There are a lot of interesting stories in the Bible. And sometimes you are invited to preach about them. This happened to me a few weeks ago when I was asked to preach on Genesis 22:1-14 for a church’s midweek service. Genesis 22 is often referred to as “The Binding of Isaac.”
Or, it can be referred to as that time God told a dad to sacrifice his child. (There’s a reason you won’t find this story in a children’s Bible.)
As a dad myself I struggled with this story differently than I had before. How could a loving God ask a dad to give up his son as a sacrifice? What would God ask Abraham to kill his son?
And I wrestled with just how I would preach this text. It is not an easy story. It makes us uncomfortable and we feel anything but safe. It’s not one of those warm and fuzzy children’s Bible kind of story.
And maybe that’s the point?
Perhaps the Genesis writer, who can span generations of families in a single chapter, slows down in the Abrahamic narrative to tell this story (with all the detail) for the simple reason that it makes us uncomfortable – that is causes us to wrestle with it a bit, not unlike how we, from time to time, wrestle with our faith.
And as I wrestled with this text, I tried to imagine what Abraham the dad was thinking. I imagine that when Abraham was chopping wood that day his thoughts ranged from anger to awe. Did he release what anger he had towards God with every swing of the axe? Or did he remember all the times God provided and kept his promises?
I think when crazy things come up in life – like God asking you to sacrifice your child – we tend to search for explanations as to why these things are happening. Why did my dad get cancer? Why did the car break down THIS week? Why does this professor hate me so much?
The problem with seeking explanations, is too often it leaves frustrated because of the answer we get, don’t get, or it leaves us with more questions.
Even though God has asked something crazy and tragic of him, Abraham chooses to be faithful, focusing, not on the explanations – in fact he never asks why –but on the promises of God. Abraham understood that God’s will never contradicts God’s promises.
Our assurance of faith does not stand on explanations; instead it stands on the promises of God.
I don’t know what’s going on in your life, but I imagine that there are days that aren’t as great as others. I imagine that there are some relationship tensions or work place drama that you could do without. There is a lot of crazy going on in our world that may leave us wondering, “Why, God?”
But we must not take our eyes off the sacrificial lamb God provided in Jesus Christ – the fulfillment of promises that God made.
God promises, one by one, are never broken. Unlike the frailty of humanity, God keeps his promises.
When we stand on these promises we, like Isaac, are unbound from the things that hold us down. When we stand firm on the promises of God, we can overcome and weather any trial and test that comes our way.
Rev. Jason Stanley is an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church, chair of the Order of Deacons in the Virginia Conference, and currently serving as the Coordinator for Church Revitalization on the Elizabeth River District in Virginia. Jason is married to Rev. Megan Saucier and dad to Jayne Carter. Jason is also an avid blogger so be sure to check out his blog here and like his blog’s Facebook page here.