Posts Tagged ‘sacrifice’

There is only one story from the Bible that I just can’t get.  The bible is full of violence, sexual exploitation, and deceit.  Those I can stomach.  That’s just what happens when people think they know what God knows.  I don’t mean to oversimplify, but people make bad decisions.  All the time.

Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him, so they threw him in a well and left him to be sold as a slave.  Jacob lied to his (blind) father about who he was.  Esau gave up his entitlements as the firstborn son because he was “dying” of hunger.  One story tells of two brothers who gave offerings to God, and one brother killed the other because he was jealous.  Killed his brother.  People are jacked up.  What else can be said?

No, the story that I just don’t get is one where God challenges a father to burn his one and only son.  What kind of God does that?  Seriously?  I don’t have a good answer for this one.

God makes a really amazing promise to Abraham- a totally unbelievable promise.  He says he will enlarge the family of an otherwise barren couple in their nineties to a number that rivals the stars in the sky, or the sands of the seashore.  And then He actually delivers.  And not 50 years later, as often seems in our lives.  But right away; the birth of the child, Isaac.

And he then turns off the faucet.

God told Abraham that he would make him a nation.   God told Abraham that all of the earth would be blessed through him and his offspring.  Sounds promising to me… and then Isaac is born (after a man-made intervention with a servant produces Ishmael), and that’s it.  Small nation.

So several years go by.  Don’t know how many- I’ve had teachers say Isaac could have been anywhere from 12 years old to 35 or 40.  In human terms, I’d have to say a long time, regardless, for someone expecting to give birth to a “nation.”  And God comes and tells Abraham to literally sacrifice his son- the only proof of God’s intention or ability to fulfill His own promise- on an altar of fire.

Seriously?  Who does that?

This is not to say that I can’t come up with a plausible answer.  I’ve heard plenty of sermons on this.  God was paralleling his own personal sacrifice- Abraham going through the same motions that God would be going through as Jesus was nailed to the cross.  That God’s power delivered Isaac as it would later deliver a resurrected Jesus.  OR that the ram in the thicket was symbolic of Jesus- taking the place of Isaac on the altar.  Or that Abraham’s faith is the moral of the story.  Danish philosopher, SÆren Kierkegaard obsessed over this aspect of the story.  Abraham obviously believed that God would resurrect the sacrificed boy.  God had promised to make a nation out of Abraham.

These are all fine appraisals.  And they are all true.  Abraham obviously believed that God was going to do something.  He had the knife above his head and was literally ready to kill his only full son.  And the ram in the thicket is an awesome picture of Jesus replacing Isaac on the altar.  In Isaac we have the fullness of the human race in a sense.  And there is a richness in the language- God asks Abraham to deliver Isaac, His one and only son as a sacrifice.  That line, the one about a “one and only son” shows up again in the biblical narrative.  The church confession is that Jesus is God’s “only begotten Son”.

For me, the bottom line is my faith holds strong through these cognitive conflicts because God has shown himself to me.  I guess maybe that’s Abraham’s excuse too.

When I held my dad’s arm, and felt his pulse stop in his elbow six years ago, my faith was deeply shaken.  How does a person slip so quickly from one existence to another?  I struggled to really be comforted by Heaven as I understood it.  And if I couldn’t believe in heaven, what could I believe in?

But many dark weeks later, the small whisper reminded me: nothing in your life has really changed.  All the reasons you believe have not changed.  God is still God, even if you can’t understand heaven.  Jesus is still an undeniable person to be confronted.  The cross is still an undeniable end to that person’s life.  And the resurrection is still to be believed!  All of these posts were still there- even when I was challenged with something I couldn’t understand.

Maybe if I had come into such an intimate connection with God I’d be willing to be talked into some crazy things too.

What about you?  Is there a story from the bible that you just *don’t* get?  Have you been challenged to accept something from God that you just can’t wrap your brain around?

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