GOSPEL ANALYSIS: What is Your Isaac
Genesis 22:1-14 (Genesis 22:1-14 is an alternative to Jeremiah 28:5-9)
Pastor Edward F. Markquart
Grace Lutheran Church
Des Moines, Washington 98198
The following Bible study is from a larger course entitled, THE OLD TESTAMENT. This course for the laity will be available for congregations in 2007.
THE OLD TESTAMENT, Session 14, Father Abraham (4), Sacrifice of Isaac
1After these things God tested Abraham. Circle the word, “test.” We recall that the Lord also tested Job. We recall that Jesus was tested in the wilderness by the power of evil. The Lord, life, evil: these all test us to see what we are made of, of what kind of metal is in us. The Lord and life test us so that we can see for ourselves what kind of people we are, so that we can see more clearly within our hearts what values we hold dear.
He said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." Father Abraham and the Lord have a talking relationship with each other. We too, four thousand years later, also have a talking relationship with God.
2 He said, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, Oh, oh. Take your only son whom you love. The seed is planted for a gradually unfolding tragedy.
The Lord does not tell what Father Abraham was do to with his only son whom he loved. Could it be that Father Abraham had come to love his son, his only son, too much? A problem is lurking in the shadows.
Highlight the word, “only.” Your ONLY son whom you love. This story lays the groundwork for the New Testament and God offering his only Son as a sacrifice.
Underline the phrase, “land of Moriah.” Most scholars think that Moriah is the site of Solomon’s temple and now the site of the Muslim worship site in Jerusalem. It is called “The Dome of the Rock.”
“Mount Moriah (pronounced in Hebrew as moe-ree-yaw) in Jerusalem, now popularly known as the Temple Mount, has been a focal point of Bible History right from very early times. It was the place where Abraham nearly sacrificed Isaac. It was the place where Solomon built the original Temple of God. It was the location of many of the events during the ministry of Jesus Christ, with the scene of His arrest on The Mount Of Olives on The Fateful Night just to the east, and His Crucifixion (see How Did Jesus Christ Die?) at Calvary just to the north. And there is much more set to happen there.” …Today, Mount Moriah is under Muslim control. The gold-topped Dome Of The Rock is the most famous present-day sight atop the Temple Mount, while Jews pray below at The Western Wall”
“Unit 1 contains God's command to sacrifice Isaac. Moriah is impossible to locate geographically. The later tradition of 2 Chronicles 3:1 identifies Mount Moriah with the site of Solomon' s temple. (“Solomon began to build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to his father David, at the place that David had designated, on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.”) The connection this story draws between Abraham and Solomon's temple through the interpretation of the Chronicles tradition gives the site of the temple an ancestral connection, hence the site acquires greater venerability.”
We recall that Islam and the Koran remember the story of Abraham’s facing the challenge of his willingness to sacrifice his son. The Dome on the Rock commemorates this event for Muslims.
And offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you." What! Testing by asking Abraham to offer his most precious possession? Does the Lord God really ask us to offer our children as a burnt offering, in order to test us to find out what is the most important possession in our lives? What does this story mean? Let us proceed.
3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. Abraham obeyed the voice and direction of God. It appears that Father Abraham was willing to sacrifice his own son as a burnt offering.
In a modern world, we think that anyone who is willing to sacrifice their child to appease some form of god is crazy.
We know that the God of the Old Testament was clearly against child sacrifice. There must be something else going on in this story.
4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. Circle the phrase, “on the third day.” The Lord God provided for their need on the third day. The third day was the day of the miracle, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. The Lord delivered the biggest miracle possible on the third day.
5 Then Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you." Father Abraham and his only son Isaac whom he dearly loved would separate from the two men and go off and be alone with God.
6 Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. We can visualize Isaac carrying the wood and not knowing that he was carrying the wood to be used for a fire on which he would be sacrificed. We can see Abraham carrying the fire and knife. The story is too bewildering for our minds to comprehend.
7 Isaac said to his father Abraham, "Father!" And he said, "Here I am, my son." He said, "The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" We feel the innocence of young Isaac. Young Isaac knows the wood and fire are present but the offering is no where to be seen.
8 Abraham said, "God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." Underline the words, “God himself will provide the lamb.” Abraham was sure God would provide an appropriate offering. Abraham knew this in his deepest heart, that God would not ask him to offer his son as a living sacrifice and violate every principle of goodness and righteousness. The Lord God does not ask us to do evil things, heinous things, the worst possible thing such as killing one’s own son.
In his deepest heart, Father Abraham knew that God would provide an offering and that offering would not be his only, deeply loved son. Abraham trusted that the Lord would provide as the Lord had done for him throughout his whole life.
This event becomes a symbol of the New Testament truth that Jesus was the Lamb of God who was offered up by God as a sacrifice for the whole world. Jesus was the only Son of God.
So the two of them walked on together. 9 When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order.
He bound his sonIsaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. It must have been apparent to Isaac in this moment that he was the sacrifice to be laid on the wood. Isaac must have been stunned, bewildered, perplexed, numbed by the idea that he himself would be the sacrifice.
10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. This story is going too far. The Lord God was testing the heart of Father Abraham and this test was going to the edge, to the brink, to the precipice of unimaginable tragedy.
11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" At the precipitous moment, the angel of the Lord intervened. Whew. We experience relief.
And he said, "Here I am."
12 He said, "Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me." This is the test, that God wanted to know and Abraham needed to know and Isaac needed to know that Father Abraham loved the Lord God even more than his only son whom he deeply loved. Son Isaac needed to know this and Abraham in his heart needed to know this as well.
Circle the words, “fear God.” We are to fear God, stand in awe of God, be aware of God’s infinite glorious, good and eternal Presence among us. By the word, “fear” write in the word “awe.”
As Christians, we are called to fear, love and trust God above all things. Children can easily become our idols who we worship and do not even realize it.
This story is not so much about child sacrifice as it is a story about child worship, where a child or children can become the central value of our lives. Our children can become our “gods” that we cherish more than anything else in life.
13 And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. There was the offering. There was the ram.
14 So Abraham called that place "The Lord will provide"; as it is said to this day, "On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided." Highlight. Underline. Emphasize. The Lord will provide. And those words are still said to this day in the twenty-first century.
So we have two themes about “the Lord will provide.” That is, the “Lord will provide for us in all circumstances.” That is one theme.
But there was another theme earlier in the story, “that God will provide the lamb for the offering.” This statement foreshadows the New Testament when God provided his only Son for to be the sacrificial lamb for the whole world.
15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 16 and said, "By myself I have sworn, says the Lord: Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, Abraham trust and obeyed the voice of God.
17 I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies, 18 and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, The covenant is repeated again: that there will be offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and the sands of the seashore.
because you have obeyed my voice." Circle the word, “obey.” Even though Abraham did not have the Ten Commandments to obey, Abraham obeyed the voice of God. Abraham has always been a model of “believe and obey” for Christians through the centuries.
FROM A SERMON: What is your Isaac?
Then came the third day. The wood was laid for a burnt offering and Abraham wrapped his son in a cord, as if son Isaac, that precious bundle of pleasure, would be the offering. Isaac wasn’t laughing any more and Abraham wasn’t laughing as he tied his son up to be the offering. Father Abraham tied his son up, laid him on the wood to be the offering, pulled out his knife to kill him. As Abraham raised his knife to kill the little boy, God’s angel from heaven shouted from heaven: “Don’t you touch that boy! Don’t you lay a hand on that child!’ For I now see that you love me more than anything else in the world.” Abraham cut his son loose. His son began smiling again and the father began smiling again also.
Father Abraham heard the bleat of a ram and saw the ram caught by its horns in the thicket. He grabbed the ram and knew that the ram would be the offering. Abraham named that place where this incident occurred, The Lord Has Provided, because God had been faithful to his promises. The Lord had provided.
God will provide for you and me in all circumstances, no matter how bad, no matter how seemingly impossible, the Lord God will provide for us what we need. For that is the promise of the Lord.
A transition: God hates child sacrifice. God knew that Isaac would not be sacrificed as a burnt offering. God hated child sacrifice in the Canaanite religion. Child sacrifice was detestable to God, abominable to God, a heinous sin to God. God was testing Father Abraham to see whom he loved more: God or the child.
There are three points to this text:
First, we are to learn to fear God as Abraham feared God.
At the heart of the text is this line: “Don’t you touch the boy, Abraham. For I now see that you fear God above all things.” The first commandment is this: you are to have no other gods before me. And that includes your children and family. Martin Luther, in his explanation of this commandment, said that we are to fear, love and trust God above all things.
Nowadays, in our Christian faith, we know what it means to love God. We know what it means to trust God. But I am not sure that we know what it means to fear God. That is what I would like to talk with you about today: what does it mean to fear God?
To fear God does not mean to be afraid of God. As human beings, we all have fears or phobias, and we know what those fears feel like. For example, I am afraid of snakes. As a little boy, I did not pick up garter snakes by tail and chase girls with those snakes. Why? I was and still am afraid of snakes. I am also afraid of spiders. Again, as a little boy, I did not capture spiders, chase after girls and throw the spiders playfully at their hair. Why? I was afraid of spiders. I am also afraid of heights. That is, when visiting the Space Needle in Seattle, I back myself into the wall as far back from the edge of the Needle as possible. I do not like edges of tall buildings or edges of tall cliffs. I have those deep fears of heights. As a little boy, I was also afraid of the dark, and I hate to admit it, but even as a young adult into my thirties, I was afraid of the dark and wanted a night light near me to scare away the darkness. We all have fears and phobias, and we know what our fears and phobias are.
That is not what it means to fear God. It does not mean to have a phobia of God.
Rather, I need to be part of an illustration. Would you all place yourself in your mind in a ten-foot rowboat? You can be in a twelve-footer if you so desire? Are you now in a rowboat? Good. Now you and your row board are out in the ocean, the Pacific Ocean, some fifteen miles and you cannot see land and your engine is not working and you have only two oars and the waves of the ocean are swelling and getting larger and larger. The wind starts blowing and the waves are roaring and rolling around you, and you feel incredibly vulnerable. You know that you could die in a fraction of a second. You feel this awesome power of the ocean all around you.
That is what it means to fear God. It means to have this deep awareness of the awesomeness of God around you, the awesome power of the ocean, the awesome power of the universe. This feeling lives inside of you, this feeling of the awesomeness of God all around you on every side. That power could consume you in a millisecond.
By contrast, I now would like you to be on a one hundred foot yacht. Yes, a hundred foot yacht, the biggest and finest yacht you have ever imagined. And the yacht is down in Union Lake in downtown Seattle. You are so safe, so safe and secure. There are winds and heavy squalls, but those squalls on the lake don’t affect you much on that big, one hundred foot yacht. Even in the storms, you are enjoying the yacht, eating foods on the yacht, chatting with friends on the yacht, having a drink on the yacht. You are not even conscious of the water around you at all. You don’t feel the awesome power of the water because you are merely in Lake Union, an overgrown puddle in the grand scope of things.
So it is with life today. Too often today, it is as if we are safely in a yacht on Lake Union and not in a row boat fifteen miles out into the ocean. We don’t have this awesome fear of the water, of the majestic and mighty power of God around us.
In the text for today, the key line is this: “Don’t you touch that boy Abraham. For now I see that you fear me above all things.” In this text, God is inviting us to have a fear of God like Abraham did, a deep inner awareness of the awesome power of God, like we feel when we are way out in the ocean in a rowboat and the waves are starting to swell.
Secondly, in this passage for today, we are invited to surrender our most precious possessions to God.
What was it that Abraham loved more than anything else in the world? I think it was Isaac. I believe that Abraham loved Isaac more than his wife, more than all his material possessions, more than life itself. My suspicion is that Isaac was the number one love of Abraham’s life. In the text for today, there came that time in Abraham’s life when he finally surrender his son, his Isaac, to God. He surrendered his most valuable possession to God.
Now, the opposite of the story of Abraham and Isaac is the story of the rich young ruler in the New Testament. The rich young ruler asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said, “Obey the commandments.” The young man said, “I have obeyed all the commandments from my youth.” Jesus said, “Sell your possessions and give them to the poor.” The young man became very sad because he was very rich. You see, the rich young man loved his money, his home, his job, his wealth, his retirement account more than God. He was not able to surrender his most valuable possessions to God.
What does it mean to surrender your “all” to Jesus Christ?
I remember being at Bible Camp in my youth. Even year at that camp, I was invited to surrender my life to Christ. In fifth grade, sixth grade, seventh grade, eighth grade, ninth grade. And one night, something happened to me, and I surrendered my life to Christ. I had been going through the motions of religion, through the motions of prayer, through the motions of showing up at church. But in that night, I was aware that going through the motions of religion, prayer and showing up at church was not enough. I realized in a deeper way that God wanted me to surrender my “all” to him.
Some of you young people here today are somewhat the same. That is, today, you kids in grades five through nine are taking notes on this Lenten sermon. For some of you kids, for many of you kids, you know that you are going through the motions of Christianity. You are going through the motion of taking notes, the motion of coming to confirmation, the motion of memorizing Bible verses. You are going through all the right motions. But it is our prayer that you will know what Abraham learned: that is, that you would surrender your life to Jesus Christ.
To surrender your life to Jesus Christ does not mean to have a big emotional experience at Bible Camp. To surrender you life does not mean to have that happen in a definable moment in time e.g. such and such a date and such and such a time. But somewhere along the line, it is my prayer that you will not only fear God the way Abraham feared God, but that you will surrender your life in the way that Abraham surrender his son Isaac to God.
To surrender you life may happen in a crisis. I have a picture of Kenn Duley on my desk. Kenn Duley, our minister of music for ten years during the 1990s, died recently at the young age of fifty-one. My mind flashed to sixteen years ago, when their infant daughter was born on Christmas Day. Kenn and his wife, Janet, had a Christmas Day baby and this child was very sick and people were concerned that this baby would not live. I remember that conversation with Kenn that day, an emotional conversation, when he surrendered his new born baby into the hands of a loving God. … Some of you surrender your dying mother, your surrender your dying father into the hands of God. There is that time when you finally give the life of your mother, father, grandfather, grandmother, friend to God. You open you hands and let them go, to die and be with Christ. You surrender them into the hands of a loving God.
Dean Kriappaehne, in our contemporary worship service, likes to sing the song, “I Surrender All.” That is our prayer for you and me.
Third point. It is my experience when we live with the awareness of the awesomeness of God and when we have surrendered everything in life to God, THEN God seems to use us more fully for his purposes for our life. Abraham was blessed to be a blessing to this world, and when he finally surrendered Isaac, I believe that God was able to use Abraham’s life more fully. That is true for my life as well. It is only after I have surrendered all to Christ, that my life seems to be more fully used by God, so that I might be a blessing to others. Yes, I know, we never surrender “all.” But even when we don’t, we also do. That is, as we surrender life around us to God, we are used more fully for his purposes.
In conclusion, I ask you one question: What is your Isaac? What is your most valuable possession or possessions in this world? Your family? Your spouse? Your children? Your job? Your house? Your pleasures? What is your most valuable possession? Could it be that you have become preoccupied with those possessions, that those possessions have become the center of your life so that you no longer fear God? It just may be that
God will say to you, “I believe that it is time that we take a walk and I will put you to the test to see what you love most in life.” Amen.
CHILDREN’S SERMON. Give the children several choices: Do your parents love you or your house most? All answer. You or your car most? All answer. You or your vacations most? All answer. It is clear: you know that your parents love you most. I have another question: do your parents love you or God most? The kids shouted unanimously and loudly with no prompting: GOD. I asked the kids the question: why is it is wise for your parents to love God more than you children? One child answered: Because God gave us as a gift to our parents. God was the source of the gift.
THE KORAN AND ABRAHAM’S SACRIFICE
Abraham and the Sacrifice
God never ordered Abraham to sacrifice his son
Traditional Muslim Scholars have been teaching the Muslims that God inspired Abraham to sacrifice his son Ismail by slaughtering him with a knife. This is completely against what the Quran states clearly and perfectly.
While this gross crime of a father slaughtering his own son is mentioned in the Bible, it is not supported by the Quran. These teachings of the traditional Muslim scholars are only a reflection of the outside corrupton and Jewish influence on the early Muslim scholars. Jewish influence could not affect the word of God in the Quran but found its way into the Hadith books that were written 200 years after the death of the prophet. The prophet was not around to defend all the false teachings in them.
Instead of teaching the Quran, these scholars tried to explain the Quran by using the Bible, despite the information given to them by God in the Quran. Quran teaches that the Bible had been corrupted and should be viewed only in light of the Quran and not vice verse.
The Bible teaches that God ordered Abraham to sacrifice hisonly son by slaughtering him with a knife. That is not what the Quran teaches, however.
This teaching of the Bible (and of the Muslim Scholars) is against the teaching of the Quran. The true believers in the Quran will uphold the truth in the Quran over any other book and over the opinion of any scholar.
Why is this teaching against the Quran and Islam ?
(1) Quran teaches us that God never advocates evil. See 7:28 and 16:90. It is Satan who advocates evil and vice. 24:21 For a father to slaughter his son, is an evil that cannot be coming from God. It can only come from Satan.
(2) The Quran never said that God told Abraham to kill (sacrifice) his son. Instead, the Quran teaches us that Abraham had a dream in which he saw himself slaughtering his son. Abraham believed the dream and THOUGHT that the dream was from God (The Quran never said the dream was from God). The choice of the wording in the Quran is crucial. No word was chosen by accident or out of control. Every word and expression was deliberately chosen by God.
(3) Islam never advocated human sacrifice. God would not contradict Himself and order Abraham to commit what He prohibited, even as a test.
(4) Prophets are human beings also and as much susceptible to the tricks of Satan as everyone else. God never left this issue unsolved. See 22:52
"We have not send before you a messenger nor a prophet without having the devil interfere with his wishes. But God nullifies what the devil has done, and God perfects His revelation. God is, Omniscient, Most Wise." (22:52)
(5) Because Abraham thought the dream was from God and he proceeded to sacrifice his son Ismail, God sent him the lamb to be sacrificed instead, and to save the son, and the father-son sacred relationship. God promised to protect His righteous believers from Satan's tricks, and He saved Abraham and his son Ismail this exact test. Remember that God told us about how he interfered to save Joseph from falling in sin when he was about to fall for lady of the house. See 12:24. Also it was God who saved his righteous sevant Job from Satan's exact test. 21:83-84.
(6) No where in the Quran does God say that it was God who told Abraham to sacrifice his son. No where in the Quran does God say He gave Abraham that dream. God does not forget and does not choose His words except for a specific reason.
(7) Those who know God and appreciate Him, know that God would not ask any of us to do evil and commit the gross crime that is severely punishable by God and the human communities.
(8) It was the fairy tales and sick imagination of some historians under the influence of the Jewish infiltrates in Islam who tried to get the public to reject the teaching of the Quran and accept the corrupted teaching of the Bible.
(9) It is time to go back to the Quran and see the truth. It is time to reject the corrupted teaching of the scholars and to teach the truth of the Quran. God never ordered Abraham to kill his son Ismail
(10) It is time to believe GOD instead of believing the man-made or man-corrupted books.
“The Quran account
[37:102] When he grew enough to work with him, he said, "My son, I see in a dream that I am sacrificing you. What do you think?" He said, "O my father, do what you are commanded to do. You will find me, GOD willing, patient."
[37:103] They both submitted, and he put his forehead down (to sacrifice him).
[37:104] We called him: "O Abraham.
[37:105] "You have believed the dream." We thus reward the righteous.
[37:106] That was an exacting test indeed.
[37:107] We ransomed (Ismail) by substituting an animal sacrifice.
[37:108] And we preserved his history for subsequent generations.
[37:109] Peace be upon Abraham.
[37:110] We thus reward the righteous.
[37:111] He is one of our believing servants.
In this above debate, it is clear that the author (and the Koran?) was offended by God commanding Abraham to offer his son to be sacrificed, so that this event happens in a dream. The Koran softens the potential offensiveness of the story that God commanded child sacrifice.
19 So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beer-sheba; and Abraham lived at Beer-sheba.
See below the diagram of the archeological digs and reconstruction at Beer-sheba.
Beersheba is associated with all three patriarchs. Abraham settled in Beersheba (22:19), Isaac built an altar there (26:23-25), and Jacob made a pilgrimage there before going on to Egypt (46:1-7). Beersheba was not settled until the Iron Age, and was fortified by David and Solomon (see Herzog 1980 and Fowler 1982). However, the well at the site may be the one prominent in Genesis 21:22-34 and 26:23-33.
Photo by Barry Bandstra