Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Genesis 22 Revisited

Today I read Genesis 22 - and I have to say... “What the....???” Not that I haven’t read it before - it’s a pretty famous passage. You know, the one where God tells Abraham to kill Isaac? His only son? The one who is going to give Abraham more descendants than stars in the sky or sand on the beach?

How Rembrandt envisioned it
I’ve got to say, the Old Testament is full of wild stories like this... Talking animals, sadistic townspeople, crazy kings... If you look at it as a story, a legend, a piece of literature... you could distance yourself from it and just think, “What is the plot? What is the author’s purpose? What is it supposed to teach me?” That’s easy enough to figure out and write down in your little notebook... and it’ll make you feel smart!

But if you climb down into the story and think about what actually happened... God tells Abraham, “Go kill the only kid you have” and then Abraham actually does it! Well, he sets out to, anyway. Good thing God stops him. “I just wanted to see if you would do it.” What? I mean, I’m paraphrasing, of course, but that’s the essence, isn’t it? 

All I know is that Abraham had a giant amount of faith... because I’m thinking I would have been, like, “My kid? I don’t think so! Besides, didn’t you say this son was the ticket to that long line of descendants you promised me?”

I guess, though, that Abraham had more faith that I do – plus the added advantage of God actually speaking to Him directly. I mean, I’ve had times when I thought God was telling me something, but I was nowhere near as sure as Abraham was that I was hearing from the Lord Himself.  

Bob Dylan sang about Abraham and
Isaac in Highway 61 Revisited
The author of Hebrews said, “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice... Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.” 

I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have had that kind of reasoning power. Or faith. Now, I do know that sometimes the things that God asks of us seem a little crazy according to conventional wisdom... Asking for a person to kill his child seems a bit over the top even for God. I don’t even want to think about what might have been going through Isaac’s head! Maybe he trusted his dad as much as his dad trusted God? 

Nonetheless, if you can get over the overall horror of the story, you might realize a couple of things: In ancient cultures, child and/or human sacrifice was not unheard of... but this God did not expect it. Actually, in this case, God Himself provided the sacrifice. “Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”

So... that’s our God. Even though I don’t understand why he put Abraham through all this... He doesn’t ask us to kill each other – or even animals anymore – in His Name. No, God Himself is the one who provides the sacrifice. So here I am, AGAIN, scratching my head, and saying “Thanks,” at the same time.

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