"God will provide"
A Message By Dr. Bruce Havens
BASED ON THE THEME: "Reading the Bible again, for the FIRST time"
ARLINGTON CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH, U.C.C.
JUNE 23, 2019
Genesis 22: 1-14 [nrsv]
1After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”
2He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.”
3So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him.
4On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away.
5Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.”
6Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together.
7Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”
8Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.
9When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.
10Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son.
11But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”
12He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”
13And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.
14So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”
Evidence that many religions practiced child sacrifice, and even that the Hebrew people did.
A disclaimer that God does not demand child sacrifice.
Ultimately no good answer?
If God does not provide or demand child sacrifice then we must see Jesus’ crucifixion as having a different definition than that given in many Christian circles that it was a “substitutionary atonement.”
Ultimately must we ask if what the sacrifice, the cross of Christ means is not that God punished Jesus instead of us, but that even the perfect Son of God was persecuted and executed by the power of privilege and the privileged of power – even as people are every day – and yet God’s resurrection is proof that God will not allow that judgment, that injustice, that crucifixion and death to be the last word. God did provide and God will provide the response to all the “give it ups” from any and all the powers-that-be in the resurrection.
Does God provide enough? YOU and I have to decide that for ourselves every day we face either privilege or privation, every day we suffer or we participate in the suffering of others.
God will provide God said. Do we, can we, believe it?
It asks the question of the character of God and the nature of faith.
The question of what does God command / demand and how do we test what is OUR voice and what is God’s… what is insanity and what is faith?
The danger of sacrificing our children for the benefit of those corporations who profit off wars and the subsequent reconstructions we do for those we want to “bomb back into the stone age” as a solution to conflict.
Dan Clenendin, journeywithjesus.net, 6/29/14.
In Fear and Trembling (1843), Soren Kierkegaard devoted an entire book to this story. He recalls how he heard this Bible story as a child, and how the older he got the more his enthusiasm for the story grew, while the less and less he understood it. He puts himself in Abraham's shoes, and shudders as he contemplates how Abraham might have thought, felt, and acted. He imagines four different scenarios.
In version 1, Abraham "protects" God by blaming himself for the atrocious command. Isaac lunges at Abraham's legs and begs for his life. When he looks at Abraham's face, his "gaze was wild, his whole being was sheer terror." Abraham rebukes Isaac, "Do you think it is God's command?! No, it is my desire." Abraham then prays softly, "Lord God in heaven, I thank you; it is better that he believes me a monster than that he should lose faith in you."
In version 2, Abraham and Isaac journey in total silence. At Moriah, Abraham builds the altar and wields the knife, then at the last minute God provides a ram in Isaac's place. In fact, this is how the Genesis narrative unfolds. But Kierkegaard ads a twist by imagining the consequences.
Abraham obeyed and Isaac was saved, but Abraham was deeply traumatized for the rest of his life. "He could not forget that God had ordered him to do this… His eyes were darkened and he saw joy no more." He passed the test, but at what cost? In his act of faith did he lose his faith?
Version 3 imagines Abraham's agony at having committed child sacrifice. What could he have been thinking? Abraham "threw himself down on his face, he prayed to God to forgive him his sin, that he had been willing to sacrifice Isaac, that the father had forgotten his duty to his son." Surely it's the universal ethical duty for parents to love their children and not to murder them?! Kierkegaard imagines Abraham concluding that he was mistaken to believe that God had told him to sacrifice Isaac.
Finally, an entirely different scenario. Abraham suffers a failure of nerve, an explicit act of disobedience, or conversely, he returns to his senses. In this scenario, Abraham believes the command of God but he fails to act. He can't bring himself to slay Isaac, and as a consequence Isaac loses his faith. "Not a word of this is ever said in the world, and Isaac never talked to anyone about what he had seen, and Abraham did not suspect that anyone had seen."
"Isn't the idea of God the Father sacrificing his Son a form of divine child abuse?"
Juliana Claassens, workingpreacher.org, 6/26/2011,
n slow motion, building up frame by frame, the reader watches in horror how God commands Abraham to sacrifice his only son; how the two of them travel together to Mount Moriah where Abraham builds the altar, arranges the wood, binds his son, places him on the altar, and takes the knife into his hand. But as Abraham's hand is hovering in midair with only one intention, i.e., to kill his son, tragedy is averted at the last second.
This gripping, or should one rather say chilling story in Genesis 22, has evoked passionate responses throughout the centuries, giving rise to a rich interpretative history from both Jewish and Christian interpreters who sought to make sense of this troubling story by filling in the narrative gaps in a variety of imaginative ways. Moreover, this story has often been preached as a narrative pointing to Abraham's great faith and obedience that is rewarded in the end by God's provision.
In her book, Challenging Prophetic Literature, Julia O'Brien writes about Lyn, a student of her, who at some point in her sermon preparation on Genesis 22 "gave up trying to make this text into something beautiful and uplifting and simply wept. She wept not only just for the characters in the story but also for herself and for her culture....In this sermon," O'Brien writes, her student "gave her congregation permission that the text had not given Abraham: to weep for the tragic situations of their own lives, for the horrible choices they feel they have no choice but to make." According to Julia O'Brien, this student has preached good news (page 59).
Dr. David R. Blumenthal, "Confronting the Character of God: Text and Praxis,", Professor of Judaic Studies, Emory University, Emory.edu.
Elie Wiesel, remarking that God does not like human beings to come before God in resignation, sees [this] as a double-edged test. God starts it, but Abraham understands the true opportunity. “As though Abraham had said: I defy You, Lord. I shall submit to Your will, but let us see whether You shall go to the end, whether You shall remain passive and remain silent when the life of my son – who is also Your son – is at stake.” Wiesel then points to three victories Abraham achieves …. First, God changed God’s mind and relented on the command to sacrifice Isaac. Second, God had to cancel the order Godself, as it says, “the Lord declared.” And third, God had to agree that, whenever the children of Israel would be sinful, they need only retell the story to invoke God’s mercy.”
Calvin – it should lead to a “complete renunciation of ourselves.”
Wesley: he best evidence of our fearing God is our being willing to honour him with that which is dearest to us, and to part with all to him, or for him.
A case of theological chicken: who will blink first?
Give it up – whatever it is seems to be what God asks – is it what God asks or it what life asks that God does not control, yet the redeeming God finds a way to intervene and provide – in this case – but how many have not had that intervention:
You had to give something up
Someone chose to take something from you
What does faith say to us in these instances.
What is the bottom line:
What is the main point?
Why does it matter?
Where is the POWER in the text
Phrase, word, encounter, source of tension/interest/offends/surprises
What moves this toward application
What is the main TO DO
Why does it matter?
Closing: plan last line and stick to it.