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Mothers of the Bible — Sarai/Sarah

“Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There, in the tent, ” he said. Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?” Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.” But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”…Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.” The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.”…Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old. She died at Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her. Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites. He said, “I am a foreigner and stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead. ” The Hittites replied to Abraham, “Sir, listen to us. You are a mighty prince among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will refuse you his tomb for burying your dead.”
Genesis 18:9-15, 21:1-10, 23:1-6

Dear God, I’m obviously skipping two major aspects of Sarah’s story this morning, and it’s mainly because I’ve already discussed them when talking about Abraham and Hagar. The first is her suggestion to Abraham that he have a child with Hagar. The other is the fact that Abraham sold her out at least twice (to Pharaoh and Abimelech). Both were terrible decisions on everyone’s part. The really odd part about Abimelech is that it happened when she was older and past childbearing years. She must have been very beautiful.

No, today, I want to focus on her and Isaac. She became pregnant in an improbable way. I’m sure she felt like you would never fulfill your promise to Abraham through her (see Hagar). Like she wasn’t part of the equation and was useless. Then when she hears the prophecy she laughs. Of course she laughs again after Isaac is born. Isaac’s life and just his being brought laughter to her. It’s a reminder to me that there are some things that money cannot buy, but this story is also a reminder to me to not try to be in such control of things. I don’t know what the relationship between Ishmael and Isaac was like, but it seems that the older Ishmael taunting Isaac at the celebration for his weaning was too much for her to bear. Any mother of two children will tell you that the older will tease the younger often. For Abraham, this was just his older son teasing his younger son. But for Sarah, it was totally different. It was the child of that woman teasing her precious child. This was her chance to get rid of both of them, and Sarah took it. I wonder how this served Isaac. How would he have been different if Ishmael had been around while he grew up? We saw that they joined together to bury their father later, so they certainly at least knew of each other. It’s a hard story.

Finally, we get Sarah’s death and burial. I am sure her life did not go as planned. On the one hand, she was rich. She was given to not only Abraham in marriage, but she was beautiful enough to be given in marriage to Pharaoh and Abimelech too. I’m sure that, to a large extent, she felt used–like Abraham’s property. Just one more possession to serve him. We aren’t told about her relationship with you. Did she worship you alongside Abraham? Did you find her special as well? She obviously hoped to be a mother, but gave up on that dream. And then you brought her laughter. I suppose that means she hadn’t had much laughter before that.

Father, I’m not sure what there is to learn from Sarah when it comes to motherhood, but this little focus on her has been a good opportunity to think more about who she was and what we know about what she did and what was done to her. For me, just help me to let go of my expectations and my attempts to plan things. You have been particularly good to me lately and blessed the fruits of my labor. Help me to continue to simply labor as unto you. Help me to serve you through my marriage, my parenting, and my work. Help me to bring a piece of you into the world.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2020 in Genesis, Mothers of the Bible

 

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Fathers of the Bible — Abraham and Isaac (Part 2)

Abraham was now a very old man, and the Lord had blessed him in every way. One day Abraham said to his oldest servant, the man in charge of his household, “Take an oath by putting your hand under my thigh. Swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and earth, that you will not allow my son to marry one of these local Canaanite women. Go instead to my homeland, to my relatives, and find a wife there for my son Isaac.” The servant asked, “But what if I can’t find a young woman who is willing to travel so far from home? Should I then take Isaac there to live among your relatives in the land you came from?” “No!” Abraham responded. “Be careful never to take my son there. For the Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and my native land, solemnly promised to give this land to my descendants. He will send his angel ahead of you, and he will see to it that you find a wife there for my son. If she is unwilling to come back with you, then you are free from this oath of mine. But under no circumstances are you to take my son there.” So the servant took an oath by putting his hand under the thigh of his master, Abraham. He swore to follow Abraham’s instructions. Then he loaded ten of Abraham’s camels with all kinds of expensive gifts from his master, and he traveled to distant Aram-naharaim. There he went to the town where Abraham’s brother Nahor had settled. He made the camels kneel beside a well just outside the town. It was evening, and the women were coming out to draw water. “O Lord, God of my master, Abraham,” he prayed. “Please give me success today, and show unfailing love to my master, Abraham. See, I am standing here beside this spring, and the young women of the town are coming out to draw water. This is my request. I will ask one of them, ‘Please give me a drink from your jug.’ If she says, ‘Yes, have a drink, and I will water your camels, too!’—let her be the one you have selected as Isaac’s wife. This is how I will know that you have shown unfailing love to my master.” Before he had finished praying, he saw a young woman named Rebekah coming out with her water jug on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel, who was the son of Abraham’s brother Nahor and his wife, Milcah. Rebekah was very beautiful and old enough to be married, but she was still a virgin. She went down to the spring, filled her jug, and came up again. Running over to her, the servant said, “Please give me a little drink of water from your jug.” “Yes, my lord,” she answered, “have a drink.” And she quickly lowered her jug from her shoulder and gave him a drink. When she had given him a drink, she said, “I’ll draw water for your camels, too, until they have had enough to drink.” So she quickly emptied her jug into the watering trough and ran back to the well to draw water for all his camels. The servant watched her in silence, wondering whether or not the Lord had given him success in his mission. Then at last, when the camels had finished drinking, he took out a gold ring for her nose and two large gold bracelets for her wrists. “Whose daughter are you?” he asked. “And please tell me, would your father have any room to put us up for the night?” “I am the daughter of Bethuel,” she replied. “My grandparents are Nahor and Milcah. Yes, we have plenty of straw and feed for the camels, and we have room for guests.” The man bowed low and worshiped the Lord. “Praise the Lord, the God of my master, Abraham,” he said. “The Lord has shown unfailing love and faithfulness to my master, for he has led me straight to my master’s relatives.” The young woman ran home to tell her family everything that had happened. Now Rebekah had a brother named Laban, who ran out to meet the man at the spring. He had seen the nose-ring and the bracelets on his sister’s wrists, and had heard Rebekah tell what the man had said. So he rushed out to the spring, where the man was still standing beside his camels. Laban said to him, “Come and stay with us, you who are blessed by the Lord! Why are you standing here outside the town when I have a room all ready for you and a place prepared for the camels?” So the man went home with Laban, and Laban unloaded the camels, gave him straw for their bedding, fed them, and provided water for the man and the camel drivers to wash their feet. Then food was served. But Abraham’s servant said, “I don’t want to eat until I have told you why I have come.” “All right,” Laban said, “tell us.” “I am Abraham’s servant,” he explained. “And the Lord has greatly blessed my master; he has become a wealthy man. The Lord has given him flocks of sheep and goats, herds of cattle, a fortune in silver and gold, and many male and female servants and camels and donkeys. “When Sarah, my master’s wife, was very old, she gave birth to my master’s son, and my master has given him everything he owns. And my master made me take an oath. He said, ‘Do not allow my son to marry one of these local Canaanite women. Go instead to my father’s house, to my relatives, and find a wife there for my son.’ “But I said to my master, ‘What if I can’t find a young woman who is willing to go back with me?’ He responded, ‘The Lord, in whose presence I have lived, will send his angel with you and will make your mission successful. Yes, you must find a wife for my son from among my relatives, from my father’s family. Then you will have fulfilled your obligation. But if you go to my relatives and they refuse to let her go with you, you will be free from my oath.’ “So today when I came to the spring, I prayed this prayer: ‘O Lord, God of my master, Abraham, please give me success on this mission. See, I am standing here beside this spring. This is my request. When a young woman comes to draw water, I will say to her, “Please give me a little drink of water from your jug.” If she says, “Yes, have a drink, and I will draw water for your camels, too,” let her be the one you have selected to be the wife of my master’s son.’ “Before I had finished praying in my heart, I saw Rebekah coming out with her water jug on her shoulder. She went down to the spring and drew water. So I said to her, ‘Please give me a drink.’ She quickly lowered her jug from her shoulder and said, ‘Yes, have a drink, and I will water your camels, too!’ So I drank, and then she watered the camels. “Then I asked, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She replied, ‘I am the daughter of Bethuel, and my grandparents are Nahor and Milcah.’ So I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her wrists. “Then I bowed low and worshiped the Lord. I praised the Lord , the God of my master, Abraham, because he had led me straight to my master’s niece to be his son’s wife. So tell me—will you or won’t you show unfailing love and faithfulness to my master? Please tell me yes or no, and then I’ll know what to do next.” Then Laban and Bethuel replied, “The Lord has obviously brought you here, so there is nothing we can say. Here is Rebekah; take her and go. Yes, let her be the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has directed.” When Abraham’s servant heard their answer, he bowed down to the ground and worshiped the Lord. Then he brought out silver and gold jewelry and clothing and presented them to Rebekah. He also gave expensive presents to her brother and mother. Then they ate their meal, and the servant and the men with him stayed there overnight. But early the next morning, Abraham’s servant said, “Send me back to my master.” “But we want Rebekah to stay with us at least ten days,” her brother and mother said. “Then she can go.” But he said, “Don’t delay me. The Lord has made my mission successful; now send me back so I can return to my master.” “Well,” they said, “we’ll call Rebekah and ask her what she thinks.” So they called Rebekah. “Are you willing to go with this man?” they asked her. And she replied, “Yes, I will go.” So they said good-bye to Rebekah and sent her away with Abraham’s servant and his men. The woman who had been Rebekah’s childhood nurse went along with her. They gave her this blessing as she parted: “Our sister, may you become the mother of many millions! May your descendants be strong and conquer the cities of their enemies.” Then Rebekah and her servant girls mounted the camels and followed the man. So Abraham’s servant took Rebekah and went on his way. Meanwhile, Isaac, whose home was in the Negev, had returned from Beer-lahai-roi. One evening as he was walking and meditating in the fields, he looked up and saw the camels coming. When Rebekah looked up and saw Isaac, she quickly dismounted from her camel. “Who is that man walking through the fields to meet us?” she asked the servant. And he replied, “It is my master.” So Rebekah covered her face with her veil. Then the servant told Isaac everything he had done. And Isaac brought Rebekah into his mother Sarah’s tent, and she became his wife. He loved her deeply, and she was a special comfort to him after the death of his mother.
Genesis 24

Dear God, when comparing this story to the others stories in Genesis, it should probably not be overlooked how much space was given to this one scene. While doing these other stories, I have been struck by how economical the storytelling has been, but this one uses an entire chapter. We meet Rebekah and we meet Laban (whom we will meet later when it’s time for Jacob to marry). But there are two things I noticed about Abraham’s parenting of Isaac in this story:

  1. He wanted Isaac to NOT marry a Canaanite woman, but a woman from the family. He saw that it was important to find someone who would not pull Isaac away from you or the customs of worshipping you. The whole thing about keeping it in the family feels weird to me, but we will assume this wasn’t weird at the time because no one seems to blink an eye at it.
  2. He didn’t want Isaac to leave the area. He didn’t want him to go leave Canaan, but to stay there. I wonder how old Isaac was at this time. I know Sarah was 127 when she died, but I’m not totally sure how they measured years at that point, and I don’t know how old she was when he was born. I know that Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born and died at 175, but, again, I don’t know how long a year was in their time. My point is, at that point he didn’t trust Isaac to make the decisions that Abraham thought best.

So this is really a story, from a parenting perspective, about putting blinders on your child to help guide them. It would be helpful to know Isaac’s age for context, but there are certainly times in raising a child when you put blinders on them, and then there are times when you take them away and let them discover their own boundaries the hard way.

I was talking with someone last night about their granddaughter and the frustrating decisions she is making. The granddaughter is 20 and was only adopted by this woman’s daughter three or four years ago. She has seen a lot. She has lived a more difficult life than I probably ever will. And this grandmother wants to save her from some of the bad decisions she is making right now. As I talked to her, however, it became clear to me that, at this point, the best we can offer as parents or grandparents is a safe place/home base for the adult children as they figure out the boundaries of their lives for themselves. My grandmother once said that you can’t put an old head on young shoulders. So true.

Father, help me to know how to parent my adult children. Help me to know what to do and what not to do. Love them through me. Parent them as you need them to be parented at this stage of their lives through me. Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2020 in Fathers of the Bible, Genesis

 

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Fathers of the Bible — Abraham and Isaac (Part 1)

The Lord kept his word and did for Sarah exactly what he had promised. She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age. This happened at just the time God had said it would. And Abraham named their son Isaac. Eight days after Isaac was born, Abraham circumcised him as God had commanded. Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born…When Isaac grew up and was about to be weaned, Abraham prepared a huge feast to celebrate the occasion. But Sarah saw Ishmael—the son of Abraham and her Egyptian servant Hagar—making fun of her son, Isaac. So she turned to Abraham and demanded, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son. He is not going to share the inheritance with my son, Isaac. I won’t have it!” This upset Abraham very much because Ishmael was his son. But God told Abraham, “Do not be upset over the boy and your servant. Do whatever Sarah tells you, for Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted. But I will also make a nation of the descendants of Hagar’s son because he is your son, too.” So Abraham got up early the next morning, prepared food and a container of water, and strapped them on Hagar’s shoulders. Then he sent her away with their son, and she wandered aimlessly in the wilderness of Beersheba…Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called. “Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.” “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.” The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day of their journey, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. “Stay here with the donkey,” Abraham told the servants. “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.” So Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them walked on together, Isaac turned to Abraham and said, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “We have the fire and the wood,” the boy said, “but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?” “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both walked on together. When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!” “Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.” Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the Lord will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” Then the angel of the Lord called again to Abraham from heaven. “This is what the Lord says: Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by my own name that I will certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will conquer the cities of their enemies. And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed—all because you have obeyed me.” Then they returned to the servants and traveled back to Beersheba, where Abraham continued to live.
Genesis 21:1-5,8-14,22:1-19

Dear God, when I was picking an image for this story I found it hard to pick from the ones that showed Isaac bound on the altar. I cannot imagine what kind of trauma and confusion that must have caused him. From his perspective, his father lied to everyone and had gone crazy. He was old. Was he senile? How was Isaac to know? I am hopeful that you let him in on your conversation with Abraham when you told him to not hurt him and that this was only a test. For Isaac’s sake, I hope you let him hear that. I wonder if Isaac ever told Sarah about it.

I also read somewhere once that Muslims have this same story in their history, but it is Ishmael who is be sacrificed. Of course, I’ll stick with the Isaac version, but, either way, I think the lesson is the same. What kinds of expectations do we, as fathers, put on our children? Do we expect them to carry on our name, accomplish what we never did, etc.? Do we find our fulfillment in them? Do we allow them and their potential to replace you? Is that what Abraham had done?

One thing that is clear through these stories of Abraham is that, while he loved you and worshipped you, he certainly loved himself and his own self-preservation more than being noble. He lied to Pharaoh and Abimelech about Sarah not being his wife so that they wouldn’t hurt him–giving her over to them to be their wife. He listened to Sarah’s suggestion to have a child with Hagar because they were not willing to wait and see how your plan unfolded. He excommunicated Hagar and Ishmael because…well, you apparently told him to do it, but it still seems like he sent them out to die instead of giving them some servants and supplies to ensure their survival. And then you felt the need to test him and break him through this story of having to sacrifice Isaac and the promise he so badly wanted you to keep, that you would make his descendants a great nation.

Father, I don’t know what you are calling me to do, but I pray that everything I do will be without regard to my own benefit. I suppose I need to be even more generous with my time and money because I have found myself being kind of selfish lately. I’ve been leaning towards being materialistic and covetous. I’ve been indifferent to the hardships of others. It’s terrible, I know. I am sorry. Please forgive me.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2020 in Fathers of the Bible, Genesis

 

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Fathers of the Bible — Abraham (Ishmael)

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had not been able to bear children for him. But she had an Egyptian servant named Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, “The Lord has prevented me from having children. Go and sleep with my servant. Perhaps I can have children through her.” And Abram agreed with Sarai’s proposal. So Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian servant and gave her to Abram as a wife. (This happened ten years after Abram had settled in the land of Canaan.) So Abram had sexual relations with Hagar, and she became pregnant. But when Hagar knew she was pregnant, she began to treat her mistress, Sarai, with contempt. Then Sarai said to Abram, “This is all your fault! I put my servant into your arms, but now that she’s pregnant she treats me with contempt. The Lord will show who’s wrong—you or me!” Abram replied, “Look, she is your servant, so deal with her as you see fit.” Then Sarai treated Hagar so harshly that she finally ran away. The angel of the Lord found Hagar beside a spring of water in the wilderness, along the road to Shur. The angel said to her, “Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from, and where are you going?” “I’m running away from my mistress, Sarai,” she replied. The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority.” Then he added, “I will give you more descendants than you can count.” And the angel also said, “You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’), for the Lord has heard your cry of distress. This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.” Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” So that well was named Beer-lahai-roi (which means “well of the Living One who sees me”). It can still be found between Kadesh and Bered. So Hagar gave Abram a son, and Abram named him Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Ishmael was born…When Isaac grew up and was about to be weaned, Abraham prepared a huge feast to celebrate the occasion. But Sarah saw Ishmael—the son of Abraham and her Egyptian servant Hagar—making fun of her son, Isaac. So she turned to Abraham and demanded, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son. He is not going to share the inheritance with my son, Isaac. I won’t have it!” This upset Abraham very much because Ishmael was his son. But God told Abraham, “Do not be upset over the boy and your servant. Do whatever Sarah tells you, for Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted. But I will also make a nation of the descendants of Hagar’s son because he is your son, too.” So Abraham got up early the next morning, prepared food and a container of water, and strapped them on Hagar’s shoulders. Then he sent her away with their son, and she wandered aimlessly in the wilderness of Beersheba.
Genesis 16:1-16,21:8-14

Dear God, there is so much to discuss with Abraham as a father that I thought I would split it into two parts. I’ll look at Ishmael first, and then Isaac.

What a tragedy that this even took place. I have to say that Abraham really didn’t seem to have much regard for women. He gave Sarai/Sarah away to other men twice out of fear for his life (Pharaoh and Abimelech). He took the slave girl as his wife and conscripted her into being the fulfillment of your promise to him. And now he gives into Sarah’s command to send Hagar and Ishmael off into the wilderness with just some water and food. No servants to go help her get established. No camels or livestock. Not real settlement for his wife except marching orders.

So how did all of this make Ishmael feel as a son? Here are some questions:

  • What did it teach him about how he should treat women? I suppose he saw his mother’s love for him. He had to have appreciated who she was. In fact, I would imagine that it was men and Abraham that he had trouble trusting. But much like I think Solomon learned a lack of respect for women from his father, I suspect that what Abraham modeled here wasn’t very helpful to the women who would encounter Ishmael.
  • How did Ishmael respond to his dad? I think it is important to note that Islam tells all of this a little differently. For example, they apparently tell the story of Abraham being tested and willing to sacrifice Isaac with Ishmael in the Isaac role. I don’t know where the truth in that story is, but either way, all of this would have to leave a child with trust issues.
  • Did Ishmael ever get any fatherly love/nurturing from Abraham? None is really recorded. The prophecy over Ishmael is that he will have conflict with others all of his life, but that’s pretty much how he was raised. His mother and Sarah were in conflict. Abraham seemed unable to control the enmity between them. He was probably treated differently by others. When he and him mom were sent away and he almost died, I’m sure it made him bitter. And then the years of struggling in the wilderness while Isaac grew up in what at the time would have been considered luxury. Yeah, I can see where this would have left him bitter and very tough.

I think the big take aways from this thread of Abraham’s story are that we should wait on your timing, and, if we get out ahead of you and make a mistake, we should humbly do our best to pay the price and natural consequences of our actions and not try to mitigate their impact on our personal lives by making them someone else’s problem. Ishmael and Hagar got caught in a pretty bad web. I am sorry for them. I’m also sorry for any times when I’ve given my own children any reason to not trust me. I’m sorry for anything I might have done that shifted the burden of my mistakes/sin from me to anyone else, including them. Please help me to always wait on your timing and to take responsibility for the sins I commit.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2019 in Fathers of the Bible, Genesis

 

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The Binding – Genesis 22:9-18

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The image above is from Redeemed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-ups by Ned Bustard. This particular piece of art was done by Kevin Lindholm and is called “Knight of Faith.”

Genesis 22:9-18 [NLT]
9 When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. 10 And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. 11 At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!”
12 “Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.”
13 Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. 14 Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the Lord will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
15 Then the angel of the Lord called again to Abraham from heaven. 16 “This is what the Lord says: Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by my own name that 17 I will certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants[a] beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will conquer the cities of their enemies. 18 And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed—all because you have obeyed me.”

Dear God, I’ve spent some time with this story in the past. So much time, in fact, that I’m curious to see what I might have missed.

It’s interesting to me that Bustard chose, in this book’s telling of the story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac, to start with their arrival at the place for the sacrifice. I’ve usually spent more time in verses 1-8 than I have 9-18. So what is here that I might have missed in the past? Or what have I seen before of which you need to remind me?

Verse 9 alone must have really done something to alter the relationship between Isaac and Abraham. Frankly, I’m a little surprised that Isaac even worshipped you after that. If I had been him, I would have thought my dad was crazy and that would have included his worship of you. If I try to imagine this scene, it’s horrific. I almost need to just set that aside before I get deeper into the story because if I start to look at this story through Isaac’s eyes it freaks me out a little.

The thing I’ve noticed in this story in the past is Abraham’s possible idolization of his son and the promise that you gave him about his descendants. In verses 1-8, as he is lying to Sarah, to the servant, and to Isaac; as he is walking for a few days to reach the site; as he is eating and talking with Isaac; as he is silently thinking and praying; I am sure that he was doing a lot of repenting and wondering how much he had failed you by taking his eyes off of you and giving in to his own vanity.

With all of that said, let me see what I notice in this image:

  • The most prominent thing in the image is the knife. It seems like it’s the first thing Lindholm wants me to see. The knife, gripped by Abraham’s fist. Something horrific is about to happen and I don’t think the artist wants me to miss that fact.
  • The next thing I notice is Abraham’s face. He is staring up. Is the look in his eyes desperation? Despair? Anguish? Surprise?
  • There is a hand with two fingers touching Abraham’s hand. The fingers are no bigger than Abraham’s. They are a different color.
  • There is the boy. His eyes are closed. Given the comments I made earlier about the horror of verse 9, it would have been an interesting choice to leave Isaac’s eyes open. Did Lindholm consider that? Was that perhaps just too hard to see so he closed them instead? Was Isaac just waiting for the end? Another choice would have been to make Isaac look afraid. Terrified. But Lindholm chose to make him asleep. Interesting. Perhaps he envisioned that Abraham knocked him out.
  • There is the ram, already there, with his horns stuck in the thicket. If I had been the artist I might have shown a larger, more dense thicket, but perhaps Lindholm is suggesting that you didn’t need to do much to provide this ram for the sacrifice.

In the description of this picture, Bustard quotes Tim Keller: “God saw Abraham’s sacrifice and said, ‘Now I know that you love me, because you did not withhold your only son from me.’ But how much more can we look at his sacrifice on the cross and say to God, ‘Now we know that you love us. For you did not withhold your son, your only son, whom you love, from us.”

Father, search me today and help me to see what I have not sacrificed to you. Which parts of my vanity are still too important to me? Deal with me gently, Father. I know I am proud. I know I am vain. I know I can be selfish. Help me, Father to not get to a point where you have to go to these lengths to get my attention and repentance.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 

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