Daily devotion

Tested to the core

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Pray for an undivided heart.

Genesis 22:1-8

Time has passed, in which Abraham and Sarah lovingly watch little Isaac grow, reminded daily of how God fulfilled his incredible promise. Now comes the bombshell. Abraham gets a call from God to make another journey to offer the miracle child as a sacrifice. The story is told with dramatic skill: though we know the happy ending we are drawn into the agonising suspense.

Thoughtful people struggle with the ethics of it. If Abraham is good, how can he set out intending to kill his innocent son? If God is good, how can he make such and immortal demand? The story seems to set a dangerous precedent. Surely the first check that God has really commanded a certain action should be that it is consistent with the good and holy character of God! A clue to this problem is the description in Genesis of Abraham as a prophet. In the Hebrew scriptures the Lord’s prophets are asked to do shocking and personally very painful things as dramatic signs for a wider audience. Hosea had to marry a prostitute and through the experience communicate God’s faithful love to unfaithful people. Ezekiel was forbidden to mourn when his wife died, pointing exiled Jews to hope beyond the fall of Jerusalem. These were not examples to be followed but signs to enhance a particular message from God.

We will look at the meanings of this sign tomorrow. Today, note that the action is primarily a test of Abraham. The willingness of the prophets to rank love and obedience to God before all human loves-that is what enabled them to be the channels through which God spoke to the world. Abraham passes the test with quiet dignity as he speaks calming words to Isaac that are truer than he could know.

Jesus calls all his disciples to have those same priorities. Are there relationships you are trying to keep from his sight?

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