Summary: How far are YOU willing to go?
“You Want Me To What?”
I can’t remember the name of the movie, it was on television and I just saw a little bit of it, but one scene is stuck to my heart as though it was riveted. Every time I think of it, it chills my soul!
A woman is speaking across the valley of death to her young daughter who had died and now wants her mother to cross over to be in Heaven with her. The loss of her daughter had been a terrible time of grief for the mother to bear. She had prayed…and begged God for the life of her daughter, but the prayer was not to be answered the way she wanted. Now it’s time for the mother to cross over.
But, there is one condition. In order to cross to where her daughter is, the woman has to affirm that she loves God…SHE CAN’T! Her grief was so strong and she had prayed endlessly that “God” would save her daughter. She didn’t love God at all. The girl was pleading, “Please mommy, say that you love God. You can’t be with me if you don’t love God.” Then the little girl was crying, but the woman could not say from her heart that she loved God. The scene ended with both the mother and the girl being separated forever across the valley.
Of course, that’s just a scene from a movie. It’s not even good theology. But it makes me think of my own boys and how I would feel if one of them were taken from me. The pain would be so great; that I must confess I would be sorely tested if I were in the mother’s shoes.
(Read Genesis 22:1-14)
Our scripture today is mind-boggling for us today. I mean we’re a “Civilized” people! (Yeah Right!) We dial back a few thousand years to a culture and a world we can hardly imagine. After a amazing journey through trial and difficulty and trusting in the promises of God which seemed impossible, one after the other, Abraham and Sarah finally receive the gift of a child! It has been twenty-five years, long years of waiting, wondering and praying. And whether thousands of years ago or today…the joy of a long awaited child is one of life’s high points.
(Tell about Keenan as our “Miracle” baby)
Well this goes double for Abraham. Listen to this one line. “Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.” Think about that! Men doesn’t that make you proud to be a man? A hundred years old! Who has waited longer? Now the child is here. Can you imagine the joy; the astonishment, they had to be flipping out!
Then the world caves in! What happens is beyond belief.
* God “tests” Abraham’s faith by asking him to give up Isaac, the son he loves and waited twenty-five years for.
By allowing the boy to be killed.
By Abraham’s own hand.
In a brutal ritual of child sacrifice.
You are not alone when you wince at a story like this. When seen from the perspective of a time where human rights are high on the list of priorities for civilized countries, this story is an example of terrible child abuse. Imagine if you read this in the paper before you came to church.
“A man was arrested today after police received an anonymous tip about a bizarre religious practice that was to take place. The man’s son was freed by police as the father was in the act of taking the boy’s life with a butcher knife. Police said the man told them he had heard the voice of God command him to sacrifice the boy.
Names have been withheld to protect the juvenile boy’s identity and the father is in custody pending examinations by state psychiatrists.”
That’s the way it would look today, right? But when you dial back a few thousand years, things were different. Who remembers “Ozzie and Harriot” or “Father knows best” or “All in the family”? These shows would come off today as sexist, bigoted and repressive of women if you had no knowledge of the culture of the 50’s, 60’s or 70’s in America. With this story today we are traveling back at least four thousand years of human history. And we must keep in mind that even that far back, our story from Genesis is turning Abraham AWAY from the practice of child sacrifice. In the culture of his time, child sacrifice was normal. It was not, however, to be a part of Israel’s life. Later in Israel’s history, King Josiah (In II Kings 23:10) destroys the alter that was used to sacrifice children. Why? Because this was an “Abomination before God”. When we look closely at the story in Genesis, and translate it in terms that make sense for us today, it turns out to have an amazing relevance for our daily lives!