This Sunday, we read about God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Our devotional text comes from Luther’s Works, Volume 4 (Lectures on Genesis Chapters 21–25).
Read the propers for today on lutherancalendar.org.
When God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, Abraham showed tremendous faith by following God’s command. But God graciously provided a ram to take Isaac’s place. This points forward to Jesus’ work on the cross. We deserve the punishment of death for our sins, but God has provided His Son as the sacrificial Lamb to take our place, giving us forgiveness and eternal life.
Even though there is a clear contradiction here—for there is nothing between death and life—Abraham nevertheless does not turn away from the promise but believes that his son will have descendants even if he dies. . . . Thus Abraham relies on the promise and attributes to the Divine Majesty this power, that He will restore his dead son to life; for just as he saw that Isaac was born of a worn-out womb and of a sterile mother, so he also believed that he was to be raised after being buried and reduced to ashes, in order that he might have descendants. . . .
Accordingly, Abraham understood the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, and through it alone he resolved this contradiction, which otherwise cannot be resolved; and his faith deserves the praise it receives from the prophets and apostles. These were his thoughts: “Today I have a son; tomorrow I shall have nothing but ashes. I do not know how long they will lie scattered; but they will be brought to life again, whether this happens while I am still alive or a thousand years after my death. For the Word declares that I shall have descendants through this Isaac, even though he has been reduced to ashes.” . . .
We cannot comprehend this trial; but we can observe and imagine it from afar, so to speak. Moreover, you see that the passage does not deal with a work, as James says in his letter (2:21), since as yet no work has occurred. It is the faith that we admire and praise.
Therefore one should hold fast to this comfort, that what God has once declared, this He does not change. You were baptized, and in Baptism the kingdom of God was promised you. You should know that this is His unchangeable Word, and you should not permit yourself to be drawn away from it. For although it can happen—as with those who were on the way to Emmaus (Luke 24:28)—that He pretends to want to go father and seems to be dealing with us as though He had forgotten His promises, faith in the Word must nevertheless be retained, and the promise must be stressed—namely, that it is true and dependable—even if the manner, time, occasion, place, and other particulars are unknown. For the fact that God cannot lie is sure and dependable.
When I am being killed, I see the ways and particulars by which my life is destroyed; but I do not see the particulars through which life will return, neither the time nor the place. Why, then, do I believe what I do not see anywhere? Because I have the promise and the Word of God; this does not permit me to discard the hope of life or to have any doubt about the inheritance which is Christ’s, through whom we have been adopted as children.
Devotional reading is from Luther’s Works, Volume 4 (Lectures on Genesis Chapters 21–25), pages 96–97 © 1964 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.