Sarah’s Fury

This is one of my contributions to the Abingdon Creative Preaching Annual 2014.

Genesis 22:1-14

I am furious.

I have sojourned with him all across the Middle East. I forgave him when he tried to pass me off as his sister. Twice.

We’ve had some good times too, for sure. He stood by me in my barrenness. Even after God promised we would be the ancestors of more offspring than we could count, Abraham stood by me. He even agreed to my ill-conceived plan to have a child through my maid, Hagar.

But at long last, well past anyone’s expectation of childbearing, I gave birth to Isaac. When you wait 100 years for a child, he is treasured indeed.

Which brings me back to my fury.

The boys have just returned from what I thought was your standard father/son weekend at Mt. Moriah and Isaac told me a chilling tale. Apparently his father tied him up and put him on an altar. And, apparently, Abraham took out a sharp knife and was going to KILL MY BABY BOY. Isaac saw the blade of the knife headed toward his body!

I guess I am supposed to be thankful the angel got there just in time to stop Abraham from carrying out this sordid story. But I can’t be thankful right now. I am furious. What was this “exercise” supposed to prove? That Abraham was obedient? Or that Abraham was insane? Why weren’t Abraham’s many years of sojourning and obedience enough to prove his faithfulness?

We are going to have a talk, you can be sure. If Abraham wants to watch his son grow up, he’s going to have to learn new ways to talk with God. He’s going to have to learn to suggest God find some other ways to prove his point. He’s going to have to talk back to God, because God can take it. But I’m about done.

Because my poor son is devastated. How do you recover from having your father tie you up and nearly sacrifice you on an altar?

I’m going to go for a long walk. I’m going to keep saying to myself, “God would never have let this happen. God did not let this happen,” until my fury abates.

And I’m going to let Isaac eat all the ice cream he wants.

And when I calm down, (please, God, let me calm down), I will pray that I can see redemption in this story. Because I don’t now. I will pray to see Blessing as I kiss Isaac goodnight and smell his hair as I hug him, thankful he came home from this horror story. I will pray for the strength to forgive Abraham for his faithfulness. I will pray I have the courage to invite him back into the house and out of the not-proverbial-but-very-real-doghouse, so I can console him. And when I calm down, I will pray to God this never happens again to any mother, or that at least the presence of God is tangible with them through the horror.

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4 thoughts on “Sarah’s Fury

  1. I love this. It’s always fascinating to consider the perspectives of the people who were obviously included in the story but were excluded from the text. I’m working on one of these dealing with Hosea’s marriage right now…

    Well done!

  2. First of all, great presentation of this difficult story, Marci. So hard to understand why a child had to be abused to make a point.

    The devotional I read this morning asked for a time to confess ” any tendency to forget that every human life, including your own, is sacred” – this was a response to Gen. 1:26-28 – and your thoughts on Issac came to mind….as well as the death of Osama bin Laden….everybody was someone’s baby, everybody human life is sacred. We are so cavalier about who we put in harm’s way and deem worthy of elimination, particularly when we are asked us to pray for our enemies and change our hearts with forgiveness for other’s deeds against us.

    Anyway, thank you for sharing

  3. Thank you both. I had to write on this text for a project I’m working on, and I couldn’t come up with anything nice to say about it. So I didn’t.
    Jake, will look forward to your work on Hosea. Gomer does not get to tell her own story in that book, for sure.

  4. Ok, here is my take on this story which had bothered me for a long time. It is a synthesis of many things I have discussed with learned men and women and also read…few of these ideas are original, but they are in my own words. I first of all, do not believe that Isaac was a child at the time this story was written, because right after this the servant is sent for his wife. So it has to me, more of a coming of age story…if Isaac is a young man, he could easily have overpowered his aged father. This allows for Isaac also to be more a player in the story rather than a victim. What did Abraham know about Isaac. That through Isaac, not Ishmeal, he would be the father of many nations. This was a promise of God. The same God who gave him the miracle baby in the first place. So far God has kept his word to these men. (and Sarah, even though she laughed) God says; sacrifice this most precious son. The one through whom your decendents will be like the stars. Abraham knew that whatever else happened Isaac would not, could not either be or stay dead. I can see him thinking this through…IF I obey God, He will bring Isaac back from the dead. He would have to. He promised. If Isaac is a man, he understood this (maybe – this part is as much imagined fiction as your attributions to Sarahs psyche) as more of a coming of age test. It would be scary, but in the end he could not die because he was to be a father…and he wasn’t yet. He was not abused, using that sort of armchair morality looking back on something that happened so very long ago is what gets modern man into trouble. (doing what was right in their own eyes.) Like the other gods of the world, Yaweh was asking for a human sacrifice, but unlike those other gods, He was saved His sacrifice, He sent a ram. He sent Himself…He provided the sacrifice here and later. I like the quote from St. Augustine “God is not what you imagine or what you think you understand. If you understand you have failed.” We cannot completely understand what anyone involved was thinking, but putting our childish understanding upon these people who had an intimate relationship with God, may be underestimating them a bit. ? That aside, how old Isaac was or how he might have interpreted the situation, it is such an obvious foreshadowing of Jesus. (although Isaac was no Jesus!) But Abraham loved him…had waited for him for a hundred years…Isaac was tested to the edge of his fear, as well as Abraham. Could we do as well…could we trust God that much?
    That being said, knowing what we know about Sarah, I see her getting angry…with both of them. and God. She was not a mild woman and she had no trouble telling either her husband or God what she thought. And I see her feeding Isaac, and petting him and wondering at what her life would have been like had God not sent the ram…(ice cream…lol) Shuddering at what they had been up to. I had a moment like that in my life as a mother in which we were on a beach and I was behind a rock setting up the picnic, my husband and son were closer to the water playing in the sand. A wave came and picked up my son and his father was not close enough to grab him. Other men on the beach quickly came to the rescue – my husband had dove in the water that had immediatly come up to his chest and prayed he could grab the child (who was about 8) and hadn’t yet thought of how through the undertow and current they might get back to shore- when the men formed a line, linking hands and reached them and brought them in. But I was oblivious, behind the rock and when they told me about it, I was weak and horrified and yet so grateful that I had been presented the story with the happy ending obvious and I had not watched it unfold.
    I imagine Sarah would feel simmilarly…only with the anger that the guys had been a bit more instrumental in the narrative. “what the heck were you guys playing around with?”

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