Sunday, April 17, 2011

Homily for Lenten Vespers–Week of Judica (Lent 5)


Genesis 22:1-14

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

What kind of father would sacrifice his son to his God? What kind of God would demand such a sacrifice? With a cursory reading and hearing of this text, without the eyes and the ears of faith, these are the questions that you are left with. For, if you do not fear the LORD your God, then you will puff yourself up with pride and place your reason and your wisdom above God and His will and His Word. And, if you do not love the LORD your God, then you will think His will and His ways to be evil, not good. And, if you do not trust in the LORD your God, then you will consider Him an impersonal, capricious, and vindictive power that cares or thinks nothing of His creatures’ wellbeing. But, that is not the type of God that you have, nor is that the type of God that Abraham put his fear, love, and trust in.

God had promised Abraham that His descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the heavens and as countless as the grains of sand along the seashore. Even though Abraham and his wife Sara were quite aged and beyond childbearing years, Abraham believed God, and God counted his faith to him as righteousness. Without fear, love, and trust in God, in His goodness, His will, and His Word, we would expect Abraham to be outraged at God’s command to sacrifice his only son. But , we see that Abraham is not outraged, and that he obediently rose early the next day with his donkey, his servants, and his son, with the wood for the fire upon Isaac’s back, the fire, and the sacrificial knife in hand and headed out to place of which God had told him. Why would Abraham do this? What did he believe about this God who commanded such a thing? Abraham believed God’s promise and that He would, and that He could, keep it, no matter what.

However, there are few clues in the text that inform us of the quality of Abraham’s faith, and what He truly believed about His God. For instance, when Abraham came within sight of the sacrificial mount, He said to his two servants, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” Despite the LORD’s command and his own intention to obey it, Abraham confessed his faith that God would yet keep his promise – Abraham’s only son Isaac would return, and he would be the heir of his own flesh through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Then, a while later, when his son inquired where the sacrificial lamb was for the burnt offering, in faith Abraham replied, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” Here we see that Abraham even believed that the LORD would provide a substitute for a sacrifice, sparing his only son, or else that God would raise His son from the dead and keep His promise. Further, it even seems that young Isaac shared the faith of his father, submitting to be prepared and bound for sacrifice right up to the very moment the knife would be plunged into his flesh. What kind of father would sacrifice his son to his God? The kind of father who truly feared, loved, and trusted in his God above all things. What kind of God would demand such a sacrifice? The kind of God who is so jealous for His people, for their fear, love, and trust above all things, that He would provide of Himself what was required to restore sinful man to Himself. And so, the Angel of the Lord, who identified Himself as God, commanded Abraham to stay the knife and to spare his Son. And, when Abraham looked up, he beheld a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham took the ram that the LORD had provided and sacrificed it in the place of his son.

Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide,” and the Jews thereafter called it “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” Jerusalem was founded upon that mount and Solomon erected his temple there. If not in this exact location, then certainly nearby was Golgotha, the mount of Jesus’ crucifixion and death. Indeed, on the mount of the LORD all has been provided for Abraham and Isaac, for you, and for all the world.

The ram caught in a thicket by its horns points us to the strong, but willing, sacrifice of the Lamb of God, God’s only Son whom He loves, Jesus Christ, upon the wood of the cross on Golgotha, the place of a skull. Where Abraham’s only son and all his descendants were spared, there the Son of God laid down His life unto death for the life of the world. The LORD has provided. The Lamb of God has taken away the sin of the world. The world has been judged not guilty, vindicated. It is finished. For all which it is our duty to fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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