Scripture: Genesis 22:1-18
Key verse: (14) “So Abraham called that place “The LORD will provide”, as it is said to this day, “on the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”
Reflection: This story troubles and confuses me. I don’t understand why God would require a human sacrifice when throughout scripture, God prohibits it. One of my professors in seminary called this story a “suspension of the teleological”, that is the setting aside of the ethical. The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard wrestled with this passage in his book Fear and Trembling in which he considered this story an example of the problem of understanding God. He asked: Is there a higher law than the ethical law? Is God this higher law? These are deep theological and philosophical questions with practical implications. Killing one’s son is wrong no matter how you look at it. So, how can God require a test of faith like this one? We know the end of the story: God graciously provided a way out, but what about the three days it took Abraham and Isaac to get to the place of sacrifice? It must have been a terrible burden for Abraham to carry. Yet, his faith allowed him to accept the test in the midst of uncertainty.
As I have reflected on this story over the years, I have looked at it in many different ways. First, life tests us and God allows this testing for reasons we can’t always understand. Second, God provides something to help us survive. It probably won’t be a ram in a thicket, but it could be a friend, a stranger, an act of kindness, a prayer, or just about anything that reminds us of God’s faithfulness. Third, Abraham had a strong faith. He believed and trusted God. His faith was tested in the worst possible way. God asked him to give up what he loved most – his son and his future. Finally, what is God calling us to give up on the altar of sacrifice? I wonder – do we have the faith we need to believe that in the testing a faithful, loving God will provide? I pray so.
Prayer: Faithful God, there are times when we don’t understand what you are doing in the world or in our lives. And, there are times when you ask us to do something we aren’t willing to do because we are afraid. Help us to yield ourselves to you and experience your love and grace so that when times of challenge or testing come we will have the resources we need to see your provision. With gratitude, we thank you for your faithfulness to us. May we learn to be faithful to you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Author: Deborah Conner
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].