Tag Archives: Abraham

Seeking Sarah’s Tomb

The Narrative Lectionary that Resurrection Lutheran Church is using this year skips through the Old Testament at a fast pace. This coming Sunday we will be studying Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. But before I shift our focus to Joseph and Egypt, I want to examine one final story of Abraham. In Genesis 23, Abraham’s beloved wife Sarah dies and he must find her a tomb.

When God first called Abraham, God promised him land and descendants. When Abraham arrived in Canaan, the Lord said to him, “To your offspring I will give this land” (Genesis 12:7). His descendants will be as many as the stars of sky.  Yet as Abraham nears death, he has only one son and no land. Is God’s promise ever to be reality? Have you, like Abraham, ever wondered if God’s promises would become reality for you?

After Sarah’s death, Abraham goes to the Hittites who own the surrounding land and says, “I am a stranger and an alien residing among you; give me property among you for a burying-place, so that I may bury my dead.” (Genesis 23:4). The Hittites recognize Abraham as a great man and are willing to give him a burial site for his wife. But Abraham does not want a “gift” or “honorary guest” burial site; he wants to own the burial site with proper title. He wants something permanent and legal that can be passed on to future generation.

Abraham is willing to pay top dollar for it. (A stewardship sermon is buried in that verse!)  After skillful negotiation, he purchases the small field of Ephron in Machpelah where he buries his wife in a cave in the field (Genesis 23:15-19). Years later Abraham is buried there as well.

At first, a burial plot may seem like a useless, pathetic fulfillment of God’s great promise to Abraham and Sarah. Is this all the land God can give?  Yet it is the first step in God’s patient, enduring plan of salvation. It becomes a sign of hope and possibility.

After all, as Christians, we remember that God’s plan of restoration culminated in the empty burial tomb of Jesus on Easter Sunday. Jesus’ empty tomb is the first step, the first fruits, of a new heaven and a new earth.

 Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died (I Corinthians 15:20).

In what ways does God give you hope in difficult times?

Lord Jesus, you are my rock and shield, give me the hope I need this day.

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Commanding Sacrifice

The Old Testament disturbs many readers with its many violent and destructive stories, at times commanded by God. One story in Abraham’s life has challenged many readers. God commands Abraham to take his son, his only son Isaac, to a mountain and to offer him as a burnt offering to God (Genesis 22:2). Abraham faithfully follows the instructions and takes Isaac, a knife and wood for the offering. In a very poignant scene, as Abraham and Isaac climb the mountain, Isaac carrying the wood, he calls out,

“Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together. (Genesis 22:7-9)

I wonder what Abraham was thinking as they walked together. Isaac was his only son, the long-awaited promise from God. Clearly Abraham loved and cherished his son. Yet he faithfully followed God’s command. Perhaps he had half-expected it since many of the surrounding gods in ancient Palestine required such a sacrifice of the first-born child. Still I think Abraham’s steps were as heavy as his heart as together they walked up the hill. And then, when he actually bound Isaac, laid him on the wood, and raised the knife to kill him, I simply go numb.

Before we become too critical of the violence in this ancient story, let us not forget the violence in our own culture. In the last century, humanity has turned death into an industrial machine, killing people by the millions. Last week a family home in Oakdale erupted in murder and suicide. Violence is not simply an ancient problem.

And we read this story, knowing it is a test from God (Genesis 22:1). God had to see if Abraham would be faithful in trusting God. As Abraham raised the knife, God again spoke,

“Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”  And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. (Genesis 22:12-13)

Trusting God can be very difficult at times. Yet God proves to be faithful to Abraham, Isaac and to all humanity.

One last thought: Christians often think the mountain where Abraham “sacrificed” Isaac was the same mountain where 1600 years later Jesus, God’s son, died for us.

Lord Jesus, thank you for absorbing our human violence and sin on the cross.

 

Blessed or Blessing?

Abraham and Sarah celebrate Isaac's birth

What an incredibly simple start.  After the mess of Genesis 3-11, God finds the best solution: an elderly childless couple! Abraham and Sarah become the start of God’s rescue plan for creation. They are blessed in order to be a blessing to others.

God said, “I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” Genesis 12:2

God promised a son to Abraham and Sarah. They wait, and wait, and wait, and wait. They try their own shortcut and fail. But eventually their son Isaac is born. Eventually after centuries of waiting his offspring will be Jesus, the truest blessing for all.

We so often seek blessing only for ourselves. But God showers us with generous blessings, so that we can be blessings to others.

How have you been a blessing to others?

Lord Jesus, make me into a blessing for others today.