Archive for October 12th, 2010

October 9th was the Commemoration of Abraham, Patriarch.  Yes, I am late on this posting but Abraham is for more than a day, as the Lord said, “…that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. 38Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.”(St. Luke 20: 36—38)   How?  Because of the Lord’s promises are eternal which instill Faith to everlasting life in His Presence.

Abraham’s genealogy is stated in Genesis 11:  24—31 and the narrative proper of Abraham commence in Genesis 12: 1.  Up until this point in Genesis everything is fairly well screwed-up after the Fall when Adam and Eve bit into the serpent’s lie, “you will be like God” (Genesis 3 ):  murder, never ending vengeance, violence, self-named cities, and then God’s judgment in a Flood, followed by drunkenness, and in chapter 11,  a tower built to reach the Almighty, in order for people on the Plains of Shinar to , “…make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11: 4) We can read Genesis chapters 3—11 every day, not only from the Holy Scriptures, but also in the so-called daily ‘news’, but it is really the ‘olds’: murder, vengeance, violence, drug abuse.  It’s as “old as Adam”.

With the Lord’s Call to Abraham, what was violent, vengeful and idolatrous, is eventually replaced by what is human and humane in Abraham. And it is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes!  The Lord does something new beginning in chapter 12, verse 1.   Why is the Lord’s Call the beginning of humanity and humaneness?  Here was a man, Abraham, who did not want to be like God.  He had faith.  He knew he was created and not the Creator:   Abraham could be a man by faith alone. He did not found a new religion but Abraham is called the father of Faith. In fact, one of his ancestors, Joseph, would also be a man of faith, not having faith in himself.  After Joseph is reconciled with his 11 brothers, after 20 some years of estrangement, he declared to them:  “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?” (Genesis 50:  19)

Now in this post, I can not relate the whole Abraham saga, it covers Genesis 12: 1—Genesis 25:  8, from his call to his death.  But I want to concentrate on what is the climax of the Abraham saga:  when the Lord told Abraham to go to a mountain, Moriah, to sacrifice his son, the son of promise, the son to Abraham and Sarah in their old age, “his only son” there.  This is recorded in chapter 22.  I just wrote that Abraham by faith in the Lord was human and humane and in chapter 22, here is something by our understanding that is inhuman and inhumane.  It is easy to read it quickly, it’s only 19 verses but Scriptures can not be sped-read, but read slowly.  And in these densely written 19 verses I will only make two points.

We are told that it took 3 days of laborious walking to reach Mt. Moriah…3 days, 3 long days in which Abraham thought and thought and thought but we are told not what the Patriarch thought.  But what would any father think after His God commanded him to sacrifice his son, his only son, the son of the Promise?   Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard’s reflection on Abraham and the Binding of Isaac accents the possible thought narrative of the Patriarch.  Kierkegaard makes many points regarding this narrative but I have found these two most illuminating:

1. Kieregaard points out that Abraham doubted not.  If he had, he could have done something “great and noble”.  Abraham could have defied God and His command, His testing.  In stead of sacrificing Isaac, he could,

“…have plunged the steel (of the sacrificial knife) in his own breast. And he would have been admired throughout the world, and his name would not have been forgotten; but it is one thing to be admired and another, to be a lode‑star which guides one troubled in mind.” 

Abraham would have been remembered as one who defied God, but then again, what else is new?  In our day, he would have been applauded by the generally atheistic media as one who resisted “religious fundamentalism”.  Yes, he would have been admired throughout the world. But Abraham hoped against hope, that is, the hope the Lord instills by His Promise against Abraham’s hope, human hope alone, which ‘hopes’ only according to what we expect, which is to rule and be like God, God-like. Abraham did not believe in himself but in the One Who called him.  After all, this is the Lord Who brings something out of nothing, even things that are from that which is not.  This true hope in the Lord, this Faith, made Abraham a creature who trusts in the Lord alone:  a lode-star to guide us.

2.  Kierkegaard:

 “I am by no means unacquainted with what has been admired as great and noble, my soul feels kinship with it, being satisfied, in all humility, that it was also my cause the hero espoused; and when contemplating his deed I say to myself: “jam tua causa agitur.” (“Your cause, too, is at stake”).I am able to identify myself with the hero; but I cannot do so with Abraham, for whenever I have reached his height I fall down again, since he confronts me as the paradox.”

I can think myself into the hero quite easily.  When I was a child, I could easily imagine myself as Superman, invulnerable, helping the helpless, a hero.  I could imagine myself John Wayne saving my unit on patrol in battle. I could think myself Zorro slaying evil. I can still think that way!   Heroes are super-men (see Nietzsche:  uber-mensch), god-like, saving those who deserve to be saved.  But Abraham?  Trusting the Lord at His Word, even when His Word speaks against His Word?   When everything is contrary to what we expect in a deity?  As on the Cross?   And for 3 days God was dead.  The Cross is contrary to everything we expect in a deity.  If I can not think myself in to Abraham, I certainly can not identify myself with Christ Jesus, the Lord. And Jesus is The Seed of Abraham (see Galatians 3: 16).  He was crucified for people who did not deserve one iota God because of their sin.  This is the Faith which justifies through the Lord’s promise alone and makes us men and women, human and humane and Faith alone receives the Promises of God which are all fulfilled in Jesus the Christ (see 2 Corinthians 1: 20).  The world think it a hard and dreadful faith:  but what is truly hard and dreadful, faith or sin, peace or chaos, the world as it will be or world as it is?  Abraham believed, hoping against hope and it was reckoned to him as righteousness (see Romans 4: 2-3). Reckoned by whom?  The LORD, blessed be His Holy Name!

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