March 23, 2019

Highlights in Hebrews 32

Highlights in Hebrews
Highlights in Hebrews
(with Roger Kirby)
Part 32 - Hebrews11:17–19 Ultimate obedience.

It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.

It is impossible to miss out the event referenced in 11:17-19, known as the ‘Binding of Isaac’ or the Aqedar, but very hard to say anything sensible about it. There are references in the Old Testament to child sacrifice (including the awful mistake of Jephthah in promising to sacrifice the first thing he saw when he got home which turned out to be his daughter, Judges 11:29-40) but never in a positive sense. Presumably the lack of comment means that it was a practice regarded with so much distaste in Israel that it did not need comment upon. It was not such an uncommon practice amongst the surrounding tribes.

The clear teaching of this episode is simply that true faith demands obedience. Which was fine for Abraham who seems to have had a hotline to and from God. We struggle much more to know what we should do as a matter of obedience.

We need to be careful. But if the Lord does really want us to do something unusual, something we would naturally not think of doing ourselves then he does make it quite plain to us. (That has happened to my wife and myself at least three times in an otherwise unremarkable Christian life.) Most of our decisions as Christians are ones that we have to take for ourselves. Dont believe people who think the Lord directed them to a particular spot in the local car park! They are trying to make themselves sound very holy and spiritual. But we have been given wonderful minds that enable us to sort out for ourselves where we can park our car and a myriad other everyday decisions.

Abraham was tested far beyond anything he might have expected the Lord to require of him. And I wonder what the effect on Isaac was. Probably a strong young teenager with all his life in front of him he must have been shocked to his very core when he realised what was to happen to him. I wonder did his mother, Sarah, know what was happening. If so, how terrible it would have been for her. Abraham seems to have assumed that the Lord would give him a way out. He had been told, by the Lord, that he would have an infinite number of descendants, which this command seemed to put at huge risk - could Sarah have another son when she was even older? We are not told whether Isaac knew of the great promise of untold numbers of descendants, or not.

The aqedar , potentially at least, lies on the middle of the spectrum of Biblical father-son problems. Better in a way are the situations of the deaths of Saul’s son, Jonathan, fighting the Philistines beside his father and of the death of David’s son, Absalom, when he challenged his father for the throne of Israel. In neither of those cases was the son actually killed by the father, so they are a little easier.

The situation which was far worse was what happened to Jesus on the cross. There he not only died, not quite at the actual hands of the Father, but with his full knowledge, agreement and ability to intervene - not used. Think on that. Meditate on that. Jesus died, as Isaac did not, for you and for me, as the one true and all sufficient sacrifice.

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