It's hard having both strengths (Gen 18:8) and weaknesses (20:2). If nothing else, the timing of when they come out is off (21:5). Our obvious (21:11) and less obvious (20:11) failures protrude, and then, if we're trying an angle that shows that we have some strengths (21:33), how does that seem to work out (22:2)?
Then again, this story is becoming both great and scary at the same time for Abraham. Have you ever met someone that you just want to make go-away, because they are too much for you? They are great, but they are marching to their own drum, and when they appear, they are usually huge in your life, but completely scary at the same time. So the Lord. This story puts together a set of encounters between Abraham and the Lord that are completely uncontrollable by Abraham. In the space of a few years, God's encounters with Abraham feel like from zenith (18:33) to nadir (22:7).
Not to see him as victim. Abraham's actions, as we are reading along, are, logically speaking, inexplicable. A man whom God Himself visits, and promises things that have the sky as their limit (specifically! 15:5), punts (12:13), and punts (15:2), and punts (15:8), and punts (16:2). and punts (17:18), and today again, punts (20:2). So by the time we hear God telling Abimelech in 20:7 that Abraham is a prophet, we go, huh? Grace is odd, isn't it?
So the long story of 12:1 to here seems to climax in 21:1-8, and there in verse 8, Abraham, capitalizing on his strengths again, makes a great feast.
Maybe Abraham is thinking "well, it's obvious that God's got some plan for me; maybe I better be quiet and not mess it up." But passivity is not rewarded either, and Abraham finally stands his ground about a small matter, a well that had been taken from him (21:25-26) and he had not done anything about. After this, he takes the initiative again, perhaps learning that doing nothing doesn't work. He takes his stand on the matter of the well, business wise, and calls on God to notice it (21:27-33). At this point we certainly see Abraham having become an active moral agent. Sure, it's a well. But he takes a stand: he puts a nice tree by it (21:33).
Lest Abraham fall back from this progress, the Lord has a test (22:1). People are always saying, "what does God need to test us for?" A very good question, with a very good answer here. Everyone who has ever been trained by someone with good will knows that tests are timed to show progress. This is a one-on-one situation here, between God and Abraham, which makes the timing at God's discretion (22:1), and God already "knows" -- as we read this, we know He knows -- not only the test, but its outcome and things hundreds of years future -- God already knows what Abraham will do. So the test is not to flunk him, but to teach him. God makes the result of the test very clear to Abraham (22:12-18).
So let's take heart about our tests and training.
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