Thursday, June 23, 2011

Allow the Little Children to Come to Me

i have been reading a series of devotions based on the Genesis 22 story of God commanding abraham to take his son, isaac, and offer him as a burnt offering.  this story is especially troubling to me, because it raises some difficult questions if i take the story literally:

does God test us as the story suggests God tested abraham?
is the story consistent with what Jesus taught about the nature of God?
is the story consistent with what Jesus taught about children?
why did God speak to abraham through an angel?
what does the story say about abraham if he was willing to kill his own son?

if i take this story literally, the god of this story is not the God that i worship.  i cannot believe that the God of love would ask someone to do such a thing to see if that person was completely obedient, because God already knows our hearts.  God knows the depth of our faith and does not need to test us in such a way.  no father who is grateful for the gift of a son would ever sacrifice that son because of the command of a capricious god.

what, then, does the story mean? why is it in the Bible?  perhaps the point of the story was to teach abraham that the practice of human sacrifice was not consistent with true religion.  the conventional interpretation is that the story prefigures the sacrifice of Jesus; isaac represents Jesus and abraham represents God; as abraham was willing to sacrifice isaac, so God was willing to sacrifice God's Son.  that interpretation is problematic for me, because the relationship between Jesus and God is so different from the relationship between an ordinary father and son.  i continue to struggle with the meaning of this story and pray for God's leading.

my prayer this morning is that God gives each of us light to understand as much as we can of God's true nature, given our human limitations, and that we have the integrity to question what we read according to the light God gives us.

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