Genesis 22:2 | Holding Nothing Back

God is demanding and he asks more of me than I want to give sometimes. I recognize that I am a terrible selfish hypocritical Christian. I want all the benefits of being a child of God but I want none of the responsibility and I want none of the difficulties. But God never asks unreasonable things of me. He asks me to be giving and not selfish and I find that difficult. He wants only what is best and at the end of the day I want only to worship and love him. There is a famous moment in Genesis where God asks something unreasonable of Abraham. It would be an unreasonable request of me but Abraham’s life has been leading up to this moment. Because Abraham, who is the father of faith, has built a life that does exactly what God asks of him.

2 He 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 of which I shall tell you.” Genesis 22:2 ESV

Be horrified at the request if you must but don’t judge God with ill intent. There are a few things we need to understand before we judge God incorrectly. We need to understand God’s place and our role in His world to fully grasp how serious God is about reconciling humanity to him as creator.

First the question naturally arises that God is asking Abraham to do something that is evil or against God’s own law. But we need to remember the context. Abraham lived before the nation of Israel is created. The nation state laws of how to worship God had not been written. But Abraham knows how to approach God. He knows right from wrong and has learned directly from his family leading all the way back to Adam. Laws like marrying a close relative have not been put in place (Abraham is married to his half-sister). Moses is not yet born to accept the Ten Commandments from God. So technically there is no law from God against what he has requested at this point in history. Abraham however does not need a law to know that God values life and this request is out of the ordinary. Abraham has a lifetime following God and God had proven himself to be faithful in everything he had ever promised Abraham. If this is what God wanted then Abraham knows that the miraculous is around the corner.

The second thing that stands out is that we are here for God not for ourselves. God gave Isaac to Abraham and if this is God’s plan to accomplish his promises then Abraham has learned to trust and obey. Jesus put it in these terms to the disciples.

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15 ESV

Now some might say God is an ego and God is all about himself. My response is YES! As Creator who made everything to worship him and him alone he is worthy of that adoration. An ego trip is someone who has a beginning and an end demanding undeserved attention. God is not a man or something created. Jesus is the beginning and the end. He is the Creator of time itself. We all exist because of him.

36 And as [Jesus] rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” Luke 19:36-40 ESV

Finally, God has never asked of anyone something he himself has not already done or would be willing to do himself. The epistle Hebrews makes a great point about Jesus. He is a priest who can sympathize with each of us because he has experienced temptation, sorrow, pain, and death. Jesus has experienced first hand rejection and he knows how hard it is to be poor and in want.

15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:15-16 ESV

God asked the unreasonable of Abraham a most horrifying task. Yet that is exactly what God did for you and me. He gave up his own son so that we might have life. God did not have Abraham actually go through with the request but God himself did sacrifice Jesus his own son on the cross. Isaac could not be that sacrifice but Jesus the son of God would be that perfect sacrifice.

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. John 3:16-17 ESV

God has not withheld anything. He is the creator who has made life, salvation, and grace available to all who would trust him. Abraham loved God so much that he would not even withhold his own son from God. God loves us so much that he did give Jesus for us. Would that we all yield to this moment of grace and proclaim Jesus King and Lord of all.

Judges 3:7 | Lustful Passion and Dead Children

forgot

After reaching the Promised Land the people of Israel abandoned God for the temporary and lustful pleasures that the other people groups around them had to offer. Forgotten are the god’s of Egypt they had found new god’s to worship.

7 And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. They forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth. Judges 3:7 ESV

Baal and Asheroth are a male and female divinity of the people that lived in the Promised Land before Israel. They are the god’s of that land and in effect the god’s of Israeli’s enemies. It is interesting how quickly the unholy surrounding culture seems to capture the imagination of the newly arrived Jewish peoples to the land. Within a generation these god’s were a trap that would plague the people of Israel until they too are driven from the land like they were commanded to do to the original peoples. These people that God judged and wanted displaced were not innocent occupants. These people were rebellious and evil before God. Looking at how Israel adopts their culture is proof of God’s justification to remove them from the land not unlike when He sent the flood that destroyed everyone except Noah. The Prophet Jeremiah more than 600 years later is telling the Nation of Israel that because of their evil God will destroy the nation and that their judgment had arrived just as it had for the peoples before them.

4 Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, 5 and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind— 6 therefore, behold, days are coming, declares the Lord, when this place shall no more be called Topheth, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter. 7 And in this place I will make void the plans of Judah and Jerusalem, and will cause their people to fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hand of those who seek their life. I will give their dead bodies for food to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the earth. 8 And I will make this city a horror, a thing to be hissed at. Everyone who passes by it will be horrified and will hiss because of all its wounds. 9 And I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and their daughters, and everyone shall eat the flesh of his neighbor in the siege and in the distress, with which their enemies and those who seek their life afflict them.’ Jeremiah 19:4-9 ESV

God is patient but the evil lived out by those serving false god’s is too much for God’s good character and justice to remain silent. Sacrificing children to an idol is a horrifying path of selfish evil and lest the reader think they are above such “primitive and barbaric” practices look to our own contemporary culture where children are sacrificed through abortion in the millions every year at the altar of convenience, rebellion, and sex. Nothing really changes when it comes to the nature of people.

The difference between the nation of Israel in the future and the newly formed nation of Israel is that this earlier generation repented and returned to God when they needed help.

9 But when the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel, who saved them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. 10 The Spirit of the Lord was upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the Lord gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand. And his hand prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim. 11 So the land had rest forty years. Then Othniel the son of Kenaz died. Judges 3:9-11

While Caleb’s nephew, Othniel, was blessed by God and a worthy leader the remembrance and service to God by the people of Israel only lasts the remainder of his life. As noted in Judges 2 Godly leadership is a benefit to a nation however it does not have the power to change the hearts of individuals. After he dies the people returned to their rebellion and another Judge empowered by God will be needed.

One of the most amazing and powerful glimpses into God’s perspective that demonstrates God’s vision, plans, mercy, and grace is reviled to Elijah who as being hunted by Israelites who were also the servants of Baal. Paul recounts the event in his letter to the Romans.

I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” 4 But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. Romans 11:1-5 ESV

The world may seem crazy and those that worship the gods of money, sex, and power in this land may seem to be everywhere but know that God is in control, God knows who His children are, and know that God has grace for those He is keeping from serving such evil.

Who will you serve? Who do you serve now? I pray reader that you would evaluate the priorities and the passions that you serve. If they do not come from God then you are no better off or more sophisticated than those of the past that served the Baals and the Asheroth.

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:19-24 ESV