Posts Tagged ‘Hebrew’

Re-Reading Genesis 22: Faithful Servant, Faithful God

June 30th, 2017 No comments

I presented a version of this at the WGM field prayer meeting on 6/21.

Almost every Christian is familiar with the story in Genesis 22.  It’s known as the Akedah – “The Binding”, God’s Testing of Abraham or the Sacrifice of Isaac.  It is considered by a great majority of the Christian Church to be a pre-cursor of the Gospel message – a story of a loving father who was willing to sacrifice his only son (sound familiar)?  Personally, I encountered it for the first time in Sunday School when I was young.  Since then, I have read it several times in English, and perhaps more times in Hebrew.  As I was working through it again recently, it occurred to me that many people are, perhaps, missing a major point in the passage.

Until very recently, I found myself – perhaps just like many others – reading the story as Abraham’s remarks to Isaac as a kind of underhanded, subtle, perhaps even crafty dishonesty to Isaac. Isaac says “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”  Abraham responds with the very popular line, “God himself will provide a ram for the offering, my son.” I don’t think that anymore.

What is Abraham doing, here?  What is the writer trying to communicate to his hearers/for us today?

“The Sacrfice”. Image courtesy of LA Times

One day, as I read this passage, I noticed that there is absolutely no sense of struggle or emotion here.  The writer is very simplistic – very methodical and to-the-point: “Abraham got up early in the morning, saddled his donkey and split some wood for the offering…and he took the knife to slaughter his son.”

The ancient Hebrew writers didn’t have any qualms about expressing emotion.  We see some of that language in the Pentateuch.  We see a great deal of said language expressed in the Psalms, particularly in the lament psalms.  When we read those, we get a real sense of what the writer is feeling.  We connect with his humanity.  We identify with his suffering.

We see no trace of that kind of imagery in Genesis 22. Consequently, we need to dispense with this idea that the crux of the passage is some sort of great inward struggle with Abraham during his journey to the mountain.

I suggest that there is something greater going on, here: The central focus is not Abraham’s faithfulness in spite of great anguish.  The focus is on Abraham’s unwavering faithfulness, as well as God’s faithfulness to Abraham.

We see God’s faithfulness demonstrated repeatedly throughout Abraham’s story. The promise of a great nation in spite of humble beginnings.  The promise of a son in spite of old age. The protection of Ishmael even though he’s not the promised child. And, perhaps most strikingly, a holy God unilaterally enacting a covenant with a man that should be, by all accounts, a nomadic pagan.

Yes, I think Abraham was well aware of — and was counting on — God’s faithfulness to come through in a very stressful situation.

It is against the backdrop of Abraham’s and God’s faithfulness that I think this passage should be read. If we read the passage this way, we see that Abraham’s response to his son is not some sort of vague, crafty response to an annoying toddler (Isaac was more likely closer to seventeen, but that’s another post entirely).  Rather, it is a demonstration of Abraham’s unwavering faithfulness to a faithful God.

Stay tuned for part 2: What should Christians do with this?



Why I decided to live in a little college town

June 5th, 2013 No comments

Ok.  Enough is enough.

Enough people have been asking me this question, so I decided to address it on a blog for the world to see.  For those interested, you are welcome; for those not, I apologize.  You can skip this post at your discretion. 🙂

People ask me, “So Jon, why did you decide to stay in Wilmore?”  I overhear others say, “Who in their right mind would want to stay in this town?”  Still others say (and this is common among students, in particular): “I can’t wait to get the heck outta here.”

There is an impression that only the creepy folks stick around after graduation.  The creepiest of these continue to audit classes.  There is no doubt: I run the risk of being labeled a creep.

So why did I stay?

First, I stayed because this town is one of a few towns in the country where people with physical disabilities, like me, can maintain a sense of independence.  There is no need to live on a transit system.  There is no need to drive twenty minutes to get to the nearest grocery store.  For those too lazy to cook, we have restaurants here that cater to the poor seminary student’s (and graduate’s!) pocketbook.

Second, I do not drive, so I have to walk wherever I go, unless one of my friends is kind enough to take me places.  I prefer not to “bum” rides off friends.  Every major establishment in this town–grocery stores, gyms (not that I will ever use one), restaurants, laundramat, dry-cleaners, libraries–are all within walking distance.

Sure, some would say I might be relegated to a life of boredom (where are the movie theaters?), but I have independence here.

The third reason why I decided to stay in town is related to personal independence, but is particularly important for me.  As an aspiring academic, I have invaluable resources here.  I have a library just down the street–I do not have to rely on a third party to drive me for thirty minutes into  downtown Cincinnati to go to the nearest theological hub.  I have access to a wealth of resources, both college and seminary professors, who continue to help me to grow.  Not withstanding, I  have a group of friends that hold me accountable for my soul.

Oh yeah, and there is the potential opportunity to work for the two institutions which helped mold and shape me as a human being.  To teach at the college or seminary would be nothing short of a dream come true for me–to work alongside those who have mentored me over the years would be a privilege beyond description.

I believe that God’s calling to his servants is not as complicated as the majority of the Christian world would make it.  God has gifted each Christian with unique gifts and abilities, and he has designed us to use them for his glory as an expression of worship.

In Wilmore, I am able to do that.

Over the last ten years, I have lived in this town.  I have walked its streets.  I have formed relationships with people that I will maintain til the day I die.  I have had the honor of forming relationships with mentors that not only have coached me academically, but spiritually and personally as well.  I am able to maintain my independence.  I am able to study what I believe God has called me to study.Perhaps most importantly, I am able to begin living out my calling to teach God’s word to his children.

God has placed me in Wilmore for various reasons.  When he calls me to go somewhere else, I will go. Until then, I am content learning, growing, studying, and teaching.  I am happy and privileged to help students learn Hebrew which, as of now, is my favorite thing to do in the world.  Why would I walk away from that?

Soli Deo Gloria.


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