21: Foundational Frameworks Part 21 - Believing God in Crisis


Foundational Truths: The Bible is God’s self-revelation.
God is the Eternal, Sovereign Creator; all that He creates is good.
Man is a responsible agent, held to a moral standard.
Sin originates within a person, separating us from God.
God declares one righteous by faith alone, apart from works.

Genesis 21:1-7. After 24 years sojourning in the Land, and having the promise regarding the Land, the Offspring, and the Blessing (Gen 12:1-3), the Lord opens Sarah’s womb and she conceives in her old age. The child of promise arrives. They name him “Isaac,” which means “laughter” stemming from the comments that were made by both Abraham (Gen 17:17) and Sarah (Gen 18:11-15) in response to the unlikely nature of God’s promise. 

Sarah’s response to giving birth to a child in her old age is complete and utter joy (Gen 21:6)! When she tells of the promise that YHWH made and fulfilled to her, those who hear will be joyful as well (21:7). The gossiping, shaming, and condescension would stop (much like Elizabeth’s response in Luke 1:25). 

The name “Sarah” means “mother of nations” being changed from “Sarai” meaning “princess” (Gen 17:15). “Abram” meant “exalted father,” being changed to “Abraham” meaning “father of a multitude” (Gen 17:4-5). 

Genesis 22:1-3. Moses records a test. The child of promise had come, but now YHWH was asking for this same child to become an offering before Him at the hands of Abraham. God describes Isaac as “your son, your only son, whom you love” (“āhab,” meaning to love with a deep emotional attachment or desire). Abraham makes the necessary preparations, takes two of his men, and sets off to Mount Moriah, which would become Mount Zion, the place where King Solomon would build the first temple (2 Chr 3:1). Abraham is silent in response to YHWH’s command. 

How could God ask this of Abraham? For a moment, let’s put ourselves in his sandals. Would you offer up your child? What are your options?
     A. Obey God and lose the child that you had longed for, or
     B. Refuse to obey God, keep the child, and suffer the consequences of disobedience.
Both choices are deeply troubling. They are burdensome. God allows for such things, and will often call us to the impossible so that we can see Him work. This increases our trust and glorifies His name. He can and will give us more than we can bare, leaving us no other option to turn to Him (this should not be confused with 1 Corinthians 10:13).

Genesis 22:4-8. When they arrive at the location, Abraham instructs his servants that he and the boy will return to them. Why do we not read of Abraham’s emotional state? The narrative is missing any drop of turmoil or concern on Abraham’s part. When asked by Isaac (who has done an inventory of their gear), Abraham instructs his son regarding the Lord’s provision: “ “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (Gen 22:8).
*Abraham is obeying what the Lord has asked, trusting Him for the necessities (Lamb) and the eventual outcome (salvation/rescue)!

Genesis 22:9-14. The altar is built, the items sorted, and Isaac is bound and placed upon it. Just as Abraham was to slay Isaac, the Lord calls out, stopping him. He states that now He “knows” that Abraham fears YHWH. Was this something that YHWH was unable to tell apart from this incident? Yes!
God is omniscient. He knows all things. He knows all things that will happen and could happen, both actual and potential. Nothing is hidden from His sight. However, God does not know everything experientially. He has never committed sin. He does not know how that feels. This is something that He has not experienced. Verse 14 shows the personal nature of YHWH who knows all things and is not confined by time, and yet walks beside Abraham in time through this ordeal. This concept should not surprise us, for in time and experience, God never knew what it was to die until the cross of Christ. 

When Abraham looks up, he finds that the Lord has provided a ram for the sacrifice to be offered. Instead of Isaac, the ram would be offered in his place, as a substitute, unto YHWH. This is foreshadowing to the substitution of Christ on behalf of sinners. We are told “The Lord Will Provide” (YHWH-jireh) becomes the name of this place.

Genesis 22:15-19. The angel of the Lord appears again to Abraham. We have further evidence that this is the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ due to the personal reference in v. 16 stating “By Myself…” In reading verses 16-18, we get the sense that the Abrahamic Covenant is conditioned upon Abraham’s obedience in being willing to sacrifice his son and not upon the unconditional act of YHWH in passing through the sacrificed animals in Genesis 15:17. How should we understand this? Is this a contradiction?

YHWH’s promise to Abraham consists of Land, Blessing, and Offspring (Gen 12:1-3). This covenant/contract is one regarding Abraham’s line and not so much Abraham himself. The Land would be inherited by His people, namely the nation of Israel. The Blessing would come through Jesus Christ, not Abraham. The Offspring are what come out of Abraham, he is not the fulfillment of the Offspring Promise himself. If Abraham would have withheld his son, his only son from sacrifice, the Promise would continue because it is unconditional in nature and rests upon YHWH alone to fulfill it. The blessings associated with that covenant promise would pass Abraham by and move on to his son Isaac. However, Abraham was faithful, thus the blessings are to be enjoyed by him.

Let’s stop and ask the question: What was going through Abraham’s mind that would lead him to move forward in offering up his son as a sacrifice that he would personally slaughter without any hint of emotional turmoil, anger, bitterness, refusal, or attitude on Abraham’s part?

Hebrews 11:17-19. The author of Hebrews reveals Abraham’s thought process to us. When picking up the knife to slay his son, Abraham was thinking about resurrection! He “considered” (“logizomai” meaning “to calculate, to give careful thought”- BDAG) that God’s Word was so certain, so sure (as plainly seen in the v. 18 quote of Genesis 21:12 which says, “through Isaac your descendants shall be named”), that YHWH would go to the lengths of raising Isaac from the dead in order to keep His Word. The lack of turmoil and anguish in the Genesis narrative is not because Abraham is a mindless robot unable to do anything but what God commands him. It is because he has been brought to the place in his thinking to where what God says has trumped everything else in his life’s circumstances that would seemingly come against it. God’s Word never fails, and death cannot deny its prevailing truthfulness.

It is this event that James draws from to demonstrate a beneficial (profitable) faith. “You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,’ and he was called the friend of God” (Jas 2:22-23). Abraham was justified by faith in Genesis 15:6 before YHWH. His faith was vindicated before men in Genesis 22 when he trusted YHWH beyond the bounds of human rationality. Abraham’s works were done in faith of what God had said and in doing so, his faith matured.

In thinking biblically, God’s Word trumps all things that are seen and unseen, thought through, rationalized, and presumed, whether death, disease, famine, or pain. God’s Word is always true.