It isn’t just that there’s a silver lining or a bright side to find, it’s that the dominating central storyline is all about the redemptive purposes of God in all things and that storyline is simply obscured from our view at times by the evil and suffering we witness.
God is a God who blesses! He grants his favor. He gives us his goodness. He cares for us, loves us, shows us mercy and grace, shares truth with us, and provides for all of our needs.
Our culture has bought into this strange notion that we are ever-evolving in our enlightenment and everyone who is old and dead is dumb. Everything we thought pre-Elvis is primitive and ignorant. So ancient story about God visiting an old man named Abraham and instructing him to sacrifice his teenaged son Isaac on an altar with a knife is downright offensive to our modern sensibilities. It’s one of those stories skeptics zero in on to illustrate the outlandish nature of God’s brutality.
And I’ll admit, I’ve often struggled with the story. Human sacrifice is certainly out of line with everything else that God has revealed and seems to break several of the big ten commandments. Could the story really be the account of a senile old man hallucinating? Or was God just that mean back then? But my doubts seem to wash away when I realize what’s really going on in the story, found in Genesis, chapter 22. And when I get it, I’m overwhelmed with the nature of God’s grace.
Yesterday I preached the introductory sermon of a new series about hearing from God. I started the message by being purposefully, awkwardly silent for about twelve seconds. It was painful! My purpose was to illustrate the findings of a research project reported on by Time about what happens when we encounter awkward silence. In short, all it takes is about four seconds of awkward silence to “elicit our most primal fears, activating anxiety-provoking feelings of incompatibility and exclusion.”
Why are we so uncomfortable with silence? I believe it has something to do with the beginning of the history of silence. In the previous chapter, we began to grasp the concept that God is social and that God made mankind to be social, placing Adam and Eve into a garden meant to be a setting for continual conversation. And one fateful day in that garden, the conversation died.