Abraham, at this point in the story, knows exactly where he is heading. He’s been asked to kill his only son—the son he has waited years for. Isaac is curious: they’re going to give to God a burnt offering, but he sees no lamb. Abraham responds. He doesn’t reveal what God asked, but tells him that God will provide the lamb. Is he lying? Or does he actually believe that God will spare his son and provide a lamb instead? We know later in the story that a ram is found and offered instead. Is there something deeper in this than a lie to spare his son’s feelings? Does Abraham suspect that God will find a way out for him and therefore trust that all will be well?
This story troubles me. It’s one of those stories that on the surface appears harsh and cold. Does God really need to test Abraham to know his loyalty? Would God ever expect the sacrifice of a child? We know in other civilizations contemporary to Israel that child sacrifice was practised. It’s one of the reasons Israel is set apart. I’d love to get into Abraham’s head. He seems so calm and obedient. He’s even able to keep Isaac out of knowing what’s going on by claiming God will provide the lamb. For me, it’s the richness of Scripture, sometimes there are no easy answers, but we’re gifted these stories to grapple with and reflect on. I wonder how God tests us? Are there ways he tests us to see if we love him more than anything else in the word?
What are you feeling about God right now? How are you feeling about your relationship with God? How are you feeling about how God is looking after you? Whatever you think or feel, don’t say to yourself, I shouldn’t feel like that or think those thoughts. Be open with God. The Psalmists are—from beginning to end. It shows real courage in a relationship with God to say what you think, but it’s always the beginning of something deeper with God. For we cannot cry out to God and not be changed. Whatever you think, whatever you feel, take it to God in prayer.
Separation from God leads us to death. Our broken human nature, enslaved to sin, keeps us from the presence of God. Being part of a broken world, where we do the things we don’t want to do or we’re ignorant of how our actions affect others and cause destruction in the world, means we’re locked into sin. We never have the power to break it on our own. But God offers this free gift, which is found in Christ and when we accept it we find life belonging to the eternal, to heaven. Nothing we do earns us that. The free gift is there to accept and as we do, we become part of God’s reign where we belong to heaven and are brought back into the presence of God.
Recently, I found myself going through a difficult time where much of my life changed. All I could do was fall back on God and pray. It’s taken time of lostness, of wondering what the future holds, but slowly I’ve started to feel God providing. It can be hard to acknowledge in the midst of trouble, but God does provide.
We need more prophets. I keep saying that and I believe it. Prophets who challenge and shake systems that oppress and enslave; prophets who upset the comfortable and the establishment. Yet, all of this is about peace: because until we have a world of equality and justice, there can be no peace and when the prophets proclaim we have found peace, then we will know it’s God.