THOSE CHALLENGING STORIES (Abraham and Isaac)

This week we are going to look at one of the most challenging stories in Scripture: “The Sacrifice of Isaac.” We read it and think: What? God you abhor child sacrifice!

But there is gold in this mine.

What I see Abraham doing, and I think you will too, is talking to his soul about what he knows about God. Again and again I see how important it is when life is hard, when God isn’t making sense, when you are faced with losses, to talk to our souls instead of listening to them. Last week was a hard week for me — a child deeply struggling, some really bad financial news, and no easy answers. The scene outside my window matched the turmoil in my heart.

But I did what the Lord has taught me to do — to talk to my soul instead of listening to her. (The soul is feminine in scripture.) I listed things I knew to be true of God, of the sure hope we have in Him, and by the next day, the scene outside my window matched the peace in my heart.

 

Last week I told of how God gave us a picture of a lamb that would provide comfort when my husband and the father of our five children died. Our daughter Sally painted Aslan, the lion that C. S. Lewis said was “not safe, but good.” Within that painting a lamb who looked as those he has been slain appeared. Two weeks after she completed her painting we learned of Steve’s terminal diagnosis. Fourteen months later, he was with Jesus. 

The painting of Aslan has comforted us, and not just us, for prints and posters of this painting now hang in prison cells, hospital rooms, funeral parlors, and in homes across the world. God was not just comforting Sally, but thousands of His children in this world full of trouble.

An innocent lamb is the plot-line of the Bible and is such a comfort in sorrow. We may not know why we suffer, but we know the answer is not that He doesn’t love us, for He is the Lamb of God who chose to die for our sins.

This week we are going to look at a most mysterious story, and the first place the story of the lamb occurs in Scripture.

The God who prohibits child sacrifice now comes to Abraham to test him.

God said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains on which I shall tell you.”

And we think, Really God?

God has already asked Abraham to send away Ishmael, his son with his bondservant, and that tore Abraham’s heart. Now, this?

Not only that, God had promised Abraham that from Isaac would come as many descendant as stars in the sky. How can Abraham obey the command a simultaneously believe the promise?

 

On a personal note — thank you so for praying for this week in prison. Yesterday we filmed and God certainly showed up. The women are soaking in the love of the Song of Songs. A little air conditioner was brought in, technical problems overcome, and they were sooooooo responsive. Today we’re going into “protective custody” where the women only get out one out of every twenty-four hours. My son is doing great ministering to the women too. Than you so for your prayers, gifts, and love.

Sunday:

1.What stands out to you from the above and why?

2.What in your life doesn’t make sense to you right now?

3.Before you do the study, let’s see how you would answer the last question: How can Abraham obey God and simultaneously believe the promise that from Isaac many descendants would come? Do you think he thought God was going to stop him from killing Isaac? 

Monday-Wednesday Bible Study: Genesis 22:1-19

4. Read through the account and share anything that quickens you.

5. What exactly did God ask Abraham to do according to verse 2? Look carefully, for Edmund Clowney sees a clue (though Abraham didn’t see it) that Abraham won’t actually have to kill his son. See if you can see it and if you agree. (Answer before you look below at what Clowney said — exercise self-control! :-) )

 

6. What parallels in verses 2-3 do you see with Jesus?

 

7. Indeed, this is a most strange account. Here are some comments with which you may or may not agree. Read them, and comment:

A. Edmund Clowney:God did not ask him to murder his son, but to offer him as a sacrifice. The difference is important.” Comment.

 

B. Tim Keller says we have to get out of our narrow cultural mindset to fathom this story. In our culture the individual’s happiness is pre-eminent, and families and communities are sacrificed on the altar of individualism. But that has never been God’s way – and in most cultures and for all centuries, the reverse was true, and individuals willingly sacrificed themselves for the good of the family and the community. Comment.

 

C. Keller sees a parallel between Isaac carrying the wood and Jesus carrying the cross. Do you agree?

8. How does the author of Hebrews explain Abraham’s faith? (Hebrews 11:19)

9. Challenge question: How can you also see it confirmed in the text that Abraham believed God would raise Isaac from the dead?

10. What did Abraham name the place and why?

11. Where do you need to trust right now that God will provide for you?

 

 

Thursday-Friday Reflections

 During my hard week, God provided for me in several ways. We had the sweetest time in our study of The Song of Songs — His presence was so tangible we were all in tears.

And then I started listening to John Eldredge’s new book on heaven. I love this author and the images he paints of our sure hope of what is to come went a long way in restoring my soul. Here’s a taste of this new book: 

www.youtube.com/watch?v=qipiCxPPagY

12. Reflect: how has God turned your ashes into beauty.

 

13. How has God provided for you truth in times of loss or fear?

 

14. Reflect: What have you lost that you will indeed get back at the renewal of all things?

Saturday:

15. What is your take-a-way and why?

 

 

 

COMMENTS (154) Post a New Comment ↓
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I always go back to my broken marriage and how God healed it….VERY SLOWLY…. but now I feel as if I am married to a different person. I know that I changed, that I was able to give him my heart after so many years of working in self protection mode and that was part of it but God has really done a miraculous thing in my husband. He still struggles with expressing emotion, he is still not very talkative, but he WANTS to be whole, he sees where he needs healing and he is looking for it in Jesus and talking things out with me. And I am able to love him where he is at NOW and not wait for that “wholeness” to come before I can be in love with him. I feel like a newlywed some days. we are planning a trip for out 25th wedding anniversary (we have celebrated our 26th now but with two weddings last year we could not pull off our “honeymoon”) we never had a real honeymoon and we are both excited to explore together in Feb.

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    Cyndi, oh, that is exciting! It’s so great that God is renewing you and your husband. I hope your trip is GREAT!

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    Cyndi-how thrilling!!! :) :)  SO glad that is happening for you and your sweet husband.

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    Wow-so thrilling/exciting as Rebecca and Diane have said here! Honeymoon, here they come. Praying for your creative side to come out as you explore possibilities for that time.

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    Oh Cyndi, that is so exciting & so encouraging! It gives me fresh hope! May you have a wonderful “honeymoon” together!!! <3

     

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12. Reflect: how has God turned your ashes into beauty.
When I learned that shame is not from God it started to change everything. When the Truth of how He sees me changed , when I started to see the Love and not the condemnation , when I started to see that He could be trusted …. then all the walls started to break down . Such freedom!

14. Reflect: What have you lost that you will indeed get back at the renewal of all things?
I think innocence , . I know that we are purified by His Blood but I would like to know that innocence of a child once again. It’s just something I think about sometimes.

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    Sue-seeker, your posts just resonate deep with me. Your answer to #12 is so beautiful-so wonderful-so true. I hope everyone reads this post!!  I absolutely love your answer to #14 too.

     

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      Sue — I agree with Rebecca. See Sue’s answer to 12!

        Dee , so blessed to be here with you all. I love the way He works things out.

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      Bless you , Rebecca. He is so gracious to us , isn’t He?

        Oh yes, He is.

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    WOW so beautiful! and yes… innocence….so profound!

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    Beautiful #12, Sue-seeker!  and oh, to have the wide-eyed trust and innocence of a child!

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      Diane , that is something to look forward to , to be able to trust with such ease.

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13.  God has provided for me truth in times of loss or fear almost always through His word. Occasionally it has come through His people, but the majority has been straight from His word.

 

14.  The renewal of all things, what will I get back? A working youthful body that does not age. The three babies I miscarried. The opportunity to learn multiple musical instruments and other languages. The ability to steward nature as God intended. To worship God without the veil of this flesh.

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13. because I can look back at all the other times of loss and fear and see how HE carried me through those times it makes it easier each time to go through them. I have learned that even when nothing makes sense, when I have no control, when all seems lost, my dear sweet Jesus always sees me through. I don’t always like the way HE does it, but I know that even when I want to scratch HIS eyes out HE hold me tight and does not let go…..no matter how I kick and scream. Then, when I have calmed down, HE carries me to where HE knows I need to be and I can trust in HIS plan, even when I do not like it.

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14. I hope HE will restore all the lost moments, lost years, that I gave to the enemy. I allowed my heart to worry, I stressed about things that were not mine to fix, I scrambled for control instead of trusting in HIS plan and I stole so many moments of joy from myself and my family because I could not relax and give grace….to myself or my family.

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    Cyndi , Oh , the enemy makes me so angry when I think of everything he has stolen from us ! I vow to be more on guard to his deceitful ways but he still manages to trip me up . But he just keeps driving me more towards Jesus so he loses anyways. Praise God !

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    Cyndi , so many moments that I spent worrying when He was in control . Just like you said ” about things that were not mine to fix”

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    I feel the same, Cyndi, but am confident He will!

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4. Read through the account and share anything that quickens you.

 

I just see the present story (Abraham and Isaac) and the shadowy picture of the future story (God the Father and His Son) intertwined in phrases like Take your son, your only son, whom you love, and sacrifice him there….God himself will provide the lamb. Every time God refers to Isaac, He seems to stress this: your son, your ONLY son.

 

5. What exactly did God ask Abraham to do according to verse 2? Look carefully, for Edmund Clowney sees a clue (though Abraham didn’t see it) that Abraham won’t actually have to kill his son. See if you can see it and if you agree.

 

God asked Abraham to take his son, Isaac to the region of Moriah, and to sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains. I am not peeking and I’m reaching here….okay, God said that Isaac was Abraham’s only son, but he actually has two sons. Ishmael is also his son.

 

6. What parallels in verses 2-3 do you see with Jesus?

 

That Jesus was God’s only son, whom he loved, and Jesus was sacrificed. I learned once in a Bible study that the region of Moriah was where the future temple was built? Abraham and Isaac came riding on a donkey. Jesus rode on a donkey into Jerusalem.

 

7. Indeed, this is a most strange account. Here are some comments with which you may or may not agree. Read them, and comment:

 

A. Edmund Clowney -” God did not ask him to murder his son, but to offer him as a sacrifice. The difference is important.” Comment.

 

When I think of murder, I think of a precalculated, cold act, or it done in a fit of rage. This wasn’t that. Yet, when the pagan people in the Bible sacrificed their children to their gods, that was murder, no matter what they believed they were doing. God had always asked for animal sacrifices, this was different. I don’t know.

 

B. Tim Keller says we have to get out of our narrow cultural mindset to fathom this story. In our culture, the individual’s happiness is pre-eminent, and families and communities are sacrificed on the altar of individualism. But that has never been God’s way – and in most cultures and in all centuries, the reverse was true, and individuals willingly sacrificed themselves for the good of the family and community. Comment.

 

So if you apply this to Abraham’s story, it would mean that Abraham wouldn’t have withheld his son from God because he valued God and what was best according to God over his own good and or happiness. And perhaps it also would mean that Isaac willingly obeyed as he thought what his father was doing was best. But did Abraham or Isaac believe this was what was best for their family or community? I’m not sure how I feel about this, as this story seems to be more about Abraham’s personal relationship with God; a test of his faith and trust, and his willingness to entrust his son to God.

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C. Keller sees a parallel between Isaac carrying the wood and Jesus carrying the cross. Do you agree?

 

Yes, I do see the parallel, though probably Abraham made Isaac carry it because it was heavy and he was much younger than his father.

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    Laura…this brought tears of joy. Thank you for sharing the pics.

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    I completely agree !  So beautiful.  Our first granddaughter was born before her mamma got married. Our Alexandra is God’s beautiful gift to us.

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Laura, your little ones are beautiful treasures! God has a plan for sure!!  :)

Ashes to Beauty:  I’m so thankful to the Lord that our family has stayed together , even tho we almost got divorced twice. The kids are all young adults & seem to be doing well by God’s grace. Still waiting for the day when they will behold their Savior & walk with Him. Tho my marriage is far from perfect, God has done great things & I believe He is working in my hubby’s heart even tho I don’t see the fruit yet. He is the God of things “not yet”!!

How has God provided truth for me? Definitely thro His Word & thro my sisters in Christ & their encouragement. I’m speaking His Word over my soul today as I’m feeling anxious about upcoming Thanksgiving break together, & just longing for family harmony. Fearful of conflict between my daughter & her brothers & my son’s new girlfriend. Must trust the Lord with the outcome & not try to “fix everything” as Cyndi said. Mustn’t let the enemy rob me of my joy!

What will I get back at Renewal of all things? Restoration of all the years that the locusts have eaten…reconciliation between my family in Aussie & my husband….restoration of the loss of dreams for a harmonious family praying & worshiping together. Still praying this will happen in my lifetime, but ultimately in God’s timing & God’s way.

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Just in case some of you haven’t seen it, Susan has asked for urgent prayer for her Mom ❤️

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    Thank you , Lizzy. I had not seen that . I will be praying.

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    Thanks so Lizzy.

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Thanks Lizzy,      yes Susan, we are lifting up your mom to the Lord. He knows her needs. May you be comforted & strengthened.

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13. How has God provided for you truth in times of loss or fear?
 He provides in times of fear…need confidence? He provides. Need a plan of action? He provides. Not enough money? Again, he provides. It may not be immediately, or the way we think, but He does!
 
14. Reflect: What have you lost that you will indeed get back at the renewal of all things?
 

Probably my mom.

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