Part 1 – Genesis 22:1-11 – GOD, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?
She was ferocious and yet frail. When I told her that I was a Chaplain she took the opportunity to bombard me with accusations and questions. “What is the use of prayer if God is going to let those 29 miners die anyway? All those good people prayed around the clock for those miners, yet they died. What use is prayer?” She referred to the mining disaster on the news last night (30th November, 2010).
Julie, my wife, says that many people have the idea that God is a GENIE IN A BOTTLE, there to do THEIR bidding. Actually, it is only when I do HIS bidding, come under HIS authority, enter into relationship with Him, love and trust in Him that I find the perspective I need to be able to pray for the answers I need. And living a life of faith is not always easy, as Abraham discovered in Genesis 22.
I think what shocks me about this passage is that God asks Abraham to SACRIFICE HIS ONLY SON as a burnt offering even though at the last minute He stops him. Why would God advocate murdering my own son? If I am looking for evidence or justification that God is not concerned about me, that He randomly chooses to answer my prayers in totally abstract, dispassionate and sometimes brutal ways, imposing impossible standards upon me, then here it is. Or is it? God, what are You thinking?
Why would God be so callous and uncaring as to trick someone into thinking that taking a human life is what He desires and wait until the last moment to tell him that it isn’t? Vivid, brutal, dispassionate, distressing to the point of being traumatic for those involved, especially Isaac. What kind of effect is this going to have on him for the rest of his life? That’s why this passage shocks me. God, what are You thinking?
As I look at the whole story I can only think of two possible reasons God is asking Abraham to kill his only son and then to intervene and stop him before he actually does. The first reason has to do with my PRIORITIES.
Isaac is now a young man and Abraham has grown to love him. And as if God is rubbing it in, He says “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, WHOM YOU LOVE SO MUCH—and … SACRIFICE HIM as a burnt offering …” (Genesis 22:2 NLT).
Perhaps the real point that God is making is to do with my ultimate allegiance. Is He saying “Is there anything that you would NOT be willing to sacrifice in order to obey Me? Who do you love most?” And yes, love is related to obedience. Jesus said in John 14:15 (NLT) “If you love Me, obey My commandments.” Is my love for God going to be a PREEMINENT factor in how I live my life? When it comes to the crunch, who and what governs my responses to life? Deuteronomy 6:5 (NLT) puts it this way – “…love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.”
For Abraham that is the key. He knows God’s voice, loves Him, trusts Him, and obeys Him. Before I can understand any other reason for what appears to be a gruesome request, that’s where I must start – with a wholehearted, genuine commitment to loving God above all else. My love drives my obedience to complete that which my faith has begun (see James 2:23). My trust in God and my obedience to His Word is derived from my love for Him.
How can I experience that kind of love? 1 John 4:19 (NIV) “We love because He first loved us.” When I enter into relationship with God it is because I realize that He loved me so much that He sent His only Son to pay the penalty for my sins. I respond to that message by coming under His authority, giving my life to Him. Jesus tells me in John 14:23 (NLT) that “All who love Me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and We will come and make our home with each of them.”
Without love there can be no relationship with God and no obedience to His Word. Without love there can be no secure reason to trust in God when my world seems at times to be falling apart. 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NLT) says “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.”