Saturday, February 15, 2020

If History Teaches

If you've been around the church circuit for at least a minute, then you've likely heard or discussed the idea that the Old Testament is foretelling of the New Testament.  In other words, much of what's written in the pre-Jesus books of the Bible are telling us that He's coming.

More than just a few of those earliest stories are easily read as future-telling, and Abraham's story is no exception.

Genesis 22 has always been one of the most perplexing (though promising) chapters that I've ever read.  I have, in fact, completely avoided it at times, unable to fathom the sacrifice that God asked of the father of many nations.

If you are familiar enough with Biblical history, then you can't help but see the story of Jesus’s crucifixion in the story of Abraham and Isaac.

“Take your son, your only son…” Genesis 22:2 OT

“He gave his one and only Son…” John 3:16 NT

As I've been recently re-reading Genesis with a small group, I have been stricken by so much more than just that most obvious comparison.

Check it:

“Abraham got up and loaded his donkey.” Genesis 22:3

“Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it…” John 12:14

“[Abraham] took with him two of his servants…” Genesis 22:3

“Two rebels were crucified with him…” Matthew 27:38

“Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders…” Genesis 22:6

“Carrying his own cross, he went [to the hill on which He was crucified…]” John 19:17

Each of these accounts stand alone as huge implications of God's merciful, immeasurable love for us, even if viewed through the haze of a terrifying reality. Apart from evidence that supports my belief, there must be something to learn in the then-and-now of these stories.

Nearer the beginning of Abraham's story, God said, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you."  And Abraham went.  He left it all behind and went with not much more than God's promise to provide.  

Part of the promise was that Abraham would eventually have "many descendants."  Years and years and years would pass.  A baby was born outside of Abraham's marriage to Sarah, apart from God's will and promise.  More years would pass before the birth of Isaac, the child that God foretold.

Isaac was the hope fulfilled, the certainty of many nations yet to come.  And then God called Abraham to give him up.

When Abraham left his home, he gave up his past life to God.
When he took Isaac up the mountain, he also gave his future.1

Each time, even as he had no idea what might happen, what kind of reality would unfold, he acted in complete faith in the one who did know.  

Sacrifice in the simplest terms means to give something up.  The best definitions of sacrifice ~ in my opinion ~ include that something is given up for the sake of something better.

Whether I mean to be or not, I am a student of patterns and repetitions.  When the same or similar things happen over and over again, I notice.  The best patterns ~ in my opinion ~ draw our attention to something greater than the pattern itself.

Whether I'm reviewing Biblical history, world history, or my personal history, I can observe that even through the haze of a sometimes terrifying reality, God is demonstrating a merciful, immeasurable love for us.

Whatever it is for you ~ a hurtful past, a difficult now, an uncertain future ~ I pray that you will give it all to God.  Even without knowing what might happen, I pray you know that there is no better reality than his love for you.

1 A paraphrase of something Jen Wilkin said in our study, God Of Covenant