Summary: Sixth in a six-part series on the life of faith as seen in the person of Abraham
Go to the website www.worstcasescenarios.com, and you’ll find out what to do in the event you find yourself in a real-life, worst-case scenario. For example, there are complete instructions for such things as
How to jump from a building into a dumpster
How to survive if your parachute fails to open
How to land a plane
How to Fend Off a Shark
I thought I’d do a public service this morning by helping you with some practical instruction on
How to wrestle free from an alligator Free from an Alligator
1. If you are on land, try to get on the alligator’s back and put downward pressure on its neck. This will force its head and jaws down.
2. Cover the alligator’s eyes. This will usually make it more sedate.
3. If you are attacked, go for the eyes and nose. Use any weapon you have, or your fist.
4. If its jaws are closed on something you want to remove (for example, a limb), tap or punch it on the snout. Alligators often open their mouths when tapped lightly. They may drop whatever it is they have taken hold of, and back off.
5. If the alligator gets you in its jaws, you must prevent it from shaking you or rolling over—these instinctual actions cause severe tissue damage. Try to keep the mouth clamped shut so the alligator does not begin shaking.
6. Seek medical attention immediately, even for a small cut or bruise, to treat infection. Alligators have a huge number of pathogens in their mouths.
We approach the text in Genesis 22, and we have to say that what we find confronting Abraham is little short of a “worst-case scenario”. Read verses 1-2 with me. Everything had finally turned out great for Abraham. After many years of waiting; after many years of uneven growth in the walk of faith, punctuated by mountaintop experiences talking with God, and valleys of trying to live by his own wisdom—and reaping the consequences; after now seeing the provision of God in Isaac and watching his baby boy grow more into a man each day, life was good. God had blessed Abraham mightily, and now the patriarch was looking forward to the rest of his life being one of great enjoyment of the goodness of God. But then, the very God who has brought resolution, stability, and order to Abraham’s life now brings an incredible amount of turmoil, the “perfect storm”, the worst-case scenario in Abraham’s life.
In one brief moment, we might say, Laughter turned to horror. The son Isaac, whose very name meant “laughter”, would be the slain sacrifice on an altar to the God Who had provided that son in the first place. It had to be surreal to Abraham. “Take”; “go”; “sacrifice”. Little further explanation is offered; pretty much, God just gives him the bare minimum details of what it is He wants Abraham to do. God’s words are stark and sparing. God made of Abraham
1. A dreadful request
Now, we are privy to the fact that this was a test from God; it’s announced to us in verse 1. But Abraham wasn’t; it’s not like God said to him, “This is a test of Abraham’s belief system. This is only a test…”
a. The Test
God tests Abraham. Such testing determines the quality of the characteristic being tested. God, in this case, stretches Abraham to the limit for the purpose of determining the quality of his faith. True, Abraham has been tested by God before, if you will; he has been asked by God to give up some things and reach toward new things by faith. He is asked by God to believe things that he has not seen. But this testing is different: in each other case, there was a promise from God to “balance” the test, if you will. For stepping out and leaving home and family and friends, Abraham is promised something greater: new family, new and larger home, etc. Here, though, no promises are made; he is simply asked to give up what likely was his most-treasured possession, his son. Further, to kill Isaac would equate to killing the promise of God, the promise of future blessing, land, posterity. If Isaac is dead, so are the things that motivated Abraham to move in the first place. Is Abraham willing to cling to God above the promised blessings of God? As Derek Kidner writes, “Abraham’s trust was to be weighed in the balance against common sense, human affection, and lifelong ambition.”
This is at least one thing (one of the many, I’d suggest) that is missing in the contemporary what’s-in-it-for-me theology of folks like Joel Osteen. There is a huge emphasis upon how we can get ahead, or be fulfilled, or overcome obstacles, or what have you, and little to no emphasis upon the glory of God. God becomes the means to our own ends. Abraham is now faced with the question of whether he is devoted to God for God’s sake, or devoted to God for the sake of Abraham’s own future blessing. And this is one we’d better wrestle with a little bit…