Genesis 22:1−19

September 7th, 2015| Topic: aBeLOG, Genesis | 0

Genesis 22:1−19

Fear of God trumps every other allegiance and manifests in self-sacrificial obedience.

The account of Genesis 22 begins with a time-stamp: “Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham” (22:1). What “things”?

Throughout the saga of Abraham, he is shown clumsily stumbling along in his faith. In Genesis 12, he leaves his homeland, obeying God’s call, and goes to Canaan. But the next instant he is in Egypt because of a famine. The first sign of trouble, he decamps. Could he not trust God to provide?

And there in Egypt he passes Sarah off as his sister, afraid that Pharaoh would kill him for his beautiful wife. Not much faith there. If Pharaoh had taken Sarah into his harem, how would Abraham have the descendant God had promised?

Also, why did Abraham take Lot with him? God asks him to leave his relatives (12:1), but he takes his nephew along. Is Abraham thinking: “I’m too old for this child-rearing stuff that God’s talking about. I’m 75. Me change diapers at this age? I’ll just let God work through Lot—as good as my son.” But that plan was not to be: Lot ends up in Sodom.

After Lot’s off the scene, Abraham thinks in Genesis 16, “Well, alright, maybe that descendant God promised will come from my own body. But through that old lady, Sarah? I don’t think so. Maybe I’ll just … collaborate with Hagar, Sarah’s maid?” We all know how that fiasco ended.

All along, good ol’ Abe—bless his heart!—doesn’t seem to be taking God very seriously.

Finally, in Genesis 21, Isaac is born, and God makes it very clear that he had done what he had promised to do all along. Three times in two verses, God’s faithfulness is emphasized: “God took note of Sarah as He had said” (21:1a); “God did for Sarah as He had promised (21:1b); “Sarah conceived and bore a son … at the appointed time of which God had spoken to him” (21:2). A threefold rebuke to Abraham: God had been faithful, and he had kept his word—Abraham could surely trust him!

And so, in the very next chapter, Genesis 22, when Abraham is tested, he passes with flying colors. The man had learned his lesson.

Notice in 22:12: “Now I know that you fear God.” The last time fear of God was mentioned in was in 20:11. There, when Abimelech, a local ruler, confronted Abraham with his second wife/sister deception, Abraham’s excuse was: “Surely there is no fear of God in this place; and they will kill me on account of my wife” (20:11). What? Abimelech was terror-stricken at the possibility of having run up against God; the text explicitly tells us so: “And the men were greatly frightened” (20:8). It was Abraham who did not fear God enough to trust him to take care of him. How would his life be in danger before he produced progeny?

But here, in Genesis 22, Abraham had begun to trust God. So this chapter defines the meaning of “fear of God”: the child of God holds back nothing from God. Nothing!

Abraham’s loyalty to God is clearly depicted in the inspired and artful storytelling. Pre-test, Isaac is “your son, your only son, the one you love” (22:2). Post-test, he is “your son, your only son” (22:12, 16). The missing phrase makes it clear that Abraham now loved someOne else, more than his son Isaac. For Abraham so loved God, that he gave ….

The test “proved” the patriarch’s absolute allegiance to God—his unadulterated love for, fear of, and loyalty to, deity. Nothing would stand between Abraham and God. Nothing!

[For more on this passage see the appropriate section of Genesis: A Theological Commentary for Preachers.] 

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