Today’s chapter tells the story of the Binding of Isaac, in which God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son, Abraham goes to do it, and the angel of the Lord tells him that he doesn’t actually have to sacrifice his son. It’s one of the better-known passages from the Bible, and with good reason. An ostensibly all-loving God calling for human sacrifice, only to turn around and say, “No, wait, sacrifice this ram instead,” has a way of arresting our attention. But I feel like the story, in its magnitude, has me hemmed in on all sides. How can I adequately address its scope? How can I say something worthy of the monumental matters it raises?
I’ve had an up-and-down relationship with the gospel of John. Of all the four gospels, it was the one that most saturated my childhood. I have these random memories: reading it with my mom at a TCBY as part of homeschool lessons, memorizing John 3:16 and thinking about God’s love for the world while swinging on a pull-up bar on the playground. In high school, I became increasingly aware of the scholarly skepticism surrounding it, its alleged late authorship and its authenticity. The sun moved, everyone’s favorite gospel suddenly became shrouded in shadow, and for years afterward reading through it became weird for me.
There’s an MC Frontalot/Baddd Spellah collaboration track titled “The Rhyme of the Nibelung,” translating Wagner’s opera cycle The Ring of the Nibelung into hip-hop, as viewed through the eyes of an opera-illiterate spectator. Frontalot grouses confusedly through most of the opera, wondering who characters are, why they do what they do, and why there aren’t any hobbits, but finally gets into the action-packed finale. He exclaims: “I might even have to come back; wonder if they sell a ticket for just the third act?” And in some respects, over the years I’ve come to view the book of Acts in a similar way, because it’s twenty-seven chapters in before we get to seafaring adventures, storms, and shipwrecks.
Welcome back to The Study on Thankfulness Which Must Not Be Named, Because Its Name Is Dumb. Today we’re taking our first thankfulness-related dip into the Psalms, but it may well not be our last; the Psalms are rife with thankfulness. Psalm 30, as we have seen before, concerns David’s gratitude to God for rescuing him from impending death.