I wrote a while about about “The Way of Abraham”, and as I was writing that post, it struck me that there was another aspect to Abraham’s relationship with God. It hit me hard as a result of a conversation my wife had with a friend of hers.
The conversation revolved around Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac (found in Genesis 22). The friend’s observation was that God doesn’t require that same type of sacrifice from us, because Jesus has already come to be our sacrifice.
This statement bothered me, and I started thinking about it. I’m pretty sure that from a theological standpoint, the sacrifice of Abraham and the sacrifice of Jesus are not the same at all. In fact, it’s not even referred to as a sacrifice (The word “sacrifice” doesn’t show up — at least in my ESV — until Gen. 31). So it’s an “offering”, and I’m not too sure what the difference is, but it struck me that whatever Abraham was thinking when God asked him to offer up his son, he most definitely did not have in mind the complicated rituals laid out in the Mosaic law, much less the atoning work of Jesus. However, I have always read this story with my own frame of reference firmly in mind; lately I’ve been trying to read the Bible as though I were a member of the group to whom it was originally delivered.
This is extremely difficult. Donella Meadows (who?) says this: “Your paradigm is so intrinsic to your mental process that you are hardly aware of its existence, until you try to communicate with someone with a different paradigm.” So I have to literally fight through my own paradigm, my own worldview, to see what is obvious and true in someone else’s worldview.
Here’s a lengthier quote from Ms. Meadows (full article here). The setting of the quote is her field of ecology, which I’d like to set aside for the moment; focus instead on how she describes the conversation she is having:
When I show this evidence to proponents of industrial farming, when I offer to take them to organic farms getting high yields, when I point out that hunger could be ended by sharing either food or technologies that can raise output without poisoning the earth or invading the genome, I don’t think my argument even reaches their auditory nerves, much less their brains. That kind of extreme failure even to hear an argument, much less process it, alerts me that this is not a rational discussion. It is a worldview difference, a paradigm gap, a disagreement about morals and values and identities and fundamental assumptions about the way the world works.
Oh, how many times have I done this myself! I want to go back over my life and count (and repent) over the times I absolutely did not hear what someone was saying, because of my own paradigm.
So, back to Abraham. He was not offering his son as a sacrifice for his own sins, or those of anyone else. I say that because the concept of a sacrifice for sin has not been mentioned yet; it was for a much later time. He was offering his son to God because he trusted the God who asked him to.
So here’s the rub, the thing that we have such a hard time grasping. God is asking Abraham to kill is own son? What kind of a God would do that? IMPORTANT: I haven’t seen that God has asked anyone else to kill their children, but God asks us all the time to give things back to him. Some of these things we are quite willing to give back, and some of them we hold on to so very tightly.
Take children, for example. In my upper-middle class suburban American culture, the defining mark of successful child-raising is when they graduate from college. When that child walks across the platform and receives that degree, the parents breathe a sigh of relief, look at one another, and whisper, We did it. All their planning, striving, and saving have gone into this one moment.
What would happen if God asked you to offer up to him your college fund? To throw away everything you’ve been working for? To give those thousands of dollars away to the Lord’s work, perhaps somewhere far off? Does this even compute, or do you immediately say, “My God would not require that of me. Doesn’t he command us to look after our own household? Isn’t it wisdom to prepare our children for life in the world?”
Perhaps Abraham thought that very thing. However, it is very clear that when he heard from God, early the next morning he began the journey of obedience. I imagine that every step was death for him. I’m not saying it’s easy. But since when is faith supposed to be easy?
4 thoughts on “The Way of Abraham, Part 2”
I agree, I don’t see faith as easy. 2 things pop into mind.
First is Mark 9:24, which is basically “I believe, help my unbelief.” This is the statement made by a boys father who wanted Jesus to heal the boy. I feel that way often myself in a way. I know and understand the power of Jesus and I believe, yet why am I still holding on to things? Why is my faith not growing strong enough to let go and let God?
Second is, I see accumulation as a barrier to faith. The more we have, the less we rely on faith, God and others.
I can honestly say this. I think if God asked me to make such a sacrifice, and I WAS 100% SURE IT WAS HIS VOICE, I would do it, even do it ‘early in the morning.’ However, I am so poor at ‘hearing God’s voice’ that I am never quite sure if the message I am getting is from him, or simply a ‘touchy-feely’ moment because I just got done watching an episode of ‘Touched by An Angel.” When we hear that God told Abraham to do this, do we know ‘how’ Abraham heard this? Was it auditory? Was his relationship so close that he just ‘knew’ it was God?
I always wish that we could talk to to God 15 minutes every year, face to face, as if talking to a human being. I would love to ask him questions re: what I was to do. I would ask him about the little things. I know I am to love others, but does that mean a career change or something of the sort?
I really feel like I would do what He told me. Some of you may say that your prayer life is so rich and real that it is just as if you are talking face to face. That is great for you, but mine is not.
I sometimes envy the Apostle Paul in his conversion experience. Getting blinded by a bright light and hearing God’s voice….well, that is pretty hard to doubt. In times of trouble, he could always look back at that experience. But the ‘still, small voice’ that I think I hear, well, it is easy to doubt it or not hear it or not understand it. I have done things in the past that I felt turned out to be mistakes, but I did them with such good intentions and because I thought that was where God was leading me.
I am such an emotional person. I have learned one thing in my first 39 years of life. DO NOT ACT ACCORDING TO ANY EMOTION OR FEELING THAT I HAVE. It must be backed up by somehing more solid than my current ‘roller coaster’ state of being. I thought of going to seminary at one time in my life, but never went because I couldn’t ever get or decipher any clear direction. Thus, I gotta tell ya, if I felt led to ‘give away all my money’ I would mostly likely feel it was some nutty stage I was in. Not sure if I will ever feel differently as long as I am walking around in this crazy, mixed up bag of chemicals and DNA that is my humanly body….
I’d like to turn those thoughts on their heads, professor. You say it would be great to talk to God face-to-face, instead of the way we have to. The disciples did that for years, yet still did not understand him or his mission (witness their question in [bible]Acts 1:6[/bible]).
It wasn’t until they were 1) indwelt and 2) empowered by the Holy Spirit that they understood their mission. The point is that you have the H.S. in you, which was so important that Jesus said it was actually better to have the H.S. here than Jesus himself! (see [bible]John 16:7[/bible]).
Here’s the million dollar question: would you rather have that 15 minutes a year with God, or fellowship with him every minute by means of the H.S. actually dwelling within you, mixing with your spirit, so that you are, in fact, actually one spirit with him?
I would rather have both. But your point is correct. But I do remain steadfast in my viewpoint that I have had enough bad experiences in the past with my decisions based on emotion that I can not trust that part of me.