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Posts Tagged ‘Isaac’

passover-lambIt’s easier to read the story about God “testing” Abraham when you know how it turns out. As I contemplated this tale, I wondered if Jesus remembered this story as He was being dragged to the cross, knowing full well that He the was Lamb. But that’s another story. In this one, who knew?

Genesis 21:7
Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

As a mother, I cannot do anything but head right for the emotions of the moment. How did it feel to be Abraham preparing the sacrifice of his son at the command of God, who had been all about the promises of descendants as numerous as the stars? Despite departing right away the next day, it was still a three day journey to the mountain where the sacrifice was to take place. Three days of contemplating the loss of his beloved son. Three days of wondering how God would work things out. Three days of surrendering. It could not have been an easy journey.

And how did Isaac feel, once they arrived, tied up and placed on the prepared altar, wood loaded and knife in his own Father’s hand? Did he go calmly? Did he really think, “Wow, my Dad is truly faithful. He’s amazing!” I don’t think so.

In fact, we don’t really hear about the relationship between Isaac and Abraham after this experience at all until Abraham is “very old” and acquires a wife for Isaac who is now forty years old. What was Isaac up to all those years? No telling. We will never know.

But it doesn’t change the story, does it? Whether they feared or not feared, whether they cried or screamed or complained, it didn’t matter. Abraham acted. Abraham took his “here I am” seriously, because “here I am” also means I am willing to do whatever you ask me. No one says, “Here I am” to God and then follow up with, “I’ll think about it.” And because Abraham had already agreed to do whatever God asked him to do, he followed through.

And really, here’s the truth of it for me. When I became a follower of Christ more than thirty years ago, I also said, “Here I Am.” I think I’ve been forgetting what it meant. And, quite honestly, I’ve put my head in the sand about the lamb, figuring Jesus did all that hard work. And that’s basically true, but there are the daily sacrifices and the long-term ones. There are still challenges and obedience.

The lamb is here.

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Wouldn’t it be great if I could get a reading on a “faith meter?” Or, maybe not. After all, if it only takes faith the size of a mustard seed to move a mountain, my gauge would have to be in the millimeters.

James 2:22, 26
You see that his [Abraham’s] faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. . . . As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

Abraham and Rahab are the two stories James recounts in chapter two as examples of the best partnership between faith and action. One for hearing God so clearly that Abraham journeyed up a mountain with the intention of sacrificing is son Isaac and the second, of a prostitute who paradoxically harbored and aided enemies of her city because she felt compelled by God to do so. These two acts registered hot on the faith meter.

As I was reading and contemplating these stories, I realized it wasn’t the acts themselves that threw the meter into the red zone, it was their willingness to act and follow through by hearing God. It was trust. Acts of faith are an outgrowth of the faith itself, the love of God, a relationship with depth and authenticity.

I’ve never been very fond of the Abraham/Isaac story. As a parent, I shudder at the very idea or contemplation of a blood sacrifice of my own child. How could Abraham be willing to do this? Human sacrifice was not even the norm of the One God believers. Wasn’t it a pagan practice of neighboring tribes and faiths? Or, maybe he never really believed that God wanted an actual sacrifice?

I remember having a similar attitude some years ago when my husband and I had recently adopted our two boys from Latvia and a few months later I had to travel to a library conference. My friend and colleague was a white knuckle flyer and I tried to calm her by proclamation.

“It’s not my time to die.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Simple, I don’t believe God would orphan my children twice.”

Perhaps Abraham had locked his faith into that earlier promise that would be fulfilled through Isaac. Perhaps.

But here’s the point: the actions, the deeds, the works of love and self-sacrifice, the expressions of kindness, and the selfless sharing of worldly goods . . . these are the measuring sticks of faith.

Faith without expression is a mere concept.

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