No Other Way
Thursday of Pentecost 9
10 August 2017
We wonder why struggles and suffering must come. Scripture assures us that they must (Mt 18:7-9), but what do they mean? They come from the hand of God. But does He send them to determine for Himself what our standing with Him is? Does He send spiritual curve balls to find out if we have a major league swing? His testing is not for Himself, but for our good. It would be blasphemy to presume that the God of Jesus Christ is learning something He does not know about us by sending us trials and troubles. He could hardly be ignorant of this knowledge. Our trials prove to us the working of God's gracious hand in rescuing us ever and again from great trouble. They also honor God in the world through our sufferance of weakness so that God's glory might be displayed in us (Rm 8:18).
God was glorified in the weakness of Abraham, whom, having received a son of promise in Isaac, also received the command from God to offer his son on Mount Moriah. Abraham received this word of God at its face value considering that the child given to him by God could also be raised from the dead by the God who gave him. In his weakness he declined to berate God for commanding murder and the extirpation of the line of the promised seed. In weakness, he loaded the donkey with the necessary wood and knife and set out the next morning trudging toward the place of sacrifice with a heart weighed down by suffering and grief. Aged Abraham believed God in the most radical way because he had seen how God always kept His promises even when he, Abraham, had doubted God's ability to do so. No more self-reliance for the father of believers. There was only the weak reliance on the God who follows through on His word.
We too ought to live in this Abrahamic weakness. Even Isaac was not received by God to be the messianic forerunner because of his exalted birth of Abraham and Sarah. No, he was named and reckoned by God the forerunner by grace. No one could ever be worthy of such an honor, it must be conferred by God without personal merit. And as we have seen Isaac wasn't really much of an exalted specimen of humanity or patriarchy. Isaac lived in Abrahamic weakness. Ultimately, we will only face our trials and suffering in weakness knowing that the Lord intends them to strengthen our faith and prove again to the world His mercy and loving-kindness. Like Abraham and Isaac, we will live by faith. There is no other way.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo

"Abraham was tempted about the offering up of his well-beloved son Isaac, to prove his pious obedience, and so make it known to the world, not to God. Not every temptation ought to be faulted. It may even be praise-worthy, because it confirms. For the most part, the human mind cannot attain to self-knowledge otherwise than by making trial of its powers through temptation, by some kind of experimental and not merely verbal self-interrogation; when, if it has acknowledged the gift of God, is pious, and is consolidated by steadfast grace and not puffed up by vain boasting.
"Of course, Abraham could never believe that God delighted in human sacrifices; yet when the divine commandment thundered, it was to be obeyed, not disputed. Yet Abraham is worthy of praise, because he all along believed that his son, on being offered up, would rise again; for God had said to him, when he was unwilling to fulfill his wife's pleasure by casting out the bond maid and her son, 'Through Isaac shall your seed be named.' No doubt He then goes on to say, 'And I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your seed' (Gn 21:12-13). How then is it said 'Through Isaac shall your seed be named,' when God calls Ishmael also his seed? The apostle, in explaining this, says, '"Through Isaac shall your offspring be named." This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring' (Rm 9:7-8). In order, then, that the children of the promise may be the seed of Abraham, they are called in Isaac, that is, are gathered together in Christ by the call of grace. Therefore the father, holding fast from the first the promise which was to be fulfilled through this son whom God had ordered him to slay, did not doubt that he, whom he once thought it hopeless he should ever receive, would be restored to him when he had offered him up.
"It is in this way the passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews is also to be understood and explained. 'By faith,' the writer says, 'Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named." He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead;' therefore he has added, 'from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back' (Heb 11:17-19). In which figure of speech but His of whom the apostle says, 'He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all?' (Rm 8:32). On this account Isaac also himself carried to the place of sacrifice the wood on which he was to be offered up, just as the Lord Himself carried His own cross. Finally, since Isaac was not to be slain, after his father was forbidden to smite him, who was that ram by the offering of which that sacrifice was completed with typical blood? For when Abraham saw him, he was caught by the horns in a thicket. What, then, did he represent but Jesus, who, before He was offered up, was crowned with thorns by the Jews?"

Augustine, The City of God, 16.32
Genesis 22:1-14
Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!" "Here I am," he replied. Then God said, "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." Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, "Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you." Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 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.
When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, "Abraham! Abraham!" "Here I am," he replied. "Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son." Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided."
Lord God, You rescued Abraham and Isaac in their weakness and redeemed Isaac to the messianic line by sheer grace. Grant us to live in that Abrahamic weakness that we might also be added to the line of those who follow the Messiah, Your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
For the people of the Texas District of the LCMS, that God their heavenly Father would watch over them
For President Donald Trump, that he might be upheld in every good deed
For Cathy Jutzi, who is in the hospital, that her Savior would grant a recovery of health
For all those who are finding that suffering proves their faith in a gracious God, that they might faithfully confess Him as their fortress and strength
Art: Albrecht DURER,  The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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