Readings: Genesis 22: 1-14, Matthew 10: 40-42.
When our two readings are examined together, they begin to open up some very powerful thoughts…about our standing in God’s great scheme of things: about our importance within; and beyond, Christ’s Church: and about self-estimation: and give us clearer insights, as to who we really are.
At Genesis 22, Abraham’s faith was put to an extreme test. He won through; became blessed in himself, and an ongoing blessing to others. The text highlights the beginning of a foundational pattern of life and service: upon which, eventually, God would build the Gospel of Christ. Matthew 10; was about receiving people sent by God; and the unusual-sounding rewards, that receiving them brings into being. This teaching not only applies to others; but also, is relevant to us: because it includes us.
Archaeologists and historians place Abraham approximately at the middle of the Bronze Age: about 2,000 B.C., at which time; for various religious reasons; human sacrifice was by no means rare. The Bible: always honest about itself: presents facts, figures and teachings, in a ‘warts-and-all’ manner: and that is just what it does at Genesis 22.
Abraham’s preparedness to sacrifice his son, Isaac: indicates that the practice was well known to him. His willingness to face up to the dreadful prospect…speaks of the iron control he had, over his faith: and his relentless determination to be obedient to the divine command.
In an earlier, powerful experience of God; at Genesis 15; Abraham had fully believed what the Lord had told him. Because of this, his unwavering belief had been counted to him as righteousness. In today’s reading; Abraham had an almost heart-stopping experience of God’s will being made very clear: but the text gives no hint whatsoever, that his belief, and willingness to obey, was any less than before. Nor is there any hint that God’s command, was no more than an extreme test: and that things would be all right, at the end. Instead, the text indicates that Abraham understood the Lord’s command to be very much ‘for real’… and that he was fully prepared to carry it out.
When his son asked: ‘Where is the sacrificial lamb?’ he replied: ‘God himself will provide it’. This is not to say that he knew of, or guessed at, a divine intervention. Instead, his reply seems to confirm that he believed Isaac to be the ‘lamb’ in question; and his actions; in carrying things through, until that last-moment intervention; prove that he had intended a ‘for real’ obedience, to the ‘for real’ command that he had received.
As we begin to link this story, to the gospel text, at Matthew 10, so we begin to discover something of its relevance to us, today.
Earlier, Abraham’s belief in God’s word, was unwavering. Later, he was put to the test, to see whether or not his obedience was as firm as before. According to the text, it would have been: if God had not intervened, and provided another way.
Theologically: Abraham’s willingness to go to such an extreme: is taken to be a pattern, a model, of God’s willingness to do the same, only more so, in the offering of his Son, Jesus. Abraham received and accepted the divine command; made it his own; and was fully prepared to fully implement it; had no other way been given. God the Father was not only prepared to do so: but did sacrifice Jesus – because there was no other way.
In the Genesis text, Isaac typified the ‘lamb’ to be slaughtered. In John’s gospel record, and ever since: Jesus is named as: ‘The Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world’. Isaac appears not to have had any ‘say’ in the matter: but it was vastly different with Jesus. He could have said: ‘No!’ but, instead: he accepted the command of God; made it his own; and fully implemented it.
At Genesis 22, are the beginnings of a pattern of life and service; as Abraham and Isaac prefigured something of what God the Father, and God the Son, would undertake; some 2,000 years later. God’s great scheme of things, continued to develop, in New Testament times: and, at Matthew 10, we recognize how the ongoing pattern of life and service applies to us; today… because, through our believing obedience, we; too: can, sometimes, prefigure what God, in Christ is about to do.
We cannot earnestly enquire into, or handle, the things of God; without their inherent Godliness becoming part of us; and built into the fabric of our lives.
From the moment that a man or woman fully accepts Christ as God, Saviour and Lord; that person’s life contains some part of the Spirit of Christ; and some part of his qualities and attributes. He or she becomes a Christian, whose life contains a share of divine gifts and graces. That is why Jesus can say: ‘He who receives you, receives me…’
Eventually, through maturing faith; that person will be enabled not only to offer the things of God to others; but also, to offer Christ himself. In this way, the maturing Christian; through the indwelling Spirit; becomes something of a type, or pattern, of Christ: and other peoples’ acceptance of the attractive nature, personality and lifestyle of the ‘pattern’; is filled with potential, for them to accept the One to whom the pattern points – Christ himself.
Jesus touched on the eminently practical application of spirituality; in the lives of his followers; when he said: ‘He who receives you, receives me…’ but, what about our acceptance, and reception, of others?
The text said: “anyone who receives a prophet, because he is a prophet, will receive a prophet’s reward: and anyone who receives a righteous man, because he is a righteous man, will receive a righteous man’s reward”.
True prophecy is a knowledge of God’s plans, purposes and will, in certain matters: given in trust: to be passed on. The prophet’s ‘reward’ is deep joy at being an active channel of divine mercy, love and grace, in this needy world.
The acceptance of a prophet: because of who he is; and what he stands for; means receiving a share of both the knowledge of God that he bears with him; and the deep joy that blesses his life.
True righteousness is of God’s own nature. The righteous man’s reward: is to be blameless before God.
The acceptance of a righteous man: because of who he is; and what he stands for; enhances our experience of the divine qualities and attributes which shape, direct, and bless the Christian life…
…and helps confirm in us, our blamelessness before God; in, through, and because of Jesus, the Christ – who has become our Redeeming Lord.
As twice said: We cannot earnestly enquire into, or handle, the things of God; without their inherent Godliness becoming part of the fabric of our lives.
Our standing in the Lord’s great scheme of things; is as Christians; caught up in his redeeming love; and having much to share, with others, through the opportunities that the Holy Spirit opens up for us.
Our importance, both within and beyond the Church: is as attractive ‘types’ or ‘patterns’ of Christ; who encourage each other; and whose lives and ministries give such witness, to the world all around; that others are drawn to accept Jesus, as their God, Saviour and Lord.
The clearer insights that today’s texts can give; have the power to enhance our understanding of what God has called us to be.
Such increased understanding, can make us more ready, to give ourselves fully, to the service of the Lord… out of which will come the special joy, that is the reward of obedience. Amen.