Not long ago we read a creation story from Genesis (Genesis 1:1ff). As part of my sermon I explored the cultural background in which the story came to be in Babylon while Israel is in captivity. So why was I surprised to read Terence Fretheim’s comment Exilic Israel may have seen itself in both Abraham and Isaac … (Fretheim 494)? In any case Fretheim’s remark sets off a new avenue for exploring the story of Abraham offering Isaac as a burnt offering.
Fretheim continues his observation:
God has put Israel to a test in which many children died, has called forth its continuing faith, has delivered it through the fires of judgment and renewed the promises. (Fretheim)
Visualizing Israel as Abraham assure leaders of a captive people that God is faithful and has not abandoned them. Visualizing Israel as Isaac assures the future. Both encourage Israel to keep the faith, to remain obedient to God, which will not speak to sacrificial rites, but rather to limiting their allegiance to one God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
As for us, in time when all seems to be at risk it is helpful to connect to a meta story that assures us we are not alone, that there is a future and while it may not look like what we thought, it will be within the boundaries of divine promise. So while the glories of empire fall away, the glory of the Lord remains.
Fretheim, Terence E. The New Intrepreter’s Bible, Genesis. Ed. Leander E Keck. Vol. 1. 2003. 12 vols.