A Teachable Moment

Based On: Genesis 22:1-18

Have you ever had a child hurt himself or herself while doing something you had just told them NOT to do?  You have in that situation a teachable moment.  The event has created a unique learning opportunity for the child. So, after you take care of the immediate medical emergency you sit down with the child and gently say, “Do you understand why I told you not to do that?  You know, Mom and Dad love you and when we tell you not to do something it is for your good.”  The idea is that the unpleasant experience will make the lesson more memorable.  It doesn’t always work.

Teachable moments are all around.  As we hear in today’s reading about this incredible event in the life of Abraham, we see God create a teachable moment for Abraham.  We also see Abraham use this event as a teachable moment for his son.

This is an amazing event.  Who else can you think of in the Bible that was tested to such a degree and passed?  Perhaps Job comes close.  Perhaps only Jesus’ self-sacrifice for us surpasses it.

Abraham had waited years for God to fulfill his promise to give him a son and now that he had a son, he certainly loved this son.  But who does he love more?  Did he love God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength?  After all, Jesus said that was the most important command.  God already knew the answer, but for Abraham to see his faith tested would make his faith even stronger.

Abraham doesn’t know it is a test.  All he has is God’s command, “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.”  God knows how painful this command will be for Abraham.

What did Abraham do?  “Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey.”  He obeyed.  Right away.  How many times have we known what was the right thing to do and hesitated or put it off as long as we can. 

After three days of travel Abraham reaches his destination and now we have some insight into how Abraham could follow through with this command.  He tells his servants, “We will worship and then we will come back.”  First, to obey God is always worship and that is what Abraham and Isaac were going to do, but Abraham also said, “we will come back.”  How could he be so sure?

Abraham heard God’s command to sacrifice his son.  He also knew God’s promises.  This is the son through whom Abraham would become a great nation.  Even more, this is the son through whom Abraham’s Savior would come.  The two seemed to contradict each other – the command and the promises.  How could the savior come from Isaac’s line if Isaac was dead?  Yet Abraham trusted God so that even though human reason could not comprehend how God could keep his promises if Abraham sacrificed his son, Abraham was going to obey God anyway.

Abraham knew God would keep his promise and Abraham fully expected Isaac to come back down the mountain with him, even if that meant God had to reassemble Isaac’s ashes and breathe life back to his body.  Isaac had to live.

Doesn’t God do the same with you?  Doesn’t God expect you to spend time in his word even though your life is full of important things that need to be done – even things God has given you to do?  Or doesn’t God promise to give you everything you need to take care of your family and yet expects you to give offerings to his work.  Those two things seem to oppose each other – especially in difficult economic times.  Forget what makes sense to you and trust that God will keep his promise even when you obey his command.

We see the results of Abraham’s trust in God.  He and Isaac go up the mountain and Abraham obeys God’s command – even to the point of grabbing the knife, pulling it out of its sheath and aiming it at his son.  God stops him and blesses him.

It is a teachable moment.  As I said earlier, God already knew what was going to happen, but through this test God strengthened Abraham’s faith and knowledge.  He again saw God keep his promises – even when he didn’t know how it would happen.  He also saw with greater clarity what it meant to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Even as God was teaching Abraham, Abraham was teaching Isaac.  It is difficult to miss the little dialog between father and son as they walk up the mountain.  Notice how Scripture itself slows down to call attention to this detail.  Moses, as he writes, summarizes the past three days in a few lines, but now we see Abraham putting the wood on his son’s back as he carries the fire and the knife.  We hear every word spoken between Abraham and Isaac. 

“Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, ‘Father?’ ‘Yes, my son?’ Abraham replied. ‘The fire and wood are here,’ Isaac said, ‘but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’ Abraham answered, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.’ And the two of them went on together.”

Isaac knew what burnt offerings were like.  This was nothing new to him.  He had seen his father do it many times.  That is where Christian education starts – in the home as parents put God first in their lives and the children watch the example of their parents.

Isaac asks where the lamb is for the burnt offering and and Abraham responds with “God himself will provide.”  Abraham cannot bring himself to tell Isaac at this moment, but even though he knows that God has commanded that Isaac be the sacrifice, every word that Abraham speaks communicates to his son that our God is a good and loving God.  Think about that!  God told Abraham to give up his son and Abraham still says good things about God.

Then they get to the mountain and we don’t hear about Abraham and Isaac talking, but I can’t imagine Abraham carrying out the task without telling Isaac what was going to happen.  Isaac, having seen his father’s trust in the Lord also put his trust in the Lord and allowed himself to be tied and placed on the altar.  I’m sure Isaac remembered the event for the rest of his life.

Wouldn’t you agree that Abraham’s life was an excellent example for his son to follow?  What about the example we set for our children?  I’m not just talking to parents – every adult here has an impact on the next generation.  How important is God in our lives?  One way to answer that question is to think about how much time we spend with our Bible.   Doesn’t it make sense that we would want to know all we can about the one died for us?

God demands perfect devotion to him.  It is beyond our reach to give it and it hurts to hear how we fail.  Perhaps you feel like Abraham’s knife has pierced you instead of Isaac.  If so, then these next few words are for you.

Read your bible.  Listen to God’s Word especially this Lenten season and you will see another Father with his Son.  Listen to the dialog between the Father and his Son.  See the trust the Son has in his Father and watch as the Father leads his Son up a mountain and sacrifices him there for you.  We were unwilling to give up our time, our money, or whatever for God and so God gave up his Son for us.  There on the cross is a teachable moment – a moment where the Father teaches us about his love for us.

Amen.

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