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