But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’ And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt-offering instead of his son. Genesis 22:11-13
Reading this story with the kids last night, we wondered what might have happened if Abraham hadn’t heard the angel telling him to stop, and had gone on to sacrifice Isaac. J’s suggestion – God would have made the ram into the father of a great nation of rams.
Can’t help wondering if that would have been a better outcome.
Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and its mate; and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and its mate…Genesis 7:2
…and Moses replied “Um, LORD, what exactly do you mean by ‘clean’ animals?”
Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to reside there as an alien, for the famine was severe in the land. When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, ‘I know well that you are a woman beautiful in appearance; and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, “This is his wife”; then they will kill me, but they will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared on your account.’ When Abram entered Egypt the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. When the officials of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female slaves, female donkeys, and camels.
But the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. So Pharaoh called Abram, and said, ‘What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, “She is my sister”, so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and be gone.’ And Pharaoh gave his men orders concerning him; and they set him on the way, with his wife and all that he had. Genesis 12:10-20
You notice what’s missing in this account? Any criticism of Abram. Pharaoh, who acts with complete honour, is cursed, and Abram is richly rewarded – blessed – by God for his dishonesty. Same happens again, with the same trick, in Genesis 20. It seems God rewards this man twice for dishonestly using his wife as a sexual lure to take advantage of a rich man.
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:1-3
One of my paradigmatic verses; the blessing of the people of God is designed to overflow – blessed to be a blessing. How many times have I used this verse, explicitly or implicitly, in my preaching? Probably not more than the stars in the sky or the sand in the desert, but not so far off…
And how many times have I made reference to “the one who curses you I will curse”? Zero.
Sometimes this “read the text more closely” isn’t as much fun as others.
Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ …
God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. Genesis 1:26;1:31-2:3
What day is it today? We treat this story (even in play, I’m not going take it literally…) as a description of the start of all things, as if we live in what comes after. But might it be a description of the whole of history?
For in one place it speaks about the seventh day as follows: ‘And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.’ And again in this place it says, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’ Hebrews 4:4-5
They shall not – in the future – enter my rest – the seventh day.
Is it possible that we are living in the sixth day of the story, the day of creation and dominion, and that the seventh day, God’s rest, is still to come? That “the heavens and the earth were finished” is a prophecy, not a history?
And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’ Genesis 2:16-17
Have you ever noticed that God didn’t tell Eve the rules?
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ Genesis 3:1
Was it easier to spin her, because she didn’t have it first hand? Easier to twist God’s words because she hadn’t heard them?
Look what happens when women aren’t invited to the important meetings….