“THAT’S UTTERLY BARBARIC! HOW COULD A LOVING GOD POSSIBLY ALLOW SUCH A THING TO HAPPEN?!?”
That’s the net result of a very angry listener at a professor’s lecture while slowly explaining the crucifixion in our Gospel message, to which the instructor basically replied…
“You’re absolutely right. It’s utterly barbaric. That’s precisely how God feels about sin, so much so that He must do the responsible thing, and deal with it.”
That’s also the end result of what I had to deal with for the first few times I saw this, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, who thou lovest…for a burnt offering…” Now those are obviously not the exact words, but that’s about how I read it the first time. I had to stop and read it again before going on. I won’t repeat my reaction out loud, but “Simply unconscionable,” was what I meant.
Without going through the history, we know quite a bit from the start about the LORD, about Abraham, about Isaac, and the world culture of that time. What I didn’t know until later is that “the law of Moses” has its origin in the same place world history does, and that’s Genesis 3. And I mean all of it, from “The Law” to manufacturing and real estate development to espionage and human trafficking, all of it finds its origin right there. One such item that finds its way into this marked passage in ch. 22 is this thing we will later call a “sacrifice.”
Oddly enough, that word doesn’t appear until Exodus. Here, it’s called an “offering,” six times in this one passage alone. That alone will preach.
Factor in the other clues to this mystery, such as the first mention of the word “love,”
the mention of this phrase twice “…they went both of them together…”
the answer Isaac got from Abraham “…my son, God will provide Himself a Lamb…”
and remember, this is more than Abraham talking to a young boy, this is two men walking in unison, in the original Hebrew.
There’s much more than this. But the basic point I needed back then was simply this, and this applies more to me now than then.
“There comes the time in our walking with the Lord when we recognize that with each passing day He finds some new way to reveal my trust in Him.”
One of the first things I wrestled with when I was brand new to the things of God was the first statement in this very passage, saying “And God did tempt Abraham…”
Now at the time I was still too jaded to darken the door of a church building, so the Lord kept crossing my paths with people I wasn’t looking for who really helped me. Star was a neighbor in the building I stayed in at the time, an artist whose son was taking care of her. I don’t remember how I met her. I remember spending most of the fall season of that year gleaning from her experiences, her mentioning Jesus speaking Aramaic, and those long discussions we had about things in the Bible and in church that didn’t make sense. This “statement” in Genesis was one of them.
It was in places like this I gained something that I’ll never forget, nor will anyone take from me, and that’s “the difference between answers and resolve.” I’ll leave that there with the prayerful intention that the readers find this out for themselves. It’s too valuable to explain in technical terms, and it’s way too powerful to ignore.
A few months later I read James for the first time. When he says, in English, “God can’t be tempted nor is He tempting…” I still found this bookmark in Genesis a bit bothersome, but there was at least some resolve in dealing with James’ no-nonsense approach to man’s own lust.
First of all, it was through both the extended fellowship with other believers and extended study of the Word that I found out “proving” and “tempting” are only two of several different and necessary aspects of that same root word. That’s what put me on the spot in God’s program, recognizing that I, not God, but I needed proof that only temptation would provide.
Secondly, I got a tip I only got from one other person. To this day he’s still telling people to…
1) mark whatever difficulty in Scripture they may have,
2) praise the Lord immediately for the revelation they’re about to receive,
3) put Jesus right in the middle of it and wait for Him to resolve it.
I didn’t know any better at first, so I tried it. I kept ending up here at Genesis 22.
Listen, Jesus cannot be proven.
He can only be revealed.
On that basis, this life must be proven as well while we’re still in it, and only by the standard revealed for the first time here in Genesis 22. It’s here in this unusual model of worship the LORD chooses to reveal His program He would implement centuries later.
No worries. We’re not under “the law.” James covers that. We’re under “the law of Liberty.” No sacrifices, no rituals required. Jesus covers that. That’s part of the point. His standard is our privilege. And in that process, any and all difficulties we may have will become the altar on which we build His worship.
So what is real worship anyway???
Some of the first few things I noticed while studying the Word on my own are in this marked passage, one of which is the first mention of the word “worship.”
It was well within the first few times I’d read through the whole Word. Things were exciting, serving in a large church where the Word was taught was very exciting, the fellowship was quite exciting, the leadership training, these massive outreaches…in fact, everything was exciting, not the least of which was the door of opportunity the Lord opened for me to serve in their music ministry, which they adamantly called “worship teams.”
So, one can imagine my surprise when I literally tripped right over this word “worship” when I see this mentioned somewhere…where there’s no music…no outreach…no training, no fellowship, no big church, no study, nothing exciting at all.
There’s only the LORD telling Abraham to do something that’s unspeakable in our vernacular with his son. There are his servants, to whom Abraham commands, “Wait here with the donkey. We’re going to go worship, then we’re coming back to you.” Again, nothing exciting. In fact, it’s barbaric. It’s confusing. It’s shocking. Very unexpected.
Its only explanation is in the text, right in the middle where the son, who by then was an adult, not a kid, asked his father, “Where’s the lamb?” and Abraham replies, “My son, God shall provide Himself a Lamb…” And I checked. That’s exactly what he said.
Here’s another one I checked. Ancient Hebrew had a separate designation for “two” so when we put it all together, He says “they both went together in agreement.”
In fact, He said it twice.
By the way, Abraham must have known something big was happening because he named that spot, “In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.” Somewhere close to 2,000 years later, on that very spot, God provided Himself a Lamb.
I’ll just leave that right there. Check it out for yourself. You’re not going to give an account for my word. Besides, what is real worship anyway? That’s a question only you can answer, since it involves response, but over the years I’ve confirmed some things I was told some time ago.
This is why some of us musicians can’t even get a prayer through even when we sound good, while others can’t carry a tune on a freight train…and wreck the house with one word. This is why ministers can sound astute, eloquent and persuasIve…and nobody gets saved, while others tear the house down with just one word of witness testimony.
Worship is the life of the Creator in the life of a believer seeking Its Source. The anointing of the Lord is always on that meeting. Any and everything else is traffic. Feel free to decide where you want to be today.
(Read Matthew 26:6-16)
1) This field exercise is demonstrated by two people. Both reveal it and are memorialized for it. However, one guarded it. The other, whose name means “praise,” didn’t. Think about it.
2) (cp. John 12:1-9) This feast at Bethany is literally an experience for all the senses, one that only a few were sensing. That’s Jesus, Martha, her brother, Lazarus, her sister, Mary, who poured the ointment on Jesus, and let’s not forget the host, Simon the leper, who in all likelihood may have been healed by this time, but…you know how people get about your past…
But His disciples get preoccupied by their own sense of values, not to mention this strong fragrance in the house. In fact, we also know that the one most vocal about his frustrations will be just as instrumental in this scene as the woman’s offering.
3) Jesus’ brief tutorial on social poverty and spiritual values speaks so many volumes that we’re still gleaning from it today, exactly like He said we would. However, in that process, we’ll find ourselves in some unsolicited situation and we’ll have to ask ourselves, “Who’s calling the shots here?”
For example, Judas may have fled this very scene to arrange His betrayal but, as the prophet Zechariah says, Jesus didn’t flee. But He’s God. He can’t. Now I’m still working on the details, but it’s too interesting to ignore the repetitive mention of the traitor’s full name. We know that Judas is a variant for “Judah,” which means “praise.”
Of all Jesus’ followers, with one initial exception, Judas’ is the only surname we have, “Iscariot,” or “men of Kerioth.” The evidence so far points towards the nation Moab and notoriety. When I put the pieces together, the result is quite odd that Jesus would choose someone whose motives seem driven by power, privilege and self-interest, but (John 6:67-71)…”Who’s calling the shots here?”
This is just a little more proof positive of this simple point.
“Guard your praise and worship.”
One of the best benefits to me in this life is bound up in what the Lord does NOT say in His Word. And, oddly enough, my first example of this came from this same passage, describing in great detail one single act of worship.
No, this isn’t double talk. That’s for the trained professional, something I’m definitely not. It’s plain, simple, quite unoriginal, and just as valuable as the things He says repeatedly.
Now in all due fairness I must admit that I missed this one the first few times…(Gen. 24:63) until one day I noticed something two chapters later. “Hold on a second. Where did Isaac go? We haven’t seen him for two chapters. It seems he shows up out of nowhere…meditating. That’s no coincidence. Why is this here, and what, if anything, do I do with this?”
I kept meditating in that way every time I’d see this passage, because by now questions like this were piling up. In fact, they still are. But another student tipped me off a few years later. “Have you noticed that Isaac disappears from the record in Genesis 22, and reappears two chapters later?”
“Wait up. That can’t be. They walked in agreement together. They have to have come down the mountain together.”
So I turned to Genesis 22 to be sure. (22:7, 19).
Read the text. Isaac disappeared from the record right after he asked Abraham about the offering in v. 7. He’s absent only in print when Abraham returned in v. 19. He only reappears (24:63) while meditating, and apparently anticipating his wife-to-be. All of this turns out to be a rare and simple model of Christ uniting with His Church. That’s at least a half a dozen things I learned that night. Apparently, the Author of Scripture doesn’t just write. He edits.
One of the best benefits to me in this life is bound up in what the Lord does NOT say. And, oddly enough, my first example of this came from this same passage, describing in great detail one single act of worship.
I think this statement was actually the first double-take in my studies…
“My son, God will provide Himself a Lamb for a burnt offering.”
Some time later I learned this marked passage is so venerated the scholars actually gave it a name…”aqedah”-“the binding of Isaac.” But at the first, I was way too shocked to care, that is, until I stumbled right into this statement, “My son, God will provide Himself a Lamb for a burnt offering.”
“Wait. Didn’t He just say, ‘God will provide for Himself a Lamb for a burnt offering?’ No, wait a minute…I see it. He’s going to provide Himself, not for Himself. ”
At first I thought I was seeing things. Lord knows I’ve been there, so I checked several times. I checked the Hebrew. I even checked other English versions. This is the same revelation I got back in the beginning when God pronounces war and introduces the Seed of the woman and I say to myself, “You’re kidding. You mean, those ’50’s throwbacks I used to love to hate were right? Jesus was there the whole time?”
I must say I thought I had something unique and all to myself for one moment…but it really was like striking gold. I suspect it had to be much more so for Abraham.
We know his history. And though he’s a highly respected patriarch who earned international acclaim in wartime, he didn’t always live up to that in peace or at home, especially during the whole family affair with his wife’s servant. Something real happened to Abraham by the time Isaac was born, because years and tears later, Abraham was too committed to hesitate when the LORD gave this command.
Right, and that’s a command, not a request or suggestion. I’ve seen others say in their reference journals that He “asked.” Forgive me this wrong, but it’s people like that who motivated me to get in the Word in the first place, if for no other reason, to find out who isn’t in His Word…starting with me.
Anyway, Abraham must have known by now something big was in the works. Look at how he names the place, “YHWH-Yireh”…or, if you will, “Jehovah-Jireh.” By now, I was familiar with that catch-phrase, “the LORD will provide.” Man, was I a witness. After a long series of failed effort AFTER I got saved…(pause)…the Lord surprised me with more than I ever had at one time. I even had time to study without having to make time. ‘Can’t tell me He won’t provide, OK?!?
However, that is not our message here. Look again, “…as it is said to this day, ‘in the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.’ ” Abraham learned something big he would want everyone to know. This all started with one announcement given to a wandering idolater. Now the LORD had a deliberate and simple message He wants everyone to know, a message derived from one man’s deliberate and simple act of worship.
(taken from Mark 4:35-5:20…Peace, be still…)
Keep your eyes on this guy Mark. His writings move so fast I can see why some believe he wasn’t writing on his own, but he was taking notes from our beloved Peter. All right, let’s take a walk. We know this story, though it’s anything but, hence the question. Whose red-letter day was this? Let’s look.
He appears to have been teaching all day after a big “red-letter rejection” from three different angles, while getting cornered between a big crowd and the lakefront. Also of interest is the sea itself. It turns out that storms are very common here because of the land formation. In other words,
“It’s another set-up.”
Clue #1: He saw this coming (cp. Mark 3:7-9)
Clue #2: These are professional sailors, who are fearing for their lives, taking on seawater in sudden, severe weather.
Clue #3: He’s asleep in the back during all this!
Clue #4: They have to wake Him up!
Clue #5: In Greek it reads, “peace, be muzzled”
Clue #6: He rebukes His followers for no faith.
Clue #7: His followers are shocked by His ability to command the weather.
Whose red-letter day was this? For, there’s another instance on record that seems similar, yet very different, in that He doesn’t command the storm. He commands His people. Some of us have concluded that Jesus Himself created that particular storm to make His point, encouraging them to exercise faith (cp. John 6:14-21). That’s for another day…
But not this red-letter day.
Immediately after they land, we’re confronted with a unique exchange between Jesus and a large group of spirits (estimates are in the hundreds) within this one man. He will most likely be the reason Jesus showed up here. This encounter is a bit similar to the surveillance report Satan submitted in Job’s story, Job 1-2, check it out. Yet this ground floor interrogation was very, very different.
Whatever was going on in this Gentile outpost was on Jesus’ schedule and these spirits obviously didn’t want Him there, or near that man, lest they lose their beacon on that territory. Sadly, the locals felt the same way for their own reasons. Sure, they lost some of their livelihood that day, but they may have still been under some undue influence these spirits were unwilling to give up. On the basis of this text some of us believe He was talking to these unclean spirits while that storm was in progress, not just the wind and sea. Please feel free to compare this entire dialogue with Jesus’ other confrontations with these spirits. Same basic Greek grammar throughout.
What an extreme comfort to know it’s no longer necessary to answer every knock at the door of my heart, or even to chase down every wind of doctrine. A lot of that stuff I wouldn’t feed my lawn, anyway. It’s all right to rest in God’s covering over my domain and to let Jesus answer for me toward the undue influences of a deteriorating, stormy world…
…Peace, be still…
One thing that’s intrigues me to this day is how Jesus never handles people the same way twice. Whenever that matter came up, this passage would always seem to come to mind first…perhaps because I resemble it a bit too much.
1) For starters, Jesus came to me first, long before I became desperate enough to reach out to Him. Maybe some of us sought God first. That’s not my testimony. He wasn’t mt first choice. He was my last. But beforehand I was apparently on His mind for Him to come looking for me…
2) I’m not sure this blind man consented to being brought to Jesus by the people…then again I’d probably be a good cop, lawyer, or shrink, after all of them I’ve seen in my lifetime with all that unsolicited “help” from them…
3) Jesus not only goes out of His way, but took me out of “my” way. That alone would’ve been easy…since I didn’t really have one to begin with. But with me, one of His regular gestures is taking me away from crowds, away from misunderstanding people and/or tainted perspectives…
4) He may as well spat on my eyes, because He sure knows how to deal with me in ways I would’ve never expected. That hinges on a reoccurring subject I’ll have to elaborate on later, but not today, called “the foolishness of God.”
5) I don’t know who started this, but I got a tip years ago that bears repeating.
“God doesn’t answer my questions until He first question my answers.”
That was a “slow burn,” but at an opportune time, when He sought me once again, this principle really came alive for me, and I began to really outgrow the fear of the unknown.
6) Here’s a real trap I can only mention by necessity…because few are talking about it…”judicial progression.” Although there’s forgiveness, healing, restoration and safety, there are also “consequences” for spiritually based activities rooted in covetousness. That’s a significant reason why my vision wasn’t totally restored right away when Jesus finally did get a hold of me. But one thing’s for sure. He touched me, and my life hasn’t been the same. I just had to work through that change with what I was given at first…..
7) Yes. I know. He’s been that good. That kind of goodness is almost impossible to keep to oneself. However, there’s at least one reason why some are commanded to hold their peace.
In the same way my vision wasn’t restored, my life was still in shambles at the first. “Born again” is slang for “learning how to live all over again.” At that time there’s little to no way my testimony would line up with what I was showing. I was still unemployable, and a bit scary looking. I was basically acting like Peter and Andrew when I should’ve been sitting at His feet, like Martha’s sister, Mary.
One other thing I find intriguing about Jesus’ ministry is how quickly this passage reads. In fact, it reads like the town He came from, and the Gospel account this story is in, “Don’t blink or you’ll miss Him.” That being the case, it’s literally fascinating to watch Jesus work once we know where to look for Him…
(1st & 2nd Peter)
I’m remembering the first few times I tried to read Peter’s letters. These letters are loaded so far down that I practically got a hernia trying at first…until some things happened, (1 Pet. 5:10) very much like a blessing he wrote in his first letter. Until those things began to happen, I could only notice three things about these writings.
1) I couldn’t believe this was the same guy we read about in the Gospels. Now I could relate to that other guy. One extreme to the other, strong will, weak character. Now you couldn’t have paid me to admit those things about myself at that time, ’cause at that time I wouldn’t have believed it, but I could sure spot them in him.
2) The next thing that got my attention without me even paying any attention was his constant mention of Jesus coming back. At least now I understand that the professionals came up with a name for this principle.
In other words…
“Be ready for Jesus to return any minute.”
That was the prevailing attitude among the early Church, so much so that we now think the early members in Jerusalem drove themselves broke from selling out of the marketplace and actually waiting for Jesus to come back “any minute.” Meanwhile, as a youngster or even as a young believer, I couldn’t yet see myself behaving as that scoffer Peter talked in his second letter…but Jesus’ return wasn’t more to me than that of some science-fiction movie that I wasn’t involved in…or interested in. There aren’t too many ways that kind of apathy and ignorance can change.
3) Peter sure talked about suffering a lot. And as soon as he got into “suffering wrongfully”…my, my, my…
The words would go into a blur, my mind would roam, I’d hear the phone ring even if I didn’t have one, or start remembering Jezebel again, the last visit to NYC, first day at grade school…
Something would always come up to divert my focus from those words that went against my strong will and weak character.
I’ll just tie it off there for now. I’ve presently got too many fences to mend. Meanwhile, as for me, I must say this experience with Simon Peter has been more proof positive to me that I never saw the light until I felt the heat first. Those things now being place, it has long since become a part of my vocabulary, this business of AWAITING HIS RETURN.
(Read Ezekiel 1:1-3)
…and once again it seems that I have the support of Scripture to confirm what I could only claim as my own experience.
Although I would never claim to have a lot in common with the lives of these Old Testament prophets, or, for that matter, our New Testament witnesses, I can confidently affirm that Jesus also came to me first before I had the presence of mind to choose Him.
That much is clear to me as being in common with Ezekiel’s ministry.
He chose me first.
And certainly He Alone chose the job description.
At this point one will do well to consider the job description indicated here in these initial passages. First off, our prophet’s status is our first matter of issue, beginning with his being of prime age and at a less-than-prime location (v. 1). Here’s the exact point the Lord chooses to introduce His intervention. He waits until after that point to disclose Ezekiel’s pedigree and political standing (vv. 2, 3), including his name (God strengthens) and his earthly father’s name (my contempt).
(1 Cor. 1:25-29)
Interesting choices. Also, a very revealing message regarding the disparity between God’s sense of value and mankind’s. For indeed there can be no value without His intervention.
Meanwhile, maybe this isn’t your testimony. I know I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, for most turn up dead first, but I know I ended up in this kind of “captive” condition before my senses were open enough to the Lord…before He decided it was time to intervene in my circumstances…and when He did, it was an unmistakable experience for all the senses.