Testing, testing — Genesis 22-24

I went to visit a friend in Mass General today, so I’m a little tardy with this posting, but I certainly do not want to skip a single day of reading and reflecting on the word.

Talking with my friend about his health (he has cancer and is undergoing treatments), he mentioned that he had had a great deal of time (in isolation because of the treatment) to pray, read the word, and think. He was quite certain that his whole ordeal is God’s classroom for teaching something important to him for life. I’m sure my friend will, too; he’s talking about how this event has changed him and how (for example) he’ll be approaching hospital visits differently himself.

Ahh, if only all of us could learn from our trials! Too often we just fall into self-pity and learn little or nothing. And sometimes, I’ll surmise, that’s the reason that we find ourselves in whole strings of trials — we have learned little or nothing from the trial(s), but God’s trying to get through to us with something important. Why work through trials? I know that in this world there are some things that are best taught through hands-on experience — “book learning” just doesn’t do it justice.

And speaking of trials/tests, Genesis 22 has Abraham’s biggest. Sacrifice your son — your only son — the son you love. Much has been written about this story. Some have wondered if God could have really commanded such a terrible thing. Yeah, I think He could have and did, but I’m also quite sure that He never had any intention of  letting it actually occur (see Jer. 7:31). The command was a test and Abraham passed with flying colors. He demonstrated that he loved God more than anything else, he demonstrated that he had faith that no matter what, God’s promises would stand and everything would work out.

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, “IN ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS SHALL BE CALLED.” He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type.” Hebrews 11:17-19, NAS95.

Are you passing your tests? Even if you’re not, are you learning anything? I once had a teacher who said that we would probably never forget answers to the questions we got wrong on a test; I think that’s mostly true — unless they’re life-tests. Sometimes we get those wrong over and over again. Are you learning anything?

Genesis 23 has a great retelling of a typical middle eastern price bargaining session over the price of the field and cave in which to bury Abraham’s family. Archaeologically speaking, the ritual — of offering to buy something for the full price, having the seller offer to give the thing away to honor the buyer, the buyer insisting that he should buy it, the seller indirectly naming his price (“what is 400 shekels between us?”), and the buyer paying the full price — is one more tidbit of proof of the authenticity of the Bible. The ritual really does reflect ancient transactions of the period.

Genesis 24 tells a great story of marriage of Isaac. Abraham sends his chief steward to fetch a bride for his son Isaac. After Abraham provided the steward him with instructions, the steward leaves on his mission and we discover quickly why this man was Abraham’s chief steward: he was a “taking care of business” kind of guy. Give him a job and it’s as good as done. Notice that he takes off immediately after packing everything he thought he’d need. He was a man of faith who sought God’s help. When he sees the sign (getting the water for himself and his camels), he moves to quickly close the deal: refuses to eat at the banquet in his honor until he had made his business known. Once the family’s permission had been procured, he paid the bride price, and he was ready to leave the next morning, even though they wanted him to stay for a few days. But with this man, there was no dilly-dallying.

Don’t you suppose that your boss would want such an employee?

Don’t you suppose that they Lord would want such a disciple?

May God grant us all the wherewithal to pass our life-tests and the intelligence to recognize where we went wrong, when we fail them.

Talk with you tomorrow, Lord willing.

About parklinscomb

I'm a minister for the church of Christ in Manchester NH where I've worked since the 1970's. I'm a big fan of my family, archaeology, the Bible, the Lord's church, and Gander Brook Christian Camp.
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