A postcard from the edge (Gen 22) – part five

As we finish our week-long look at the story of Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 22), we have just a few “loose ends” to tidy up. And they focus on the conclusion of the story:

Gen 22:15 The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” 19 Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.

Continue reading

A postcard from the edge (Gen 22) – part four

This week, we’re looking at the (in)famous story of Abraham and the command to sacrifice his son, Isaac. If you’re just joining us today, you really need to begin from the start of the story on Monday. We began by asking: why would God ask Abraham to do such a thing? On Tuesday, we looked at one part of the answer: God is showing that as Creator he has the right to ask for such a sacrifice – unlike the pagan, so-called ‘gods’ of the region who regularly demanded child sacrifice. Yet despite having the right, he doesn’t. He’s different from the gods around. And yesterday, we saw that maybe he did it in such a graphic, traumatic way in order to take Abraham (and us) to the brink – to fully appreciate an existence without a God who is loving, and merciful.

It makes us savour all the more how different our God is.

Continue reading

A postcard from the edge (Gen 22) – part three

This week, we’re looking at the (in)famous story of Abraham and the command to sacrifice his son, Isaac. If you’re just joining us today, you really need to begin from the start of the story on Monday. We began by asking: why would God ask Abraham to do such a thing? Yesterday, we looked at one part of the answer: God is showing (in a very graphic way) that as Creator he has the right to ask for such a sacrifice – unlike the pagan, so-called ‘gods’ of the region who regularly demanded child sacrifice. Yet despite having the right, he doesn’t. He’s different from the gods around. But we were still left with the question: why put Abraham through all that just to make this point?

Continue reading

A postcard from the edge (Gen 22) – part two

This week, we’re looking at the (in)famous story of Abraham and the command to sacrifice his son, Isaac. If you’re just joining us today, you really need to begin from the start of the story on Monday. And we began by asking: why would God ask Abraham to do such a thing?

But you see, this wasn’t an unusual command in the Ancient Near East. According to the religions of the surrounding nations, their pagan gods would often require the sacrifice of children in order to please them.  In fact, a few hundred yrs later God forbids this practice categorically in Leviticus, showing how widespread it was:

Lev 18:21 ‘Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molech’ (a Canaanite god).
Lev 20:2 ‘Any Israelite or any foreigner living in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech must be put to death. The people of the community are to stone him.’

Continue reading

A postcard from the edge (Gen 22) – part one

This week, we look at one of the most difficult passages in the bible to comprehend. Not that it’s hard to understand what’s going on – it’s a simple, powerfully-told story that a child could remember. And yet it raises questions for which we struggle to find answers. It brings up emotions we’d rather not feel. It goes beyond the ‘safe’ message that God loves us and acts to save us, instead exploring the outer limits of faith and the scarier side of God. This story that we’re about to read gives us a glimpse – a ‘snapshot’, a ‘postcard’– from the edge of faith. Let’s read it now.

Continue reading