Saturday, September 01, 2007

Humanity in Sin Part 26 - Abraham Offered Isaac

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on 26th August 2007 in Newton Life. It was preached in Chinese with English Translation.

Passage: Genesis 22:1-18

Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born. Abraham was a person with a simple faith towards God. Sarah made use of her life experiences and rationality to respond to God’s promises. This is the method of liberal theology in 19th century, which put a lot of emphasis on science, human phychology, experience and rationality. They want to use science and medical principles to determine whether it is reasonable. Christianity accepted this kind of method in 19th century. This is anthropocentric methodology. Man-centered approach can never produce great faith. All sort of explanations will be subjective through limited reason and tools of knowledge that has been stained by sin.

The revealed truth of the Bible, on the other hand, not only has the content of the truth, but the principles and approaches towards faith. The Scripture is not constraint by systems of thought and transcends nature. Abraham believed that God creates reason, nature and humans, so God must transcend reason, nature and humans.

Abraham viewed the world as an open system, while Sarah viewed it as a closed system. These two represent the two great systems in history. Apostle’s Creed’s first statement, “I believe in the Father, Creator of the heaven and earth.” already broke through Greek’s close system. Christianity starts a new page in history and reveals the relationship between God and the created world in creation and salvation. This is the foundation of Abraham’s faith.

He demonstrated his faith in God the Creator when he believed in God’s promise that he would have a son in his old age. If God could create all things out of nothing, why can’t one believe that God can enable an old person to have a child? For nothing is impossible for God.

After God gave him Isaac, God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. But Isaac was still a child, not married and had no kids yet, so if he died, God’s eternal promise would be disrupted. What kind of faith did Abraham have when he sacrificed Isaac? The New Testament reveals that Abraham acted in obedience based on his faith in God who could resurrect the dead. This is salvation.

According to Islam, Isaac was never the only son of Abraham. He already had Ishmael for 13 years before Isaac was born. So Islam believes that the Bible’s record is wrong. Islam accepts four books of revelation, the Law, the Psalms, the Gospels and Quran. It also has the concept that the newer revelation is more important and accurate than the older revelation.

Reformed theology believes in continuity between the old and the new testament but emphasizes that there should be no contradiction because of God’s consistent character. It has a different doctrine of revelation from Islam.

The Scripture says only through Sarah would the seed be reckoned, hence in that sense, Isaac is the only son of Abraham. God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac to Him. This seemed very cruel. Since God had given Isaac to Abraham, the long-awaited promised son, why then He asked him to offer his child as a sacrifice?

When Abraham heard this command, he replied with the instinct that God is the Lord. Early in the morning, he woke his son and got ready to move. This time the Scripture did not record that he discussed with Sarah. Sarah might have argued with him if he did.

Abraham saw the place God had prepared on the third day. It means the journey was quite a long one. Why would God demand he travel so far away? This is related to God’s timing. The theology of time is greatly neglected because people want instant- noodle theology. People cannot wait and want to see results right away. But God wants us to learn to wait on His timing. God’s timing often transcends our thoughts, which through our trials and reflections, we will gradually learn. We often do not realize that we are proud and think we have the ability to do what God wants us to do with our own strength and in our own way.

When Israel was about to enter Canaan, God did not let them go through the nearer path, but through the wilderness. God is not constrained by time, so He never hurries, but for us as human beings, we are anxious because we feel we have not much time. In our actions that are based on our anxiety, we often clash with God’s timing.

On the third day, Isaac asked Abraham where was the lamb for sacrifice. In this great difficulty, Abraham said, “My son, God himself will provide the lamb for burnt offering.” This is the extension of Abraham’s faith. The God who could not make a mistake had commanded something so difficult and seemingly contradictory.

Abraham could escape God’s command for a thousand reasons. Didn’t God promise that his descendants will be reckoned through Isaac? Would not His eternal will be thwarted if Isaac died? He had reasons to disobey. But Abraham saw this from the eyes of faith. The book of Hebrews said that Abraham believed that God would resurrect Isaac from the dead. God is the God who creates something out of nothing, who provides all our needs, who resurrects the dead. The extension of our faith would enable us to understand that God would provide on His mountain.

Whatever God has given us, He has the right to take it away. Are we willing to surrender to Him what is most precious to us? Let us learn to respond in worship and submission like Abraham.


At 3:24 AM, Blogger Abel N. said...

According to Islam, Isaac was never the only son of Abraham. He already had Ishmael for 13 years before Isaac was born. So Islam believes that the Bible’s record is wrong

Yeah, in Islam's version, it was Ishmael who was offered by Abraham to God. Not Isaac.

[ once there was a friend who used to visit our small group, but believed all religions are the same. I told her, compared Islam and Christianity; it was so contradict that if one goes to heaven the other will surely goes to hell. ]


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