Why is Abraham held up as a man of faith I wonder? We read that he is praised for being willing to sacrifice his son Isaac and I suppose it is about giving up what you love the most for your God. But what kind of God is it that would ask you to kill you own child to show your loyalty? In the time of Abraham people worshiped many gods and one of them was Molech who demanded children which were apparently offered to him so maybe this is why Abraham seemed so blase about the act. I have no doubt that he was upset because Isaac was with Sarah, who I have to believe he loved. But, while he seems ready to argue with God about other things, sacrificing Isaac seems to be pretty easy. The biggest challenge to me in this story is that the God who tells Abraham to sacrifice his son is just another example of the God of the Hebrew Bible appearing to be a different God of the New Testament.
That may appear to be true – unless you are Isaac. Isaac is the proof that the God made known in Jesus was working at the beginning too. Remember when Jesus tells his followers that he did not come to bring peace but a sword that would separate fathers from son, daughters from mothers…? I think this incident on the altar, pretty much separated Isaac from his father forever. How could Isaac ever trust him again? On the other hand, Isaac’s relationship with God was cemented on that day. Sure, his dad said that God told him to make this sacrifice, but it was a miracle (which is of God) that Abraham saw the ram caught and sacrificed that instead.
I believe that when Isaac is tied on the wood and his father takes the knife in hand, Isaac sees the ram he knows, he KNOWS that God does not want him to die. God sent something to take his place and from that moment on, Isaac trusts God steadfastly. How could he not? He might have told himself that his dad was hearing voices or had some sunstroke but in the time when he needed help the most, a ram appears and his life is spared.
I believe that we are called to live a life of Isaac. I life that trusts that God provided for all of us someone to die in our place and because of that we live our lives in gratitude. It is pretty simple to me really.
But there are so many people who believe that we are supposed to be Abrahams, sacrificing others on the altar to prove their piety, holiness and worthiness of God’s favor. How many people have been bound and placed on the altar of “God said”? Slaves, women, tattooed, gentiles, Jews, Muslims, the poor, divorced… and most recently people claim that our gay brothers and sisters must be sacrificed to prove to God that we “listening” to the call to sacrifice those who are innocent. It must stop! God is not a monster – God loves everyone in this messed up creation enough to die for us (even Abrahams). If God wanted blood, Jesus would have fought back.
Jesus never asked anyone to be worthy of his love, to be pious (in fact Jesus was much more interested in active faith), or to be one of his own before he fed, loved, healed, redeemed…. thanks be to God!