The Message We Are Supposed to Get Genesis 22:1-19 Introduction: There are passages in the Scripture whose meaning is not immediately obvious, whose message is not immediately clear. They disrupt our simple formulas and predictable solutions which we seek force the Bible. We forget that there are strange things. And none is stranger than what is asked of Abraham in Genesis 22—to sacrifice his son Isaac. For example, how many of us have thought the message of the Bible was primarily moral instruction? The Bible tells us what to do and how to do it. We will be saved as we strive to live according to God’s commands. To be sure, moral instruction is a part of the Bible’s goal. Here in Genesis 22, we see that Abraham is tested by the Lord to discern his character. But is morality the core message? After all, at first glance it seems that morality is being thrown out the window when God asks Abraham to sacrifice his own son? Surely there is more going on here than simple obedience. Others of us think the primary message of the Bible is about a heavenly escape. The Bible informs me about “how to be saved.” By that, we mean the Bible instructs us on how we can rid ourselves of this world and all of its problems. Our aim is to pursue life on a higher plane and eventually leave this world behind. Well, there is truth here too. We recognize that the Bible does have a message of salvation. But is it salvation by leaving this world behind? The life of Abraham might lead us to that conclusion. After all, he was asked by God to leave his family, his country and his old ways behind to go to a new land. However, when God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son, he is asking him to put that entire future promised to him at risk. Maybe an “other-worldly” escape is not the focus of the Bible either. Okay, so if it not moral instruction or heavenly escape what is the message we are supposed to get? At the very least, Genesis 22 challenges any superficial reading of the Bible because it forces us to deal with God’s incredible command to Abraham—sacrifice your son. Literally, the passage reads in verse 2, “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.” What kind of God asks his chosen servant to do such a thing? This is about no simple morality or a mindless escape. Okay then, what are we to conclude from God’s radical demand that Abraham sacrifice his son Isaac, the promised child who had finally come? 1) Morality of the Sacrifice God Demands (1-8) The first question we are faced with is the morality of the sacrifice God demands. Yet, it is important for us to remember how the Bible relates to both human beings after the fall of Adam and Eve. In the words of one scholar, the Bible views “the lives of all sinful men [as] forfeit before God; God can require the death of any sinner.” (Edmund Clowney, The Unfolding Mystery, p. 53.) There is no moral dilemma for God when it comes to demanding the life of a sinner because before a holy God no sinful person has any right to life. In other words, God did not ask Abraham to murder his son. As his firstborn, he was to sacrifice him to the Lord in light of Isaac’s, even Abraham’s, moral failure. That immediately forces us to deal with this question that the Bible is constantly raising. Could sin be so serious as to require the payment of its debt with our very lives?
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The angel of death that took the first born of every Egyptian and only spared the Israelites because of the blood of the sacrifice put on their doorposts (Exodus 12) The entire sacrificial system erected by Moses, which clearly identified the animal sacrificed with the sins committed by the Israelite (Leviticus) In the New Testament the apostle Paul echoes this truth, “The wages of sin is death…” (Rom. 6:23)
In other words, the moral dilemma according to Genesis 22 is not how can God ask Abraham to sacrifice...
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