I keep asking myself how well I would have done on this test. I fear I would not have passed…
Tuesday, May 31, 2022
Friday, May 27, 2022
I am inclined to think that Abraham did not pass the test in Genesis 22. His silent obedience indicated that he did not discern God’s merciful character (until the angel called off the sacrifice); and he did not show love for his son by interceding on his behalf.—Abraham's Silence, 222–23 (emphasis original)
Unfortunately, I'm inclined to agree with him that Abraham failed the test. But, I wonder if I would have done any better. Do I understand the character of God? Or do I have various lens that distort my view? I suspect the latter is true.
May God remove the distortion that I might see him as he truly is!
Thursday, May 26, 2022
But Abraham didn’t speak out on behalf of his son.
Somewhat below this optimal response would be Abraham’s genuine belief that God would provide a substitute—that is, he might have remained silent (against the general tenor of Scripture, which encourages bold prayer), yet trusted that somewhere along the journey or on the mountain itself, he might ﬁnd an animal to sacriﬁce instead of his son. Yet when he arrived at the spot for the sacriﬁce, Abraham did not give even a cursory glance around the vicinity to see if God had provided a substitute; he simply bound his son and placed him on the altar. He did not look around until after the angel called off the sacriﬁce.—Abraham's Silence, 222
Don't you want to take Abraham by the shoulders and shake him, yelling, "Wake up! Look around you! Speak up!"
I know I do. But, what about the injustices around you? Are you interceding with God on behalf of those? Asking God to be merciful?
If not, then why not? Maybe you believe in a different god than the biblical one...
Tuesday, May 24, 2022
Abraham was so task-oriented that he didn't even hear what was going on around him, let alone notice anything. I've been that way at times. It's not a healthy place to be. You miss out on life—you miss out on the provisions that God has supplied so your task doesn't have to be as heavy as you think it is!
May none of us be so task-oriented that we miss God's loving provisions for us!
Monday, May 23, 2022
This means that for the promise to be fulfilled, Abraham would need to have offspring. He would need to have obeyed the angel’s command to stop the sacriﬁce and spare Isaac. This is why the angel links the promise to the sparing of Isaac: “By your offspring shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have listened to my voice.” Simply put, if Abraham had not desisted from the sacriﬁce when the angel called from heaven, there would be no offspring by which the nations could bless themselves.—Abraham's Silence, 218 (emphasis original)
Quite a provocative thought! I'll have to chew on that one for a while…
Friday, May 20, 2022
Thursday, May 19, 2022
Indeed! That might be the reason why Isaac is such a one-dimensional character. And note that in Gen 31:42, God is called the "terror of Isaac."
That seems apt, doesn't it?
Wednesday, May 18, 2022
In light of the command that Abraham receives in 22:2 to sacrifice his son, we may put the question of Abraham’s discernment of God’s character more pointedly. Is the God of Abraham simply one of the pagan deities of Mesopotamia or Canaan who requires child sacriﬁce as a symbol of allegiance? Or is he different, a God of mercy and love for his children, who was even willing to forgo udgment on Sodom for the sake of the righteous? That was something Abraham should have learned in chapter 18, so he could pass it on to his own children. But he didn’t. The lesson was cut short—by Abraham himself.
And so in a ﬁnal, climactic episode in the Abraham story, God gives Abraham another opportunity to learn and grow in the relationship. But God ups the ante this time; God raises the stakes. It’s not his nephew Lot who will be destroyed (along with Sodom, his home). It is Abraham's own son. And it’s not God who will do it; Abraham must do it by his own hand. If anything would force Abraham to speak out, to appeal to the mercy of God, this would be it. Abraham has the opportunity, in this test, to protest the command and intercede for his son’s life, which would articulate his view of the character and ways of God——both in what he says to God and by the fact that he says it. And it would, further, show his love for Isaac (which would be a good thing, not an impediment to his commitment to God).
But Abraham doesn’t speak out; he is silent.—Abraham's Silence, 205–6 (emphasis original)
Ouch! I hope I'm a better student of God than that! I hope I don't cut short the lesson(s) that God has for me!
Tuesday, May 17, 2022
YHWH’s instructions to Jeremiah might be relevant here. In 5:1 God tells the prophet,
Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem,This suggests that God might forestall destruction of a wicked city for just one righteous person. That Abraham stops at ten, however, suggests that he hasn’t fully plumbed the depths of divine mercy. He has not yet learned what God wanted to teach him. Nevertheless, God rescues Lot and his family through angelic agency (Gen. 19), even though Abraham hadn’t thought to ask for that outright.—Abraham's Silence, 202-3
look around and take note!
Search its squares and see
if you can ﬁnd one person
who acts justly
and seeks truth—
so that I may pardon Jerusalem.
That just blows my mind! I hadn't thought of it before, but that Abraham neglects to ask for the safety of Lot (and his family) and God goes the extra distance to save them is truly theology-shaking. My box of what God wants to do is vastly expanded (again!).
I've mentioned Widmer's book, Standing in the Breach before, and he heads in this same direction. But Middleton goes beyond him in exploring God's mercy.
And in light of the happenings over the weekend, I would say that this is a nice encouragement to continue to pray for peace and revival in the face of an epidemic of hate!
Monday, May 16, 2022
Friday, May 13, 2022
But what would be evidence of this love? I suggest that Abraham could prove his love for Isaac by speaking out and protesting God’s command to sacrifice him. Indeed, speaking out on behalf of Isaac might well extend and deepen Abraham’s incipient love for his son (testing often brings to the surface and makes actual what is only potential).—Abraham's Silence, 195–96 (emphasis original)
I find that to be a provocative thought. What about you? He's right that Abraham seems to favor Ishmael over Isaac.
Thursday, May 12, 2022
Abraham would seem, rather, to be attached to Ishmael,something that is very clear from chapters 17 and 21. When God tells Abraham that Isaac, not Ishmael, is the one through whom the covenant will be passed, this leads Abraham to plead for God not to forget Ishmael. He exclaims, “O that Ishmael might live in your sight!” (17:18). And when Sarah wants him to send Hagar and Ishmael away, we are told, “The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son" (21:11). In both cases, we find a signiﬁcant difference from Abraham's response when God tells him to sacriﬁce Isaac.
In fact, the account of what happens in Genesis 20 suggests that Abraham is so attached to Ishmael that he simply doesn’t care about the replacement son that is promised.
We should remember that Abraham had passed Sarah off as his sister in Egypt back in chapter 12, with the result that Pharaoh took her into his harem. Abraham does this again in chapter 20, this time in Gerar, so the king of Gerar takes her into his harem. But note that chapter 20 comes after God announced that the covenant heir would be born to Sarah (17:16) and after God predicted that this would happen shortly—presumably within the next year (17:21; 18:10, 14). And yet, knowing this, Abraham goes ahead and passes Sarah off as his sister a second time, not caring that he might lose her (and the promised heir with her); indeed, she might even have been pregnant at the time.—Abraham's Silence, 194–95 (emphasis original)
Definitely not the traditional reading! But, sad to say, it makes better sense of the text than the traditional reading does. And it gives you food for thought, doesn't it? We all have our agendas that we bring to God. And not infrequently they differ substantially from God's purposes.
May we be open to changing our agenda to that which God desires!
Tuesday, May 10, 2022
Monday, May 09, 2022
But there is another possibility. Given that Job started out (Job 1:1, 8; 2:3) where Abraham ended (Gen. 22:12)—with the fear of God—could the point of the comparison be that Job progressed beyond that? Although the fear of God/YHWH is a positive attribute, highly praised in the Wisdom Literature, and is identified with wisdom in Job 28:28 (“Truly, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; / and to depart from evil is understanding”), what are we to make of the prominent thematic statement that the fear of YHWH is the beginning of wisdom or knowledge (Ps. 111:10; Prov. 1:7; 9:10; also Sir. 1:14), rather than its culmination?—Abraham's Silence, 185 (emphasis original)
Definitely food for thought! One of my favorite OT/HB books is Habakkuk. And he definitely argues with God! A lot! And just like Job, in the end he trusts God. That's where I find myself sometimes—in the first chapters of Habakkuk, not the final one. I usually end up in the final chapter, but sometimes it takes a while to get there.
But now, after reading this, I wonder if maybe even after getting to the final chapter of Habakkuk, I can't continue to plead with God to bring about the changes—that I might see the prayer of Amos, "Let justice roll down like waters, righteousness like an never-ending stream," answered in my lifetime.
A bit later in the book (we'll get to it), he claims that Abraham, when interceding for Sodom in Gen 18, didn't go far enough, that God had to take the initiative himself to save Lot and family, when he was hoping that Abraham would push him further. And, later still, after the Aqedah, God modifies the covenant to be unconditional. What a mind-blowing idea! Mull that over in your mind for a while—and then throw in Paul's comment in Ephesians 3:20, "who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us" (CEB).
If that doesn't give you hope for prayer, I don't know what can. by the way, for a good look at intercessory prayer, read Widmer's book Standing in the Breach. I've excerpted from it on this blog; you can find them by searching on the label Standing in the Breach (or by clicking on the preceding link or the tag below). Good reading! And praying!
Friday, May 06, 2022
I find this the most disconcerting part of the story. But, would you come back down the mountain with a dad like that? I would have to think twice! And is it significant that a bit later, in the Jacob and Esau story, that God is called the God of Abraham and the Terror of Isaac (Gen 31.42)?
Food for thought anyway. Let's see where he goes with this.
Thursday, May 05, 2022
The consequences of the doctrine of predestination are just as disastrous for the understanding of Man as they are for the Idea of God. Predestination in the sense of the “double decree” means unmistakably: All has been ﬁxed from eternity. From all eternity, before he was created, each individual has been written down in the one Book or the other. Predestination in the sense of the double decree is the most ruthless determinism that can be imagined. 331–32 (emphasis original)
It's hard to know where to stop. I could post the whole chapter, it's so good. Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing: Chapter 23: The Problem of "Double Predestination," 321–39, The Christian Doctrine of God (the link is to a legal copy on Archive.org). There are also good used copies on Abe, or you could buy a new paperback from Wipf & Stock
By the way, the next chapter, an appendix on the history of predestination is very good too. As my seminary theology professor used to say, "You owe it to yourself to read it."
Let me just highlight this sentence, which sums up my feelings exactly: "it is impossible truly to worship this God as the God of love, even if this be commanded us a thousand times, and indeed at the cost of the loss of eternal salvation." Indeed!
Wednesday, May 04, 2022
Tuesday, May 03, 2022
This biblical precedent of vigorous prayer raises the question of why Abraham didn’t intercede for Isaac. Given this weighty precedent, we might wonder why he didn’t cry out like the psalmist in Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Or he could have pleaded, as Jesus did in Gethsemane, “Remove this cup from me.”
Indeed, just four chapters before the Aqedah, Abraham does challenge God, with great boldness.—Abraham's Silence, 132–33
I told you it was going to get interesting…
Monday, May 02, 2022
Indeed! What an intriguing idea. Hold onto your hat as he explores that possibility. This is going to be interesting...