We Could Be Invincible
#WeCouldBeInvincible is the podcast for February 25, 2018 . When Abraham lifted the knife to kill his only remaining son because God told him to do so, what was going on? Why this? It has something to do with God being for us. Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Genesis17 #Romans8 #Faith #Trust #Abraham #Sarah #Isaac #Invincible #Sacrifice #Lent
Full Text of Podcast, Open Here
For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 2/25/2018 The 2nd Sunday of Lent.
Please pause this audio and read Romans 8:31-34.
The story of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac is startling if we read it with eyes that do not know the tradition. In fact, if we just read this story on its own, with no context whatsoever, we should, we ought, we must say that God is a sick and deranged Lord who asks for loyalty that is beyond reason. I do not think we, as Christians, should deny such a thing. We should be appalled at the idea that someone offer up, that is kill, their own son as a sign of loyalty.
I am thankful that there is a context for this startling, even sick, story from Genesis which has become dear to us. I want to explain how this story has become dear to us and what it says about how we should act. Let’s begin with this central promise to the covenant between God and Abraham: “Look toward the heavens, so shall your descendants be.”
Up to this point in Genesis, Abraham has been asked to leave his home in modern day Iraq and go to modern day Israel. He was promised, “your descendants” will have the land of what we know as Israel. So, God has asked Abraham to leave his past, everyone he knows, all his support and opportunity to go somewhere he does not know.
Imagine if we were to be asked to leave with no job offer, no friends, no family, no connection to the area, no opportunities that we could think of, and go. I am thinking we would say, “um, Lord, could you be more specific? Are there moving expenses involved? Are you covering mileage, at least?”
Yet, Abraham goes because he is on a mission that springs from a conversation he had with God. In this conversation, God said, “I will make you a great nation,…in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So, Abraham leaves and God takes him to the place, shows him, and tells him that Palestine shall be his. Abraham trusted this and built an altar.
Now, the relationship between the Lord and Abraham was not consistent. We remember Abraham as a faithful, good, wonderful patriarch. The story of Genesis shows that this was not always the case. Abraham was promised a land and to be the source of blessing upon the face of the earth. In fact, the Lord promises Abraham that he is going to give him offspring to make that happen. He is going to give him offspring more numerous than the stars of the sky or the grains of sand on the seashore. If you had not noticed, that’s a lot! Furthermore, even though Abraham was old in age, as was his wife Sarah, the Lord promised that the offspring would be from them.
Up against these promises, then something happens to set the stage for Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. Sarah gets antsy. She gets cold feet. She begins to look at her life and wonder how the family name is going to be carried forward, even though God promised. She comes up with a plan. She will give her maidservant to Abraham to be a surrogate for her. The offspring of the maidservant will become Abraham’s child. Here is the important part: Abraham agrees.
Even though the Lord has told Abraham that he is going to give him children more numerous than the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore, Abraham agrees. It is at this point in the story that Abraham should have said, “Sarai, no. The Lord has a plan. He has promised. He sent us here on this crazy journey. He said he would give us a land and he gave us this land. The Lord will provide.” That is not what Abraham did.
The act of going in to lie with Hagar, the maidservant, flies in the face of the promise of God to Abraham. It is a promise with a series of promises within it. Let’s remind ourselves: One promise is that the world would be blessed through Abraham’s family. One promise is that the family would be very large. One promise is that the family would come from Abraham and Sarah. To lay with Hagar is to break the trust that God will keep his word. This is why Hagar and Ishmael are sent away after Ishmael’s birth. The whole scene is, in short, to call God a liar. That is the backdrop for this story about Abraham and Isaac on the mountain.
I do not believe for one second that the Lord is going to allow Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on the mountain. The Lord does not need to prove that he himself is faithful. He will go on to say in the prophets that He has no need for sacrifices. Sacrifices are for us. They are statements that tell us that we are keeping the First Commandment. We sacrifice something in Lent to reorient ourselves and remind ourselves that the Lord is our God. Chocolate seems a far cry from your only remaining child. Nonetheless, sacrifices are not for the Lord, they are for us. The request to sacrifice Isaac is not for God, it is a reminder to Abraham. Offering Isaac is a sign of the seriousness to the degree to which Abraham needs to be faithful.
Abraham may have been being cheeky or coy when he tells Isaac that “the Lord will provide the sacrifice,” when Isaac asks his father. The truth remains, the Lord DID provide the sacrifice. The Lord DID provide a way. The Lord DID renew in Abraham a commitment to his faith, or trust, in the Lord our God.
By showing up Abraham affirmed his faith. Because he showed up with his son and all the provisions, the Lord stopped him cold. If Abraham had been unfaithful, he would not have shown up with Isaac and Isaac would have been safe anyway. The point is that Abraham is renewed by his intent and action, not the result.
It was drastic, for sure. It was no more drastic than asking an old man to leave his home and go to a place far away to start the family through whom the world would be saved. That IS what happened. The fact that you are listening to my words in 2018 is testimony to God’s faithfulness to Abraham. You are the promise fulfilled.
Against this backdrop then, we hear the words of St. Paul in the Letter to the Romans:
He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him give us everything else? (8:32).
The irony is that the Lord did the unthinkable to save you and me. He did what he would not allow Abraham in faith to do.
Now hear St. Paul again,
If God is for us, who is against us?…What can separate us from the love of God?
The answers are “No one” and “Nothing.”
As you are walking this life of faith, the Lord is going to ask you to make some serious sacrifices. You are going to wonder how it is that you are ever going to satisfy the request or how it is ever going to work out. You are going to be asked to go to places that you do not know, nor want to know. You are going to be told things are going to happen to you to fulfill God’s mission which stretch credulity. You will be asked to trust, even to the breaking point.
The message from Abraham is this: the Lord will provide.
The message from St. Paul is this: if God is for Abraham, for Isaac, for Jacob, Deborah, Esther, Ruth, David, Solomon, Tobit, Judas Maccabeus, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, then God is for us. In that is a power that should cause us to go all places, to all peoples; to hope all things, to believe all things, to bear all things.
He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him give us everything else?
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2018.
Donate $2 for This Podcast
Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian