Rotation.org Writing Team
Abraham & Isaac: God Will Provide
Bible Background for Teachers
Passage: Genesis 22:1-18
Key/Memory Verse: Abraham said, "God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." Genesis 22:8a (NRSV)
The story of Isaac’s near sacrifice at the hand of his father, Abraham, seems shocking. Learn the truth, as we realize Abraham's God is a "new" God on the scene, a new faith, unlike the blood-thirsty gods of that era. God teaches Abraham and us that we are loved, not sacrificed.
Only God can satisfy the demands of his divine justice: -the ram for Abraham, and eventually Christ for us all.
What is the echoing theme? God will provide! God provides for our forgiveness and salvation.
Objectives for the Rotation
After completing this Rotation, participants will be able to:
- Children will locate the story in the Bible, Genesis 22:1-18.
- Children will retell the story in their own words.
- Children will understand that Abraham trusted in God's love and promises and obeyed God even when it was hard.
- Children will explore the concept of Old Testament sacrifice and how it relates to Jesus being the "Lamb of God."
- Children will understand that God willingly sacrificed his only Son, Jesus, for us.
- Children will discuss ways God provides for us today.
The story of Abraham's near-sacrifice of his son Isaac is a shocking story, ---and maybe that's why it is both included in scripture and important to teach: it gets your attention and focuses you on its profound meaning.
- God tests us.
- God does not ask us for ridiculous shows of faith.*
- God provides for our salvation.
- Abraham was willing to do whatever God asked.
*Embedded in this story is the memory of an ancient practice: human sacrifice. It was practiced by various religions around the world at various times, including some tribes in the region where Abraham settled. Abraham's God is a "new" God on the scene, a new faith. Apart from the personal test, this story reminds the readers that their God is different from all the others. That their God is not capricious or blood-thirsty. That they are loved, not sacrificed.
It also says that God cannot be bought off. Indeed, God provides the means of our forgiveness, not us. Not our sons or daughters, or treasures or actions. Only God can satisfy the demands of his divine justice: -the ram for Abraham, and eventually Christ for us all.
Why teach this story?
Teach this to your children, because there are still those today willing to sacrifice their children to various "gods." Teach this to your children, because there are still religions and creeds preaching faith by coercion, and "salvation by works." God tests, but only to strengthen. God wants conviction, not blood. God wants us to approach in love, not fear. Abraham discovered this about his "new god" who had called him to Canaan the moment he saw the ram. Abraham saw the heart of his new god as surely as God saw the heart of this new man who would become the father of a faith nation.
In the shocking drama of Abraham's near-sacrifice of Isaac, the Old Testament theme of, "Hear O Israel...." begins, and for Christians concludes with the words, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only son...so that whoever believeth...."
You can read additional information about Israel's understanding of the concept of "sacrificial offering," but you need look no further than the loving sacrifice of Jesus on the cross to understand the heart of God that a man and his son saw that day so long ago.
Overview of Abraham's Story & Themes
Abraham and his family came from the Land of Ur and then Haran, which are along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in modern day Iraq. He heard God's voice calling him to the Land of Canaan (the future Israel) where God promised to make Abraham the father of a great nation, -a people as numerous as the sands on the seashore. This nation was to become a "Kingdom of priests" for the world, --a destiny echoed 1 Peter 2:9. God was incubating a "light to the nations."
Imagine hearing such a call. Imagine the response from your family and neighbors! You can't get through this story without this personal dimension crossing your mind. You can't help but wonder, "would I have done the same?"
The first test was not Isaac. Abraham and Sarah's first test was picking up and moving to Canaan --a call to a new land and faith. When God sees Abraham's response, he initiates a "Covenant" between God and Abraham in Gen 15:1-6. A Covenant is a promise. God promises to be their God, and they promise to be his people. It is a promise God will not break, even though it is broken by his people over and over --for that's what a Covenant means, "I will stand by you even when you fall." The making of the Covenant even before the near-sacrifice of Isaac underscores who God is and what God will do, namely, God himself will provide, and his "providence" is not conditional.
The offering of Isaac is a test that turns into a statement. God provides the means of our salvation, not our actions. This is brought to fulfillment in the sacrifice of Christ, --which is why this Writing Team set makes that connection. Jesus is God's statement: God provides. (This raises the interesting "what if?" What if Abraham had refused God? And Jesus provides the answer to that too. "O Ye of little faith." And "Father forgive them....") Salvation depends on God's gifts, and nothing we can do, --Grace Alone.
This lesson background and lesson set doesn't cover the entire story of Abraham, so if you're unfamiliar with the story of Abraham, grab your favorite commentary, or an online commentary, or go to the wiki article at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham Additional information about "child sacrifice" and "burnt offerings" can be gleaned in this background (above) and in other resources, but don't get stuck there. It is God's offering then and now that is the key to understanding the story.
The Bible's "internal timeline" places Abraham around 2000 B.C. -but likely dates around 1400 to 1600 B.C. (Truth is what the story reveals, and is not negated by questions of dates.) For the purposes of teaching children, Abraham is the "founding father," "the George Washington of our faith," --a story made profound by the message within it, not arguments over the historicity or factual existence of the actors in the story. Of course, his wife Sarah had something to do with this, and his other family members. And we must assume they were in the background of the near-sacrifice story. What did Sarah say? What did Isaac learn?
What do we say when called and tested?
What have we learned?
God not only provides the ram for our salvation, but the opportunities to grow in faith.
Click the links to see the scriptures:
Teacher's Background written by (Rev.) Neil MacQueen
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