulfill all of his promises in his own time and way, not Abraham’s. 

But as with all of Scripture, if we read this passage ultimately as praiseworthy for Abraham, we are missing the point.  Abraham is obedient—as we all should be!  We may wish to justify our disobedience with the assertion that God would never demand this or ask that.  This passage bears that out, but only within the context of obedience.  Abraham was prepared to do what God asked, though it undoubtedly broke his heart.  And in that obedience, Abraham discovered the nature of God—a God who does not crave human sacrifice, who honors the familial bond, who is not fickle and indiscriminate.  None of which Abraham would have learned if he had rejected God’s test.

God alone will sacrifice his Son—the only human (and more than human) sacrifice in all of Scripture. 

Psalm 111— This psalm proclaims the unmitigated goodness and righteousness of God, manifest fully in his works.  How God interacts with his people shows his nature.  We are nearly conditioned to hear this psalm and discredit it partially or even in large part.  What about all those who suffer?  What about those who starve to death instead of being fed (v.5)?  What about the downtrodden and persecuted instead of the elevated (v.6)?  How is it that God’s redemption is received by some people, but apparently not by everyone (v.9)? 

We must be careful to distinguish between the goodness of God and the sinfulness of man.  Does the earth not produce enough food for everyone, or is mankind greedy and gluttonous so that some go without?  Is it not possible for all to be free, or is mankind power-thirsty and violently corrupt?  Is the grace of Jesus Christ limited, or rather is the pride and vanity of man truly real and obscuring?  Whenever we would limit expressions of God’s absolute goodness based on human experience, we find that human experience and practice is invariably the root cause for why the goodness of God is not universally experienced.

Matthew 27 6:45-54—What God spares Abraham, God does not exempt himself from.  The consequence of sin is death.  So it is that sin must be conquered through death.  The weight of the law cannot be shifted, but rather it must be paid in full.  But the matter of who must pay it is negotiable. 

The death of Isaac would have accomplished nothing, yet the sacrifice of God’s own son upon another mountain, upon a different collection of wood, accomplishes everything.  Isaac and Jesus both carry the wood for their deaths, both even lie upon that wood, but only Jesus is delivered to death.  What man cannot do, God does.  While no man can atone for his own sins let alone the sins of another, the God-Man Jesus of Nazareth has no sin of his own to atone for, and is able to suffer and die perfectly and completely for the sins of humanity. 

This is the apex of God the Father’s goodness, that He would sacrifice God the Son on behalf of his creation.  That He would do himself what He does not ask his creation to do.  That He would culminate the sacrificial system through which He extended grace and forgiveness to his people with the ultimate, final, perfect sacrifice for all creation, by which all creation might receive grace and forgiveness.

Yet God is not an unloving Father, as some would assert.  He does not abandon the Son out of capriciousness or out of some twisted pleasure or need.  He abandons his Son to death for a specific purpose, and in the full knowledge that as He commands his Son to death, He will also command his Son again to life.   He takes away in order to give back on a more majestic scale.  His goal is always life, always love, always mercy.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s