Genesis 22-23 and Early Church Writings [Mathetes to Diognetus] 10-12

Genesis 22 - God puts Abraham to the test at Moriah (said to be where Jerusalem would later be built).  “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, who you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you” (22:2).

 

Abraham obeys. On the third day of travel, Abraham spies the place he’s been told to go to in the distance. He tells the men with him to stay while he and Isaac go farther.

 

“Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders while he himself carried the fire and the knife” (22:6). The wood on the shoulders of in “only son” is the kind of detail that puts me in awe of the miracle of scriptural unity and cohesion. I mean all these stories, all these writings were from the hands of many people over nearly a thousand years.

 

Isaac wonders aloud to his father where the “sheep for the burnt offering” is, and the faithful Abraham answers, “God himself will provide the lamb” (22:8), and of course he does—not only ultimately but here proximately.  God is looking only for Abraham’s willingness to obey and his recognition that the son he has is also a gift, something that the Lord has provided, not anything really belonging to him.  What strikes me here is that having been asked to renounce the past (his ancient clan, the traditions and lands of his father in Ur), he is now asked to renounce the future (or at least any personal goal he might have for the future).  He is to live in the relationship of faith only, not in any notion of what faith may get him.

 

“When they arrive at the place where God told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied him son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, ‘Abraham! Abraham!’

 

‘Yes,’ Abraham replied. ‘Here I am’” (22:9-11). The angel tells him to stop, but is pleased that Abraham would not withhold anything from his God, even his own son.  He [the angel/God] says, “I will certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. . . . And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed” (22:17-18).

 

Verse 20 traces the genealogy of Abraham’s brother Nahor to trace the relationship of Rebecca to Isaac.  One of Nahor’s sons, Bethuel is Rebecca’s father.  The offspring of Nahor’s relationship with a concubine—Reumah—are also introduced.

 

Genesis 23 - Sarah dies at age 127 and is buried at Kiriath-arba (Hebron). The Hittite owners of the site try hard to give it to Abraham, but he finally tells Abraham that it is worth 400 shekels [pieces of silver] and Abraham pays that amount.

 

The spot – a cave at Machpelah and the fields around it -- is the first bit of land Abraham takes possession of in the “Promised Land.”

 

It is interesting to me that the promise - the promised heir and the first land right - comes concretely through Sarah — despite the fact that she is depicted as far from perfect in her relationship to God.  The faithfulness comes from Abraham.

 

Epistle of Mathetes [Disciple] to Diognetus

From Christian Classics Ethereal Library - http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.html

 

Chapter 10 – “If you also desire [to possess] this faith, you likewise shall receive first of all the knowledge of the Father. For God has loved mankind, on whose account He made the world, to whom He rendered subject all the things that are in it, to whom He gave reason and understanding, to whom alone He imparted the privilege of looking upwards to Himself, who He formed after His own image, to whom He sent His only-begotten Son, to whom He has promised a kingdom in heaven, and will give it to those who have loved Him.”

 

If you attain to this, imagine the joy and the love you will be able to possess. “[D]o not wonder that a man may become an imitator of God. He can, if he is willing. For it is not by ruling over his neighbors, or by seeking to hold the supremacy over those that are weaker, or by being rich, and showing violence towards those that are inferior, that happiness is found . . .. On the contrary he who takes upon himself; he who, in whatsoever respect he may be superior, is ready to benefit another who is deficient; he who, whatsoever things he has received from God, by distributing these to the needy, becomes a god to those who receive [his benefits]; he is an imitator of God.”

 

Chapter 11 – “I do not speak of things strange to me, nor do I aim at anything inconsistent with right reason; but having been a disciple of the Apostles, I am become a teacher of the Gentiles.”

 

The Word manifested Himself to His disciples, who being found faithful were able to acquire a “knowledge of the mysteries of the Father.” This Word “was from the beginning. . . and is ever born afresh in the hearts of the saints.” This is the Son “through whom the Church is enriched, and grace, widely spread. . . “

 

Chapter 12 – “When you have read and carefully listened to these things, you shall know what God bestows on such as rightly love Him, being made [as ye are] a paradise of delight, presenting in yourselves a tree bearing all kinds of produce and flourishing well, being adorned with various fruits. For in this place the tree of knowledge and the tree of life have been planted; but it is not the tree of knowledge that destroys—it is disobedience that proves destructive.”

 

“But he who combines knowledge with fear, and seeks after life, plants in hope, looking for fruit. Let your heart be your wisdom; and let your life be true knowledge inwardly received. Bearing this tree and displaying its fruit, thou shalt always gather in those things which are desired by God, which the Serpent cannot reach, and to which deception does not approach; nor is Eve then corrupted, but is trusted as a virgin; and salvation is manifested, and the Apostles are filled with understanding, and the Passover of the Lord advances, and the choirs are gathered together, and are arranged in proper order, and the Word rejoices in teaching the saints—by whom the Father is glorified: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.”

 

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