Two themes emerge in my engagement with God’s Word today—the archetype of the Christian faith journey and the theological motif of God’s authority over the created order. In my book, Our Journey to God, I wrote extensively about the former, a thorough exploration of Abraham’s faith journey. In this reflection, I focus on the latter.
Why would God, who prescribes righteousness and commands a ban on the shedding of blood, ask Abraham to sacrifice his son by shedding his blood (see Genesis 22:1-19)? The request is shocking. I agree, only if we miss the story’s point and the beauty of biblical metaphor.
The divine command is comparable to the divine law. And the divine law giver has ordinary authority and jurisdiction over the law’s spirit. Consider the physical laws—they follow specific orders. For example, galaxies follow specific spatial laws. Physicists investigate this at great length. They describe anomalies as the inexplainable, the yet unknown, or the quite unusual. Those anomalies break the circle of what we know because they deviate from the expectations of the physical laws as we know them. For God, it is a different matter; with God, there are no anomalies in nature.
Divine Authority and Miracles
This example is comparable to when God does what we call a miracle. C. S. Lewis’ beautiful book—Miracles is a fantastic expose’. The English writer proposes that when God chooses to do what is normal to him, we call it a miracle. We call it miraculous because it is not explainable by regular, natural events. But is it inexplicable by the creator of nature?
Let us return to the story of the call of Abraham and the test of faith. God’s command was a test, but like all faith pruning, it was a test of the heart and mind of the would-be father of faith. If I retold the story more dramatically without irking Scripture Scholars, I would lay it out like this: God says, Abraham, if you genuinely believe that I have authority over the laws of nature by granting you a son when by human standards you and Sarah have passed the age of childbirth, would you consider offering back to me that child, knowing full well you can’t naturally have another?
Read the story from this perspective, and we see why it is an invitation to think in God’s ways. It is a call to embrace the supreme authority of God. Also, it is a loving divine drama, a gesture to participate in the life that though consigned in nature, is elevated by faith to the life of nature’s creator. In any case, Abraham obliged God. God, who has the power over man’s muscles, and all physical and biological natures, can save the day. God did.
Acknowledging Divine Authority and Ultimacy
We know God didn’t intend for Abraham to kill his son. Instead, God seeks the consent of free human response in faith to what is his or hers, what Paul Tillich calls “ultimacy.” Because Abraham showed trust and faith in the ultimacy of God over all things, God credits him as righteous (Genesis 15:6).
We see a similar motif in the case of Jesus, the Incarnate Word. He demonstrates his moral authority as the ultimate giver of the paradigms for what is right or wrong. To the sinner, he says, “your sins are forgiven.” And to the skeptics who doubt his God nature, he presents a dramatic scene of proof that he has power over nature. In other words, the miracle of speaking a creative word to the dead, mangled, tightened, and frozen tissues and ligaments of the person with paralysis is sufficient proof. The man feels like a vibrant athlete, picking up his stretcher and, I suppose, rejoicing on his way home.
We see how the two cases demonstrate the authority of God the creator, who in His Son goes on to make all things new to those who believe. Speaking of the heavenward harvest, The Psalmist chants, “they go out full of tears” but return “rejoicing.” Why? The harvest of the Lamb would make the believer witness the new things in the now and the next world.
Faith in God, the ultimacy of God—who has authority over all and redeems our broken nature in Christ—is the key to this newness. Our response by faith is the rhythm. Let this message reassure you when you feel the total weight of the broken nature. Always remember, the creator of that nature is your Lord and Savior. The Lord has absolute authority to restore you.