The Nature of Sin, Or When It's Fine to Kill Your Child
[Genesis 22.] What is sin, actually? Is something wrong in itself, or is it wrong only because God says that it is wrong? In what could almost seem like a cruel practical joke, God commands Abraham to burn his son alive and sacrifice him out of obedience to Him. Keep in mind that this is Abraham's only son. So Abraham goes and does it - or almost does, except for a last minute save from Jesus Christ in angelic form. What's interesting is that Abraham raising his knife to slaughter his child is portrayed as a good thing. In most other books of the Bible that would be the height of sinful behavior. But here is the nature of sin: it's rebellion against God. It has nothing to do with the action itself being bad (shaving isn't wrong, for example, but it is wrong if God tells me not to do it in Leviticus). Apparently, even murdering your own child is okay -required, even- if the the Big Guy clears it. What sin is and what it isn't are defined only by God.
The Case for Biblical Home Owners
[Genesis 23.] I am a big fan of renting as opposed to buying (although my future wife disagrees), so I feel like I'm shooting myself in the foot by commenting on this chapter. No, really - just read Genesis 23! What does Abraham get offered? Land that will still belong to someone else after he begins to use it. So what does Abraham try to get for himself? Land that he actually owns. And he pays a pretty high price for it too. There is just some security to being able to secure land for yourself and your children and their children. Abraham understands this so he turns down the cheap or free rental offers of the Hittites and lays down a large payment for a burial cave. The man has some business skills.
The Signs and Sovereignty of God
[Genesis 24.] I might be stepping on some slippery ground right here (although I think I did that already with the nature of sin), but Abraham's servant Eliezer seems like a good example of finding God's will through signs. Because he trusts that God is in control of things down to the last detail of every word of every conversation, he is able to make a specific prayer: "God, the woman who comes along and says [exact words here] and does [exact action there], I will know that she is my master's wife." What else could we use to find the will of God? All things being equal, a coin toss isn't all that different form casting lots in the Bible. Praying for specific things to happen is also a good one ("Lord, if it snows tomorrow and the wind comes in from the East and the temperature is only -5C..."). Some of my best decisions have come down to a prayer and a coin toss. Hey, God is sovereign right? Proverbs 16.33 says "The dice are thrown into the lap, but their every decision is from Yahweh."
*Based on ESV.com's Chronological Bible In a Year schedule. If anyone would like to join in, this blog's comments sections would be a good forum in which to share insights from the text.