August 5, 2017 at 9:18 pm #955
This is perhaps one of the most troublesome and disturbing passages we will find in our scriptuires. All traditions from the faith of Abraham, Jewish, Christian & Muslim, have tried to fathom the intention of its inclusion and its meaning in the light of the God we know in Jesus Christ. At first reading we are to be repulsed by the thought of a father who agrees to sacrifice his son. At the next, we are also to be repulsed by the thought that it is God who ask this father to do it. Many suggestions have been made ranging from, the God who is tested, the God who tests, the man who is tested, the nature of faith and the demands faith makes. The ancient world is being brought into the light of the 21st century.
And, these words from the mouth of Isaac, the son,
“Father, … where is the lamb for the offering?” are chilling indeed.
There is a familiar pattern; a divine command calls Abraham to set out to as yet unknown place. Call and response continue to play a demanding role in both our hearing of God and our discerning of what we have heard.
Steeped in the culture of his time, Abraham unquestionably and obediently sets off as he is told. The story contains a number of puzzling prompts as in our hearing and pondering of the dreadfulness of what is being asked makes us ask, “surely this is not going to happen.” We have heard this story many times, but, in our present time, to hear it for the first time would be to hear it with horror and disbelief.
Yet, in the midst of worst of our thoughts being realised, the LORD calls again; this time the LORD calls twice, “Abraham, Abraham,” and an nterruption to a culturally conditioned practice would have thrown the ancient hearer into a panic. What do we do now? What is this story really about, and what kind of test is this anyway? The question must remain big to us else we answer it too easily. At the heart of the story is the profound ethical and emotional claim that “God told me to do it.” and how we can confuse the words of the LORD with the words of Baal. Warning indeed!
Grace and peace, James.
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