Thursday 24 September 2015

Bible Book:

“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 that I shall show you.” (v. 2)

Genesis 22:1-19 Thursday 24 September 2015

Psalm: Psalm 96


Sit down with this reading and take a deep breath. Trust God,somehow, and let the story move you. Try not to judge quickly butallow the storyteller to hold you a moment with a deep mystery. Wemay ask here of this story, 'What is the memory?' and 'What is themeaning?' (see the introduction to the passage on Tuesday (link)). Do we have echoes here of anancient story that explains an end to human sacrifice? Is this astory about the testing of faith for those that have been throughterrible times? Whatever the memory, it is hard, and whatever themeaning, we are left thinking, 'Can God really test people in thisway?' It feels an age away from our own times, and our God is a farless frightening God. But I wonder, is today so much less awfulthan an age where sacrifice was commonplace, and perhaps humansacrifice still part of local practice? And horrifyingly as a humanrace we sacrifice our children all the time. Our children arehungry and sick. They are exploited and abused. They are traded asslaves and denied their childhood by being forced to work. Thehorror of Abraham being asked by God to sacrifice his son is toomuch to bear - and it was against a background where such practicemight be demanded. Genesis offers a way out in which God provides,and an ancient horror is ended. Abraham is tested and his faith isin a God who surely he couldn't contemplate 'going through withit'? To us the very question that God asks is abhorrent. 'How couldGod ask it?' But it is also abhorrent that our world should makesuch demands on us as well, and as we take that deep breath andallow an ancient story to hold us, we may hear as well, "do not layyour hand on the boy" (v. 12).

This poem offers a modern (?) parallel: 

The Parable of the Old Manand the Young
So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
and took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
behold the preparations, fire and iron,
but where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
and builded parapets and trenches there,
and stretchèd forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
neither do anything to him. Behold,
a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;
offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.

But the old man would not so, butslew his son,
and half the seed of Europe, one by one.

Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

To Ponder

  • How may you trust God when so much in the world can trouble youand shakes your faith?
  • How may you wonder at God's self-giving love in Christ as youstruggle with your own challenges today?

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