I didn't write on yesterday's readings because I have been fighting a raging sinus infection which put writing about as far away from my mind as is possible. This, really, pales in comparison to the struggles of several people close to us. Within 24 hours of Monday's post on deliverance and rest, a friend going through a bitter divorce got word that her cancer has recurred; another suffering with cancer has resorted to less-than-idea methods to treat an infection because his body is too weak to handle another surgery; others are being put through the wringer by the court system for an off-handed, sarcastic remark that was taken as a threat to their children; and another has self-admitted to a hospital fighting crippling depression. Hardly sounds like deliverance or rest, does it? What happened, God? Why?
Then comes today's reading of Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac (Gen 22). In it, God calls on Abraham to give up what was most precious to him, the very child he was promised years before. Though familiar, this account is simultaneously outrageous. What is God doing here? We tend to focus on the lamb that was provided as a substitute for Isaac--a picture of the coming Christ who is our substitute. Origen finds another teaching here, also, that we should recognize.
You too might beget a son Isaac in the spirit when you begin to have 'the fruit of the Spirit, joy, peace.' …Now you beget joy if 'you count it all joy when you fall into various temptations' and you offer that joy in sacrifice to God. For when you have approached God joyfully, he again gives back to you what you have offered and says to you, 'You will see me again, and your heart shall rejoice, and no man shall take your joy from you.' So, therefore, what you have offered to God you shall receive back multiplied (Origen, Homilies on Genesis 8.10).
In other words, we may be called to sacrifice our temporal, earthly joys, but in so doing, we shall not fail to be rewarded with eternal joys in Christ.
Wealth is fleeting. Health is temporary. Relationships can falter. The faithfulness of Christ, however, is unwavering. His grace, mercy, and peace do not falter or fail. Upon these promises we can cling when all around us is falling to pieces. Thanks be to God.
Photo by Tedward Quinn on Unsplash