Worship Service July 18, 2021

Sunday Worship Services:

Sanctuary & online - 9AM and Outside - 10:45

Jul. 18, 2021

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“Faith and Other Possibilities” -- Genesis 22: 1-19; Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-12 

Introduction - Christian Faith and Paradox

  • We can respond to God in faith, and act by faith, or we can choose other ways of responding and acting.

  • When asked about what Christian faith is, what would you say? 

    • Many compare Christian faith to a blind leap in the dark. 

    • Others reject this “blind leap” view of Christian faith and think of it as an intellectual strategy game.

  • Example of jumping off a high dive: Nothing prepares you for what it feels like to have to take that final step off the plank and jump.

  • Christian faith requires jumping off a precipice with facts in hand, but sometimes it requires jumping even in spite of what one sees as the facts.

  • The story of Abraham in Genesis 22 is such a moment where the facts seem to contradict one another but having faith requires action.

    • Abraham knew God’s promise. 

    • God’s command in Genesis 22 to sacrifice Isaac seems to directly contradict God’s earlier promise. Learning more facts will not help Abraham when he is commanded to sacrifice Isaac.

  • Christian faith is neither entirely intellectual or all blind leaps; it is both and at times paradoxical.

Three Orienting Questions for Genesis 22:

  1. What has God promised?

  2. What has God commanded?

  3. What should we do? 

Our focus will be on two aspects: 

    • Abraham’s obedience to God through action.

    • Abraham’s unfailing trust that God would fulfill the earlier promise made

  • We can sum this up in two ways (consistent with one another):

    • Faith is an action and an attitude.

    • And faith is a process not a result.

Some Observations from the Text of Genesis 22:

  • Abraham’s response to God’s command takes place over time through many actions.

  • As Abraham does all of these things, he is holding onto the paradox in his mind: 

    • God promised I would have many descendants through Isaac

    • God has commanded me to sacrifice Isaac.

  • The angel of the Lord gives a hint about what was going on inside Abraham while he was doing all of these things: “...Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son...”

Faith and Other Possibilities

  • In Fear and Trembling (1843), Philosopher Søren Kierkegaard imagined four different versions of the story of the binding of Isaac -- in each Abraham “passes the test” from God but does not do so by faith.

  • In the imagined accounts and the Genesis account, Abraham obeyed God and went to the mountain to sacrifice Isaac. 

  • In all of these accounts, Abraham did not simply choose to obey or disobey God. Abraham chose how to obey. 

  • Hebrews 11:19: “Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.”

  • Faith is a process of trust and confidence over time.


Back to the Three Orienting Questions

  • What has God promised? To us: Deuteronomy 31:6 and repeated in Hebrew 13:6.

  • What has God commanded? To us: John 13:34 and Matthew 5: 38-48

  • What should we do? To us: Do not merely obey God’s commands. Choose how you will obey them -- by faith.