March 25, 2016
Abraham always said, “Here am I”, when God called. He had said yes when God called him to abandon all that he had known and to follow him into a land and a future and a promise.
Tennessee Williams, “The future is called ‘perhaps,’ which is the only possible thing to call the future. And the important thing is not to let that scare you.”
Abraham had to be terrified. It had to be the worst nightmare any person could imagine.
God told him to go into the land promised to him: And he went.
God promised to make him the Father of a great nation: And he went.
God told him that after years of childlessness, Sarah would have a son: Isaac (laughter). And he was born.
Naomi Rosenblatt: “God has been building Abraham’s faith and trust over the course of his adult lifetime by giving him tangible tokens of their covenant: the land, sons, a vision of his future. . . . Armed only with his faith in the future and his trust in God, Abraham confronts his own worst nightmare — the death of his son, his clan at his own hand.”
In the Christian tradition, the OT lesson is known as “The Sacrifice of Isaac. It is known in Hebrew as the “Akedah” “The Binding”. In human terms, it is a better name. Abraham is in a bind, more in a way than Isaac. Abraham has three long days during his trek to Mount Moriah to consider his choices:
- Simply to reject God and His command which would mark the end of the covenant.
- To sacrifice his only remaining son to a God whose will he can no longer comprehend, would also negate the dream Abraham has journeyed toward for so long.
Thomas Ferguson writes, “As long as your dream (dream as fantasy) is alive you’re not living. As soon as your dream dies you start living. The dream keeps you from living.”
On the way to Moriah, the dream may not have died, but it was certainly not the same. And then at the last minute, the angel of the Lord stopped his hand.
Rosenblatt continues, “When he is asked to give up what he loves most, and then has his hand stayed at the last moment, Abraham learns that God values human life above all else and does not require its sacrifice.” p. 200
We have just begun the yearly remembering that Good Friday (I read recently that originally it was called ‘God Friday”) which is certainly true and what God did that day was indeed good, in consequence if not in method.
That remembering must go outside the reality we understand, situated as we are in time and space. The sacrifice of the Son, Second Person of the Trinity happened before the “foundation of the world” before Creation. Then in time and space, the only Son of God was born among us, fully human and fully God, died on the Cross in time and space for our sake.
Early, I suspect within days if not hours of the resurrection, someone said, “I’ve been thinking, “the story of Father Abraham, blessed be he, binding Father Isaac, blessed be he, is a type, a pre-figuring of what just happened to Rabbi Jesus. Someone else interrupted, “The Holy One, Our Lord called Father, allowed the sacrifice of his son. God did that thing from which he prevented Father Abraham.
That is why this lesson is read on Good Friday. Christians have come to see in the story of the old man and his son on the summit of Mount Moriah, the place where the temple stood, a prefiguring of the sacrifice of Jesus on a nearby hill.
The writer to the Hebrews sees the events of Good Friday to be the expression of God’s love for humanity. “Christ offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins.”
The mystery of faith is “How can this be?” How can it be, that God could love humanity so much that He demanded of Himself what He will not demand of Abraham.
Some has said, “It is Love, not the nails, kept Jesus on the cross.”
Soren Kierkegaard once said, “that if there is one thing that unites us as Christians it is our forgetting — our overlooking — how much we have been loved by God in Christ.”
It is important on this day to simply be here to remember with power. We are quick to say that Jesus has died and then move on to Easter, not stopping and being there where it happened. So let us stop and be here, and reflect in silence on what God has done for us in His Son.
In hope, in spite of the facts.