GO: Trust!

Go Trust – September 17, 2017   Genesis 21:1-3; 22:1-14

Poor Abraham. He and Sarah were old when they had Isaac and now they could lose him.

Let’s back up a minute. Just in case Abraham is a new person for you, let me tell you about him and his relationship with God. Abraham started out as Abram. Sarah started out as Sarai. They were called to leave their homeland by God at an old age. God promised Abraham he’d be the father of a great nation and would be a blessing to the world. So God promised Abraham land and offspring to carry out being a blessing.

So Abraham believes and trusts God and leaves his homeland with his wife. They become immigrants as they head into Egypt where there is a famine. He becomes fearful of how he will be treated as an immigrant and comes up with a lie that Sarah is not his wife but his sister. This lie causes misery in the house of the Pharaoh and they are kicked out.  Yet, God does not give up on Abraham or Sarah or the promise.

Abraham leads a successful war effort and then soon he is questioning God about God’s promise to him for offspring as they remain childless. Sarah, hoping to get the promise from God moving along already, suggests that perhaps her slave girl, Hagar, could have the baby. Ishmael. 13 years later, when Isaac is born, Sarah gets worried about Isaac’s inheritance and banishes Hagar and Ishmael to the desert to die. God intervenes and saves Hagar and Ishmael. And God does not give up on Abraham and Sarah.

Abraham then negotiates, barters even with God to save the city of Sodom. Abraham talks God down, what iffing about 50 and then 40 and then 20 and then 10 people who were righteous.

All this is to say – they’ve got a relationship.

It’s important for you to know this history about Abraham so today’s story has context. Abraham has well worn faith in God. That doesn’t mean that he hasn’t tried to be God and figure out how to bring the promises on his own self. It doesn’t mean he hasn’t lied or cheated.  This faith he has is a gift from God. And the amazing thing is, God has stuck with him despite his lying and attempts to be the promise-bringer. God even stuck with him after Abraham dared to change God’s mind about the destruction of a city.

I think their relationship status on Facebook would read: it’s complicated.  And in this complicated relationship there is faith and love and trust to be found in abundance. God’s faithfulness remains. Abraham’s faith remains, even when he doesn’t act like it.

We are familiar with this God aren’t we? We screw up – God sticks it out with us. We try to take control of all the things – God continues to love us, to claim us. We know this God, this God of Abraham.

But back in Abraham’s day? gods, small g-gods, were a whole different thing. Before this God showed up, the culture of worship was based on fear.  You only prayed to those lower-g-gods so that your kid might be healed or that your crops might be spared or the battle won. And you had to demonstrate that you were “all in” to this lower-g god by offering something in return for their favor. Animals, most often. And child sacrifice? While it blisters our ears, it would not have been uncommon for a small g-god to demand that.

So this God that Abraham is following? God was a game-changer. This was a radical new kind of God. You see, up to this point, God hadn’t asked for a thing in return for God’s faithfulness. Not one animal sacrifice after another to get Abraham and Sarah to leave their homeland. But instead a promise of God’s faithfulness.

So now what was this. This story today.

Why would God ask such a thing? Is God so cruel as to demand this of Abraham as proof of his faith? Did God suddenly become insecure?

Here is where I could jump to Jesus and make the connection that of course it’s too much for God to ask Abraham to sacrifice his son but it’s not too much for God to sacrifice God’s own son for the sake of the world. However, God wasn’t testing God’s own self by having Jesus killed. And Jesus knew what was ahead for him. Isaac just walked with his dad for 3 days up the mountain. He didn’t know what was ahead, as Jesus did.

So instead of jumping to Jesus to solve this for us, we are left with this story.

We can imagine the inner monologue of Abraham. We can imagine the angst, the fear, the anger that Abraham could be feeling on this long hike up the mountain. His quiet disappointment that this God was turning out to be like all the others. Yet I think we’re given a clue as to what Abraham was thinking. Look at verse *

5: Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.”

I mean, maybe he’s trying to keep things cool. But I wonder – could this actually be a great statement of faith in God? “We’ll both be right back.”

So far, what Abraham had experienced was a God who hadn’t given up on him. Not once. This God hadn’t punished him or demanded 2 turtle doves to worship him. He didn’t say, “I won’t love you unless you leave your homeland.” This simple sentence – we will come back to you – is an indirect and lovely statement of faith.

Because from Abraham’s experience – OF COURSE God will provide. After all, he and Sarah had left their homeland in response to God and had gained land and offspring, and they were living into being a blessing. Sure, it was taking a couple of decades. Abraham could point to what God had given to him. God had followed through. This was a God who came to him and offered to give to Abraham. The other gods of the day? Takers. They wanted your devotion, your worship, certainly, but the cost was evidence of sacrifice. Those gods would need to be bought again and again. The sacrifice would not end. This God was different.

Abraham trusted. God provided.

In this story it is not about Abraham learning about God. It is about God learning about Abraham. God says in verse 15 through an angel:

By myself I have sworn, says the Lord: because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore…”

God learns that Abraham does trust God. God learns that Abraham expects that this God keeps God’s promises. God learns that Abraham trusts God with the very promise God had given to him. A son.

I don’t think this is a story about sacrifice. This is a story about God’s faithfulness. This is a story about Abraham’s faith. I wonder, what does that look like in your life?

Friends of mine have 3 kids. Their first born, about 2 ½ years into his life, began to seize. Seizures that you can’t see, or at least you and I can’t see. And their son hasn’t stopped those seizures yet. He’s 12 now. Well into the weeds and the woods of this reality for their son, mom was struggling terribly. Dad was too, but he looked at her at the end of a particularly hard day and he said, “Where is your faith? God is with us in this.”

It’s like he turned to her and said, “we’re going over here to worship and we’ll both be right back.”

Can you utter such an amazing statement of faith in such an ordinary way?  God is with us. God doesn’t break promises. Do you trust that for your life? I hope you do, because it’s the best news you’ll ever here.