Friday, January 07, 2011

New Year: Gen 22-24 for Jan 7

Just like most tests, this one just arrives. No reason is given to Abraham for the instructions, other than reasons that between friends show understanding of what is the nature of the test: "your only son ... whom you love ... Isaac." The reader knows the irony of "Isaac" (meaning "he laughs 17:19), and God gave him the name.

But along with the name, God said "I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him" (17:19).

There are some other salient details in the words describing God's command: "one of the mountains of which I will tell you...." This is code-language, going back to the start: "Go forth ... to the land which I will show you" (12:1). It's as if God is reminding him of the beginning, and how well it had transpired until then. The characteristic language of the covenant. This test is not a test for genuineness of covenant relationship, but a test within the ongoing covenant relationship. This test is not an exclusion test. Abraham is not taking a college weed-out course, to make him flunk.

They make movies about someone who had to cut a leg to stay alive in the wild. How long did 22:8-9 take? Could anyone capture the ramifications of that walk, and that setup, and that moment of 22:10-11?

Was it a genuine test? Yes. What was the result? "Now I know that you are a fearer of God" (lit., 22:12) This is very similar "I know" language to what God said about Sodom before He went down to see it in 18:21. This going down to Sodom is for thorough knowledge: "to see if they have done entirely according to its outcry, and if not, I will know" (18:21). The command to Abraham, which the reader, but not Abraham, knows is a test, produces this knowledge, this investigated, open, factual knowledge of Abraham that he is this: a fearer of God."

This knowledge (very important not to miss this) does not stay secret in the counsels of God, but God tells him. God told him about the wickedness of Sodom ahead of the judgment. Here, he tells Abraham about what he is. Not what he became, but what he is. Passing the test did not make Abraham into a fearer of God. He was that, before. When God says "now I know" -- and wants you to know it too -- that is a seal of the truth of it, a seal far greater than if you only figured it out for yourself.

This test was for Abraham's good. God knew that Abraham was a fearer of God. God knew that Abraham "considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead" (Heb 11:19). Abraham now knows that God knows that thought, as well as all his other ones, but particularly important, evidently, within this covenant relationship, is for Abraham to know that God knows that that's what God is to him. That's your friendship to God, when you know that God knows that you fear him... from your experiences together through thick and thin.

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