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Aug 13 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 11, 2013 – Genesis Chapter 22

When God Calls Your Name

Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” Genesis 22:1-2

INTRO: I’m going to give you a pointer about reading the Bible:

When you come to something disturbing, assume it’s supposed to be disturbing
– some things we learn best by extreme examples
• the lesson becomes clearer
• a disturbing visual image or extreme emotion makes a very strong impression on our memory
– so don’t get frustrated with the disturbing passages, get curious and probe them

The Story

Vv. 1-2, “After these things” – an important time reference
– after the miracle birth when God’s promise was at last fulfilled, God came to Abraham with a new demand
• at least we are warned that this is a “test”

Abraham answered, “Here I am” – and he says this three times in this chapter, to God, Isaac, and the angel of God
• each time he says this, his response is followed by a dramatic interaction
• we could almost say that Abraham’s “Here I am” is what moves the plot forward
– “Take” (or “took”) is a key word in the story, occurring six times
• although he acts at God’s command, Abraham is the one doing the “taking”

Note how God zeroes in on Isaac: your son – your only son – whom you love – Isaac
– like concentric circles around a bull’s-eye
• the details are meant to exclude anyone else or permit any confusion
• two more times in the story God will refer to Isaac as “your son, your only son” (vv. 12, 16)
○ the storyteller does not allow us to forget what Isaac is to Abraham
– “and go” (Hebrew: lek lakah) a rare expression that first appeared in Genesis 12:1
• it connects these two episodes: the first and last time God spoke with Abraham
• there God had zeroed in on his home:
○ “from your country, / And from your relatives / and from your father’s house”
○ then it was his father he had to give up and now it is his son

This is the first time that “love” is mentioned in scripture – as it turns out, Isaac will be a lover

V. 3, “So Abraham rose early in the morning”
– nothing is more baffling in this story than Abraham’s silence
– child sacrifice was practiced in his part of the world
• perhaps he assumed he had offended God and now the deal was off
• remember, Abraham’s theological knowledge was limited

But doesn’t he even have any questions?! – cf. 15:2; 18:23, where he immediately responded with questions
• what goes on within Abraham’s heart and mind is hidden from us — his thoughts or feelings
○ when Sarah wanted Hagar gone, Abraham was greatly distressed
○ where is the haggler who bartered with God over the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah?
• it’s almost eerie how he saddles donkey, splits wood and gets up and goes in silence

“The result of this style is a terrible intensity, a story which is so stark as to be almost unbearable.” Everett Fox

– as they travel, who carries the greater burden?

Vv. 4-8, After three days, “Abraham raised his eyes”
– this means more than he merely spotted the place
• he had been looking for it
○ maybe hoping he would never see it
– that’s as far as the servants will go
• he transferred the wood to Isaac’s back
• “he took in his hand the fire and the knife”
○ Von Rad, observed that Abraham carried “the dangerous objects” — the instruments of death and sacrifice

On the way, Isaac raised the obvious question
– this is a very important moment
• it brings to surface what Abraham had been hiding
○ but it also reveals what Abraham could not see for himself
○ i.e., how all of this would work out,
the point of this horrible ordeal
– “God will provide” – lit. “see” (as in the phrase where he raised eyes and saw)
• “God will see to that”
• God sees and he’ll take care of it

Vv. 9-14, The way their arrival at Mount Moriah is described matches their departure
– after lots of action (verbs), Abraham had left – now after his arrival there is again lots of action
• but the action slows down in verse 10 when details are spelled out
○ the high point of the suspense
○ the key word, “took,” tells us that we have reached the climax of the story

“Abraham, Abraham!” repetition helps us hear the urgency in the angel’s voice
– “Don’t hurt him. I know what I needed to find out”
• “fear God” – is an abbreviated way to describe devotion to God
• that God means everything to you
○ God must come first
– again Abraham “raised his eyes and looked and behold”
• he saw what he told Isaac to expect
• the first “take” created the tension in this story (v. 2)
○ now this final “took” resolves the tension
– Abraham named the place “Yahweh will see (to it)”
• proverb, “In the mount of Yahweh it will be seen”
○ this would be a good proverb to spend some time with in meditation

Vv. 15-19, Abraham has passed the test
– when God swears an oath to Abraham, he swears by himself! (Hebrews 6:13-18)
– “greatly bless” and “greatly multiply” are literally “bless you, bless you” and “multiply, multiply”
• it is as if the words do not carry enough force
○ they have to be repeated to grasp the magnitude of what God will do
– Abraham had become the man God wanted to bless
• and through him, bring a blessing to the whole world

• God won’t speak to Abraham again
○ he doesn’t need to–Abraham is what God wants him to be

A Personal Study Note: In the New Testament we are told that Abraham received Isaac back from the dead “as a type.” That is to say, Isaac’s story include themes that foreshadow persons or events that would occur later on in history. Thinking of Isaac as a type of Jesus, return to this chapter and go through it on your own, looking for the ways that events in Isaac’s life are mirrored in Christ’s life. You will find this to be a fascinating exercise.

CONC: I think we leave this story with a sigh of relief

Not only for Isaac’s rescue, but for our own sakes

“I’m glad God doesn’t still do this to people”
– but he does – he still asks us to hand over our Isaac — that which means most to us
• he doesn’t ask us to kill or burn it
• but he does ask us to surrender it to him

It’s typical that when we come to these points, our spiritual journey stops making sense
– it suddenly becomes really difficult to keep going, like climbing a vertical wall at a high altitude
• everything that used to feed our spirit dries up
• in fact, we feel like we’ve gone as far as possible

How to keep going? It takes a moment by moment surrender to God
– “Here I am” – this is how people answered when God called
• it is a way of saying, “I present myself to you, Lord”
• we make ourselves present to God – a state in which: we are responsive, receptive, and ready
– we do not have to be wise, or pious, or perfect
• we can only give God who we are right now and what we have right now
○ that is all God ever asks for — whatever we have to offer in this moment; even our pain and sorrow if that’s all we have
○ God wants us, not our promises or IOUs
• we present to him what he wants when we say, “Here I am, without pretense or ulterior motives, but in transparent surrender to You”

“With just a little bit of grace, I can be here, really exist here, present, open, available, immediate. With just a little grace I can see the sunset, feel the cold air, sense the beauty, feel my reactions, experience my thoughts arising and the emotions they engender, perceive my little attempts at control, experience my commentary, notice my leaving.”
Gerald May, The Wisdom of Wilderness

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