Bring some vegetables with you as a visual aid – something to represent a “harvest”. I brought potatoes, onions and an ear of corn.
What comes to mind when you think of this?
What comes to mind when you think of this?
Yet in your Bible, God commanded it!
In Genesis 22:2, God tells Abraham,
“Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac-
and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there…”
This is the kind of scripture that causes many people who are new to the Bible – to question the Bible, and even doubt the Bible.
In essence: What kind of God would ask a person to sacrifice another human being – let alone their child?
To answer that we need to take a quick detour to the history of religion – and then we’ll land on the cross in a few minutes.
People, thousands of years ago, before the time of Abraham, started to realize that their survival was dependent on things like water – and food.
3. Harvest & Religion
[Hold up a Potato] Q. What is this?
Alright High School kids: This is used to make French Fries.
[Hold up an Onion] Q. What is this?
Kids: This is used to make everything you eat – taste good!
[Hold up Corn] Q. What is this?
Kids: This is used to make Coca-Coca – and just about everything else you put in your mouth – believe it or not.
The harvest was everything!
The entire culture centered around the ability to harvest.
And they would only be able to harvest food if there was the proper mixture of sun, seeds, soil and water.
Karin grew up on a farm – and she can attest:
Too much water – and the harvest would wash out.
Too little water – and the crops would die.
This foundational understanding brought people to the conclusion that they were dependent on unseen forces they could not control for their survival.
You see, the belief (I use that word intentionally) arose that these supernatural forces are either on your side or they aren’t.
Q. And how do you keep these forces on your side?
The next time you have a harvest, you take a portion of that harvest and you offer it on an altar as a sign of your gratitude.
Because you need the forces (gods and goddesses) on your side.
Now imagine what happened when people would offer a sacrifice…
but then it didn’t rain
or the sun didn’t shine?
Obviously, they concluded, they didn’t offer…ENOUGH.
And so they offered more.
And more and more.
4. Sacrifice & Anxiety
Because what religion had built in to it from the very beginning was something called ANXIETY.
You never knew where you stood with the gods.
The gods are angry, the gods are demanding, and if you don’t please them they will punish you by bringing calamity.
Q. But what if things went well?
What if it rained just the right amount
and the sun shined just the right amount.
What if it appeared that the gods were pleased with you?
Well then, you’d need to offer them thanks.
Q. How would you know you’d offered ENOUGH?
If things went well, you never knew if you’d been grateful enough and offered enough
And if things didn’t go well – then clearly you hadn’t done…enough.
You see – either way – the result was…Anxiety
Because you never knew where you stood with the gods.
And so you’d offer part of your crop.
And you’d offer a goat.
Maybe a lamb.
Maybe a cow.
Maybe a few cows.
Maybe some birds.
The very nature of early religion is that everything escalated because in your anxiety to please the gods you kept having to offer more.
Q. And what’s the most valuable thing you could offer the gods to show them how serious you were about earning their favor?
Q. Can you see how child sacrifice lurks in the Old Testament?
It’s where religion took you.
To the place where you’d offer that which was most valuable to you.
So when God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son,
Abraham isn’t surprised!
Abraham just sees it as normal.
That’s just what gods do
That’s how religion works, isn’t it.
Interestingly, in all other cases in human history, people just guessed that this is what God wanted.
In this case, God (your God) TOLD HIM to sacrifice his boy.
So Abraham sets out to do it.
We all know how the story goes…
He travels 3 days
He leaves his servants and donkey.
He and Isaac build an altar.
He is about to slay his son.
And THE HISTORY of the world changes.
Right then and there!
For the first time in history, the “God” says STOP.
And He says, “Yes there will be a sacrifice today!”
“But YOU WON’T be providing the sacrifice.”
“I — will provide the sacrifice.”
God — provides a Ram.
God still has Abraham PERFORM the sacrifice.
God still makes Abraham PARTICIPATE in the sacrifice.
But GOD HIMSELF provides the sacrifice.
5. God Himself Provides & We Participate
See, the point of this story is NOT just Abraham and his great faith.
For the people who have read/heard this story over the centuries,
the POINT of the story was —
a GOD, who HIMSELF provides the sacrifice.
That’s just not what gods do.
But this is what your God does.
God reaches down to us…
And he meets us at our primitive understanding of spirituality.
And then he blows us away….
by HIMSELF providing the sacrifice.
Q. Isn’t that exactly the story of the cross and communion?
We come with a soft heart – to the Lord’s Supper.
We are willing to do our best, our VERY best, for God.
Yet the only sacrifice going on here – is JESUS.
You and I get to participate.
God still wants us to be a part of the sacrifice.
Yet HE — PROVIDES the sacrifice.
6. Let’s Pray
Dear God, thank you for the cross of Christ.
Thank you that YOU provided a sacrifice to end all of our anxiety.
We know, without a doubt, that YOU LOVE US.
We can never sacrifice enough.
Thank you for the juice that represents the BLOOD of your sacrifice…
And for the bread that represents the BODY of your sacrifice.
In Jesus name, Amen
Note: Thoughts inspired by Rob Bell’s blog http://robbellcom.tumblr.com/post/66792774855/what-is-the-bible-part-6