Monday, 11 February 2013
Reading the Bible 13: Gen 22 God wants me to do what!
Many things reverberate with this reading. Sacrifice has been going on for a long time in human history. This account of Abraham and Isaac has been considered in some circles as an account of the movement from human sacrifice and the tradition of offering (literally) the first fruits (first-born) to God. This is reflected many times throughout biblical history – although not in the literal sense. It became a symbolic offering. It can be seen as the beginning of animal sacrifice as a replacement for human sacrifice. There is also Isaac as a type of Jesus and the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Jesus which ended the practice of animal sacrifice for Christians.That being said I have to wonder how Abraham felt during that three-day journey to the place appointed by God. It must have been with a heavy heart that he made that journey. Here was the promise – the proof positive of the validity of the covenant with God. And now God is going to pull out the rug from under his feet and Abraham will be back to having Ishmael as his heir. The promises of God must have turned to dust in his mouth. On the other hand I have to wonder what the experience did to Isaac. How would he have felt in the return journey? What kind of an impact did the experience have on him in the rest of his life? Perhaps this is historical relativism and such things did not have the same impact on people in the days of the Patriarchs. Perhaps the right of the father to dispose of his possessions was absolute and unassailable. However, many of the emotions expressed by those people are very similar to what we experience today – jealousy, fear, envy. I can’t help believing that Isaac must have wondered - at least to himself - about his close brush with death and the capriciousness of life if not both his fathers – his earthly one and his heavenly one.
One question I take from this reading is, ‘what sacrifices does God ask of us?’ I have never been asked to make one that compares to the one God asked of Abraham. Perhaps I have not been listening or wanting to listen that closely to God. Then again, perhaps Abraham did not hear God clearly the first time and that is why God had to step in ad stop Abraham. It seems to me that God’s communication with us today is a lot less clear and open to interpretation than in Abraham’s time. Perhaps that is a good thing.