Genesis Day 40: Our Job - Show Up & Trust God
“I don’t want to go. I have no idea why God would want me to endure such pain!” That was my plea to two good friends of mine—a husband and a wife.
I was to attend a wedding of another friend. But the wounds of my divorce were fresh. The last thing I “wanted” was to witness a marriage ceremony.
That is when they dropped a ton of bricks on me. They said, “Do you think we want to go and hear them play ‘Daddy’s little girl’ and watch them dance with their daughter? David, our job is to show up and support our good friend and leave the rest to God.”
You see, they had laid to rest their two-year-old daughter months earlier. There would never be that song, or that dance, in their lives.
I was cut to the heart. I still get emotional as I type these words. I was not sure I would share this story. I got dressed. I went. I showed up. So did God. He gave me a completely different perspective on that day.
Genesis chapter 22 makes me want to “not show up”. It is one of those stories in the Bible, that when I read it, I used to want to discount. It is one of those stories where people say to me, “I don’t like the Bible.” Or even worse, “Is this your God? He is mean!”
Back when we were reading about Noah and the Flood, I challenged myself (and you) to consider that God was, well, God! In the Flood episode God judged that humanity was evil.
Today we come to a different scenario. We again read of Abraham. If I am honest with myself, He shows more faith than me. He waits years, and most of the time believing in God. Finally, after a quarter century, he finally has a male heir—and then God asks him to sacrifice his son!
Is God being mean? The text states that God is testing Abraham.
He is. He is testing if Abraham trusts Him…and in the process, we will learn something really BIG about God.
To get to this point we need to think about the culture that surrounds Abraham and Sarah. It is a culture of child sacrifice.
In Abraham and Sarah’s day, people would observe that the earth brings forth life. And that each year the earth has seasons when the ground bursts forth with new life. That new life comes in many forms. New baby lambs. New crops. All of this new life sustains human life.
People, only knowing that this new life came from the ground, began worshiping the gods that must be underneath the ground—the same ground from which new life burst forth. They worshiped new life. They worshiped “fertility gods”. After all, maybe next year the gods and the earth won’t “give life”.
Now you and I know that there is only One True Living God. They didn’t.
They named these gods—Baal and Asherah. (You will read of them often.)
They created worship services to these fertility gods.
These services included priests having sexual relations with prostitutes in front of others—after all, that is how humans bring about life.
These services included priests sacrificing children—first born males—to appease the fertility gods.
I am wondering if you are grossed out enough yet. Please understand, I am not talking about some fringe groups. This was the culture of the majority.
This was the culture Abraham and Sarah were surrounded by. Now pause for a minute and consider. Consider that the God of Abraham was not widely known. There was only one tribe, Abraham's, that worshiped this strange singular God.
I wonder, as Abraham and Sarah are surrounded by their neighbors “going to church on Sunday and watching the priest having sex and sacrificing children”, I wonder if Abraham and Sarah are half-expecting that their God will ask for Isaac’s life?
I really do wonder about this situation. They have no Bible. They have no other stories except for Adam and Noah. Everybody else is sacrificing their firstborn. I wonder if Abraham lay next to Sarah at night, thinking about whether his God was going to ask for Isaac’s life. I wonder if Sarah is thinking the same. I wonder if they are both afraid to whisper this concern even out loud to each other in the privacy of their marriage bed.
Then it happens. The day arrives. Abraham’s God asks him to sacrifice Isaac. Does Abraham think, “Well, I guess my God is like the other gods”? Does he even tell Sarah? Then, in dramatic fashion, we have God intervening.
I have had people tell me they think that God is terribly mean to torture Abraham (and possibly Sarah).
I have a different point of view.
After this event, for centuries, this story is told. And it is a story that the God of Abraham is NOT a God that demands child sacrifice. I believe God put Abraham through this dramatic event so EVERYONE would know, that Abraham’s God is a God of Life!
Consider the alternative. If God never asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. The people after Abraham would have trundled along not realizing the magnificent difference of the One True Living God when compared to the false gods of the day.
Abraham endured emotional torment, so that God could dramatically proclaim to us just how different He is—and that leads to this story being told for thousands of years.