Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606 - 1669 ), Abraham's Sacrifice, 1655, etching and drypoint, Rosenwald Collection

All Peoples of Earth Will Be Blessed Through You

The angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, “By myself I have sworn, says the Lord: Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son,  I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.” [Genesis 22:15-18]

Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606 - 1669 ), Abraham's Sacrifice, 1655, etching and drypoint, Rosenwald Collection

Rembrandt van Rijn, Abraham’s Sacrifice, 1655.

In Chapter 12, God calls Abram to leave his home and go to Canaan so that God can “make you into a great nation” and “all peoples of earth will be blessed through you.” God makes a land covenant with Abram in Chapter 15 and the covenant is reinforced in Chapter 17 through circumcision and by changing Abram’s name to Abraham because “I have made you a father of many nations.” But at this point, Abraham is very old and has no children. Isaac is finally born to Sarah when Abraham is 100 years old.

A few years later, God chooses to test Abraham’s faith. God said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” When Isaac asks, “where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” But when Abraham is about to slay his son, God says “Do not lay a hand on the boy. Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Abraham looked up and there in the thicket he saw a ram caught by it horns.

The story of Abraham and Isaac is a hard one. Human sacrifice to idols was common in Abraham’s time, but the one true God wants His chosen people to show their devotion in other ways. Abraham is blessed to be a blessing to the nations. Isaac is the link to the descendants as numerous as the stars who will be this blessing.  But first, God required Abraham to be patient and trusting.

After God made his covenant with Abraham, it was several hundred more years before the Jews started their trek from captivity in Egypt. Forty years in the wilderness before they entered the Promised Land to establish a small nation. Several hundred more years for them to become a great nation under David and Solomon. And from there, Abraham’s descendants lost their power and influence under greedy kings and invaders. Had God’s covenant failed?

No, God had not given up on humanity. We needed help with our relationship with God. God needed to help us understand that God is just and loving. “The one living God is always truly loving and just, truly just and loving. God’s justice gives people not what they deserve, but what they need.”[1]

So what did we need?  We needed a living example of how we should relate to God and one another. We needed Jesus to be born and live among us, to tell us about God’s love and justice, to show us how to love ourselves and other people. Because God did not withhold his son, his only son, the son he loved, God will surely make those who follow His example a blessing to the world. We are the new covenant. God has blessed us so that all peoples of earth will be blessed through us. Be a blessing to all this Advent season.

Listen:

 

 

[1] Christian Doctrine by Shirley Guthrie

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