When Life Doesn't Make Sense

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English Service on June 18

Messenger:Pastor Jim Allison

Title: "When Life Doesn't Make Sense"  Bible passage: Genesis 22:1-18


       This story.  It has fascinated and frustrated people all over the world for thousands of years now.  I don’t want to make a tsumaranai hanashi today, so I’ll try to make a tsumaru hanashi.  But what does that even mean?  I don’t know.  It doesn’t make sense, does it.  Many people who read about Abraham and Isaac feel a little like that.  It sounds strange, or crazy, or even evil for God to tell someone to kill his son as a sacrifice.  But then again there is a lot about life that doesn’t seem to make sense, isn’t there?  Does it not seem that way to you?  Maybe that is one reason this story has stayed with us so long.  It offers us some strong hints about what can help us when life doesn’t make sense.

       To begin to get a handle on Genesis 22, let’s remember that God’s purpose in this is to “put Abraham to the test” (v. 1b).  He never plans for things like killing a child to become what His people do.  His purpose is to see what is really in Abraham’s heart, and He decides to go about it in a remarkable way.  

       And this is far from the only time God tells his people to do something that sounds crazy to them at the time.  This is the God who later will tell Moses (a shepherd with a criminal record in Egypt) to go to the King of the most powerful country in that part of the world and command him to set His people free to leave the country.  This is the God who will command Daniel to break the law by refusing to bow down to the king.  He will do this knowing that to disobey this law means He can be killed for it.  This is the God who will see all the terrible things happening in the world and decide that what we really need is for Him to send His only Son from heaven into this world as a baby.  He will live as a carpenter’s son and a traveling preacher, then get executed as a criminal and come back to life again.  What a plan!  That all seems to make no sense.  Not to us, at least.

       Why does God’s command in Genesis 22 present such trouble for Abraham?  It is partly because he knows the Lord as the giver of life and the God of love.  How could taking the life of this child possibly be something a God like this would want?  The command seems to go against the very character and heart of Yahweh.

      But we have to remember that in Abraham’s culture and time, the life of the child is completely under the father’s control.  In this world, Abraham has the right to take Isaac’s life if he chooses.  We do not accept that in our cultures today, but many did at that time.  It is not correct to say that God welcomed the idea then, judging from the way the story turned out.  In a time in history when the normal thing to do is human sacrifice, God steps in and says no in this case.  This is remarkable to the people in Abraham’s time, just as it is striking to us that God would even tell someone to take the life of another person.  

       But the question of making a human sacrifice is not the only problem Abraham has with God’s command.  More specifically, God has made a clear promise to Abraham.  Hebrews 11:18 tells us, “God had said to him, "Your family line will continue through Isaac.”  God’s plan is to raise up a special people who will bring His love and teachings to all the world.  So if Isaac is killed, won’t that directly cancel the plans that Almighty God Himself has made?  This can’t be right, can it?        

       We come to worship on Sundays to help us feel uplifted and empowered.  But God’s first command to Abraham no doubt leads him to feel terrified and dread the future.  We want people to meet God at Open Door in an “at home” atmosphere and go home with joy in their hearts.  But after meeting God, Abraham is probably shaking and maybe crying.  As one preacher said, instead of giving people nice, soft chairs to sit in at worship, maybe we should pass out crash helmets.  

        You fill in the blanks, OK?  “Take your ____, your only ____. ____ is the one you love. Take ___. Go to Moriah. Give ____ to me there . . .” (v. 2a).  What words did you fill in?  “Take your money (your time, your education, your qualifications, skills, good reputation, whatever you feel like you cannot live without).  . . . Give (it) to me . . . .”  What do you hear God asking you to place in His hands as you give Him first place in your life? 

       And the way God gives His command to Abraham gives a hint about the kind of faith He wants to build in His people.  He says to sacrifice Isaac “on one of the mountains I will tell you about” (v. 2b).  The Lord is not even going to tell exactly where this is to happen.  He wants Abraham to get in the habit of listening and going where he is led.  This is not the first time Abraham has heard words like this.  In Genesis 12:1-2, “The LORD had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country and your people. Leave your father's family. Go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you. I will make your name great. You will be a blessing to others.’”  If God’s plan were that we make a clear-cut plan for our lives and work to carry it out and achieve our dreams, He would never do something like this.  But God is a lot more interested in teaching us to listen and follow His voice step by step.  Abraham knew this.  So (v. 3b) “Then he started out for the place God had told him about.”

What God seems to be so happy about at the end of the story is the attitude that Abraham takes when he faces life’s trial, when life doesn’t make sense.  When the Lord calls his name, Abraham answers simply and with an open heart and mind (v. 1), “Here I am.”  The Hebrew word used here is Hineni.  Abraham says, in effect, “I’m listening.”  He keeps this spirit throughout the story.  In v. 11b when he is ready to offer Isaac as a sacrifice and God’s angel calls his name again, he gives the same answer: “Hineni.”  When you and I have that will to be listening, open to God, ready to follow where He leads, He is ready to use us for good things, for great things.  

      When I hear that word, Hineni, I remember when our daughter Karen was born.  We asked Keiji-sensei, Pastor Tomita, to help us choose a name for her.  He prayed, and as he did, he felt he was being led to the story of the boy Samuel.  I Samuel 3 tells us that as the child sleeps one night, God calls his name, and he answers, “Hineni.”  Through listening and obeying God’s voice as he understands it, Samuel finds God’s unique calling for him and his place in the world.  That is our prayer for our daughter and each person in God’s world—that we will all be ready to listen and respond in faith when He calls us.  

       What else could God be trying to tell us through this mysterious story?  One hint comes in the name of the mountain where the sacrifice takes place: Moriah.  Where is that, exactly?  Experts on the Bible do not all agree, but II Chronicles 3:1 tells us, “Then Solomon began to build the temple of the Lord. He built it on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem.”  If it is talking about the same Mount Moriah as Genesis 22, it is talking about the place where the sacrifices of animals come to be given for many, many years throughout the Old Testament.  It is also very close to Calvary, the hill (or small mountain) where Jesus’ life was given as the ultimate Sacrifice for the sin of human beings.  

      So aside from the question of the exact place Mount Moriah was, the place the Abraham and Isaac story takes place is no accident but rich in symbolism and meaning.  It is important to our God that you and I have a way for our hearts to be made clean, for our guilt to be taken away, for us to live in the freedom of knowing we have been forgiven and made acceptable to Him.  He deeply desired that even in Abraham’s time, as Genesis 22 shows, and He made it possible in the fullest way through the cross of Christ.

       Are the links between today’s Old Testament story and the New Testament gospel of the cross and resurrection starting to come into focus for you?  Are you beginning to see how Abraham’s father-son relationship with Isaac is like God the Father’s relationship with His Son Jesus in some key ways?  We get another part of that when we read that the events on Mount Moriah took place “on the third day” (v. 4).  Jesus was brought back to life on the third day.  The day Isaac went to Mount Moriah was to become a kind of resurrection day for him—a death and resurrection day all rolled into one, we might say.  God is not spelling it all out for us word by word at this stage.  We are still in shadow territory.  But step by step we are moving closer to the cross, and the blurry image of the real person, Christ, is becoming slowly clearer. 

        Verse 4 tells us that on this third day “Abraham looked up. He saw the place a long way off.”  What must he be feeling as he looks at that mountain, knowing that the closer they get to it, the closer they are to the death of his son?  The writer does not tell us directly.  The words are tightly focused just on what happens.  Yet despite this, the human feeling comes through.  It is very easy to feel the dread and the fear that Abraham must have in his heart.  Yet God leads him not to escape it but to face it.  He does this with a firm and deep sense of dependence on the one thing he knows he can count on when life doesn’t make sense: the unchanging love of God.  

        When we get to v. 13, the father and son have reached the mountaintop, Abraham has been obedient, and God has stepped in to stop the human sacrifice.  At this point again we read, “Abraham looked up.”  This time he sees the same mountain he viewed earlier that day with such dark feelings.  But now that he sees the mountain from the viewpoint of someone who has come there in obedience to his loving God, he sees something wonderful that transforms his dread to overflowing joy, something he could never have seen from far off.  It is a ram with its horns caught in the bushes—a way for the requirement of a sacrifice to be met but also for his precious son to live.  We can guess that the bush is a thorn bush, a foreshadowing of the thorns that will be around Jesus’ head as he hangs on the cross.  In providing the ram, God has made a way.  His justice and His mercy are not set against each other as it had seemed.  

        There is a way for the pieces of this puzzle to fit together after all.  Life may not make sense to us, but that’s OK in the end.  Our loving Father gets it, even if we don’t.  And in the end, we are in His hands if we will only place ourselves there, as Abraham, Isaac, and Jesus teach us through their examples to do.   

        These people’s stories are all ones of God keeping His promises.  Before Abraham goes up the mountain, he says to his two servants in v. 5b, “The boy and I will go over there and worship. Then we'll come back to you.”  That later turns out to be true, a word of prophecy, though Abraham may not be able to imagine when he says it how it can be possible.  In the same way, in v. 8b when Isaac asks his father where the lamb for the sacrifice is, Abraham answers, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering . . . .”  At the moment he says these words, he probably thinks that Isaac will be that lamb.  He may be fighting back tears to answer his son.  Much later in Hebrews 11:19 we get a little clearer idea of what is happening in Abraham’s heart.  It says, “Abraham believed that God could raise the dead. In a way, he did receive Isaac back from death.”  In this amazing way, God makes it possible for Abraham’s words of prophecy to be proven true.   

      So we are seeing again how Genesis 22 is pointing forward toward the cross and resurrection.  In v. 6 it isn’t Abraham but Isaac carrying the wood.  Isaac carries it toward the place where he is to be killed and given as a sacrifice.  Does that sound familiar?  Yes, Jesus carries the wooden cross, going to Calvary, in the gospel stories of His death.  He is “the lamb of God. He takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) there.  Long before, Genesis 22 has given us partly-completed images of this as Abraham and Isaac talk in vv. 7-8 about the sacrifice of the lamb.

        Abraham is known as “the father of the faith,” but Isaac is probably a model of amazing faith for us as well.  From all we read in v. 9, he does not resist his father’s tying him up to kill him and put him on the wood to be burned.  Christians see there an early signal of how Jesus will face the cross, not trying to escape but going willingly and with determination.  He has already made His decision, finally and fully in Gethsemane, to obey His Father.  This is the picture of freely chosen radical obedience that we are given as a model for us.

        When God sees in Abraham this will to obey, the whole Genesis 22 story turns.  This is what the Lord has been looking for.  His angel says to Abraham (v. 12b), “. . . You have respect for God.”  The Message version phrases it, “Now I know how fearlessly you fear God . . . .”  Then the angel tells us something about what it means to fear, or respect God.  He says, “You have not held back from me . . . .”  In this case, it is holding back “your son, your only son.”  

        From God’s point of view, this is what counts the most—the whole point of the test.  Abraham has chosen to live by faith in Him.  The key turning point is not when the Abraham sees the ram in the bush and the problem is solved.  That hasn’t happened at the time God’s angel begins giving His blessing.  But to Him, the victory has already been won.  The rest all flows out of this. 

        God’s heart is moved when He sees Abraham’s commitment to Him.  We see in this man of faith the kind of deep, powerful love that God had when “he loved the world so much that he gave his one and only son” (John 3:16a).  “What should we say then? Since God is on our side, who can be against us? God did not spare his own Son. He gave him up for us all. Then won't he also freely give us everything else? Who can bring any charge against God's chosen ones? God makes us right with himself” (Romans 8:31-33).

       When life doesn’t make sense for Abraham and Isaac, the great discovery that they make is shown in the name Abraham gives that place: Jehovah-Jireh.  It means “The Lord Will Provide.”  More literally, it is “God Sees.”  We may get the nuance more if we call it “God Sees to It.”  In other words, when we take our needs to God, He will be sure to see and meet them.  

        And just because He wants to, out of His kindness, He often goes much further.  In 22:17 He says, “So I will certainly bless you.”  And His great dreams and plans do not end with those who are already His people.  He continues (v. 18), “All nations on earth will be blessed because of your children. All of that will happen because you have obeyed me.”  I invite you to spend some time sometime this week imagining how God wants to bless you through your more complete obedience to Him.  And whom does God want to bless through your obeying Him?  Spend some time in “sanctified imagining” of that.  Then through you and many more like you Christ’s words in John 3:16b will take shape in our world today: “Anyone who believes in him will not die but have eternal life.” 

        As in Bible times, today too God wants to raise up a people who will live by faith, who will love and trust Him as His children.  In other words, He is forming a family.  What does God want of His children?  He wants hearts that are completely given to Him.  In Genesis 22, when He sees that Abraham’s will is submitted to Him—the outward act of offering a sacrifice becomes unnecessary.  This is the revolutionary step Abraham takes at God’s direction— from works to faith.  What God wants from you and me is the same—faith.  That is, He wants us to freely choose to place our lives in His hands and live each day under His control.  He wants us to put Him in the driver’s seat.  When we do, He is more than willing to accomplish His wise, loving plans in us and through us.  He will make us the blessings to many people that He has designed and called us to be.  

       Let’s pray that He will do that, beginning even now.

      God, seeing your amazing work in the story of Abraham and Isaac, we remember your words to Abraham, and we say back to you, “Now I know that you have love for me. You have not held back from me your Son, your only Son.”  You ask your people to make great sacrifices, but you have already given us more than you ask in return.  Lord, we stand in awe of that kind of love.  It is too great for us.  So we ask for your help.  Enable us to live out of thanks to you for that incredible gift.  Build in us the kind of faith that you showed us through the lives of Abraham and Isaac, then most fully through Jesus.  Let the power of that faith be the force that takes us through each day of our lives ahead.  We ask it in Christ’s name, amen.     





Maclaren, A. (1906). The Book of Genesis. “Faith Tested and Crowned.” “The Crowning Test and Triumph of Faith.” “Jehovah-Jireh.” Bible Study Tools. Retrieved May 26, 2017 from http://www.biblestudytools.com/ commentaries/maclaren/genesis/the-crowning-test-and-triumph-of-f aith.html  One for Israel. (n.d.). Retrieved June 11, 2017 from https://www.oneforisrael.org/bible-based-teaching-from-israel/hineni-here-i-am-send-me/












  この世が酷い事で満ちていることを見て、私達に真に必要な事であるからと神様の独り子を天から赤ん坊の姿で送ることを決め、その独り子が大工の子として、さらに、旅をしながら教えを説く者として生き、犯罪者として処刑され再び生きて戻ってくることになる、そのようなことをなされるのです。 なんと言う計画なのでしょう。これら全ての事は意味のない事のように見えます。しかし、少なくとも私達にとってはそうではありません。

 創世記22章における神様のご命令は何故アブラハムに災難をもたらすものだったのでしょう? その理由の一つは、主が生命を与えるお方でさらに愛の神であることをアブラハムが知っているということです。














あなたの__、たった一つの__を、あなたの愛する__を取り去り、__を携え、モリヤの山へ行きなさい。 そこで__を私(神様)に差し出しなさい。(2節)


  あなたのお金(時間、教養、資格、技術、良い評判、それなしでは生きていけないと思うもの何でも) を取り去り、それを私に(神様)に捧げなさいという事、








  主がアブラハムの名前を呼ばれた時、アブラハムは”私はここにおります。”とシンプルに心を開いて答えます。 ここで使われているヘブライ語は「Hineni』という言葉です。










 さて、今日における旧約の物語と新約聖書の十字架の福音、復活の関係性について明確になってきたでしょうか? アブラハムとイサクの親子関係が、どのようにして父なる神様とそのひとり子イエス様との関係と関連を持つのか見え始めてきたでしょうか?


   第4章では、三日目に”アブラハム”は目を挙げて遠く離れた所にその場所を見た”とあります。その山に近づけば近づくほど、息子の死が近づくと知っていながら、アブラハムがその山を見た時、なのを感じた(感じざるを得なかった)のでしょう?  著者は直接私達に書いてはいません。そこで何があったのかにしっかり焦点を合わせて書いているだけです。





















Maclaren, A. (1906). The Book of Genesis. “Faith Tested and Crowned.” “The  Crowning Test and Triumph of Faith.” “Jehovah-Jireh.” Bible Study  Tools. Retrieved May 26, 2017 from http://www.biblestudytools.com/  commentaries/maclaren/genesis/the-crowning-test-and-triumph-of-f aith.html   


One for Israel. (n.d.). Retrieved June 11, 2017 from https:// www.oneforisrael.org/bible-based-teaching-from-israel/hineni-here-i-am-send-me/