Advent 2014 – Week 3 Day 4

God Preserves the Seed
2 (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 of which I shall tell you.” 3 So Abraham rose…and took…his son Isaac. ~ Genesis 22:2-3
The stories we tell, though their settings and characters may change, tend to carry a familiar drama. Disaster or evil invades a peaceful world. The good characters are enslaved or killed by it; some even turn over to the dark side. There is, however, always a “fool’s hope” for something or someone to deliver the world from darkness. The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and many other dramas place their hope in a prophecy that waits expectantly for the arrival of one who will deliver the world from its evil and bring about a renewed existence. Earlier this week we looked at the promise of a seed that would give hope for humanity to be redeemed from its sinful rebellion (Gen. 3:15). If you were to make a word cloud of the most popular word-themes of the book of Genesis, what words do you think would show up the most often (other than God or the)? You might be surprised to know that one of the most popular word-themes is seed. Depending on the translation of the Bible you read, you might also see it translated as offspring, descendants, or a mixture of these terms and a few others depending on the context. That can sometimes make it difficult for us to pick up on just how important this word was to the drama of the overall story. But be assured that this theme is all over the pages of your Bible. It holds the entire story together. God chooses a man named Abraham as the starting point for the fulfillment of that promise we read about on Day 2 of this week’s devotional series. He promises that through Abraham’s seed a great nation would rise to be the mediators of God’s blessings to all the earth. Despite all the threats of old-age, barrenness, and political conflict, God delivers on his promise and Isaac is born. Surely, in Abraham’s mind, there is nothing more to worry about because he has his son. Then the unexpected happens. God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son. God tells him to put Isaac on an altar and kill him. WHAT?! This no doubt shocked Abraham and it should shock us too. Wasn’t this the seed of promise? How could God demand such a thing? The narrator adds a very important comment to this story in verse 1: “God tested Abraham.” God has been testing Abraham’s faith since he arrived on the scene in Gen. 12, and this is the final climactic test. Has Abraham placed his hope in the promise itself, or in the character of the Promiser? Which does he love more? Abraham’s response to the test illustrates what a faithful follower of God looks like. He portrays trust in the goodness and faithfulness of God even when everything seems to tell him not to. Abraham takes his son (now a young adult), travels three days to the mountain God chose, lays Isaac on the altar, and raises his knife to sacrifice him. A drama filled with the unexpected concludes with yet another surprise, and it’s here where we lose a bit of the suspense in our translation. Here’s the most literal translation:
10Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11But he cried out… (Gen. 22:10-11)
Who cried out? Isaac, in fear of being killed? Abraham, in agony for what he was about to do? Neither! A new character arrives on the scene:
11But he cried out—the angel of the Lord—to him from heaven and said… 12”Do not stretch out your hand against the boy, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”(Gen. 22:11-12)
At the very last moment, when all hope seems lost, the Promiser keeps his promise. We can put our hope in him because he is faithful. Abraham was able to obey because his hope was in the Promiser. Hebrews 11 later tells us that Abraham could do this because he trusted that God would not betray his promise, even if it meant raising Isaac from the dead. He trusted in the goodness and character of God that has been proven faithful over and over throughout his life. This is a fallen world. We encounter so many situations that seem to threaten God’s promises and certainly test our faithfulness to him. How can we know that he will come through for us? Because when he laid his only Son on the cross for our sin he did not spare him! He allowed what was most precious to him to be sacrificed so that we would be freed from separation and death. He fulfilled his promise of a redeeming seed through Jesus. This Advent season is a time to celebrate that we have received this seed. Jesus was born to our world. He was born for the explicit purpose of saving us sinners. God’s faithfulness through the Advent invites us to hopefully and confidently proclaim this to be true:
38I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 8:38-39