Bible · faith · God · religion

The conundrum of Abraham offering Isaac at God’s command

desert_bighorn_sheep_joshua_tree_3-under-creative-commonsAn especially popular jab by critics of the Christian faith is the fact that God in Genesis 22 told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac at Mount Moriah (where the Temples were eventually built). They contend that God was heartless for commanding such a thing. On the surface, such an argument may sound valid, but it is made without taking into account what led up to it. As a matter of fact, based on what the Bible says, I have come to the conclusion that the naysayers stir up their fake moral outrage over it only because the story is a strong example of what faith in God should look like. Since they hate our faith so much, they have to attack strong examples of faith in an attempt to persuade people away from our loving, righteous, trustworthy Lord.

Hebrews 11, the “Hall of Faith,” explains it like this:

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.

Then we have the apostle James who explains it similarly when he states in James 2:

20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.

Abraham’s willingness to offer Isaac showed just how much Abraham trusted God. He knew whatever God told him, it was reliable no matter how difficult or strange a situation seemed. He also knew God was more important than his son. Abraham had seen proof for himself that God always carried out his promises, such as the following:

–When God told him to forsake his pagan beliefs and leave his pagan hometown, Abraham witnessed how God caused him to prosper even more when he obeyed.

–Abraham witnessed to what lengths God would go through to protect his family when Abraham lied twice to two kings about his marriage out of fear he would be killed over his beautiful wife (once to Pharaoh in Genesis 12 and once to Abimelech, king of Gerar, in Genesis 20). God punished both kings when they took Sarah with the intent of placing her in their harems.

–The preincarnate Jesus showed up twice in human form to Abraham to promise him Isaac would be the one through whom God would carry out his covenant promises, including the promise of the Messiah. Abraham even recognized who he was. The first time the Lord appeared was in Genesis 18 with two angels who were later sent to Sodom and Gomorrah to rescue Lot and his family. That was when Jesus confirmed what he told Abraham in Genesis 17–that he would bless him and Sarah with a son in their old age and infertility. When Sarah laughed at the idea, the Lord then asked them, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” The second time Jesus appeared was at the birth of Isaac to confirm the promises through Isaac again (we know this because he said he would in Genesis 18:10).

Abraham saw God do the extraordinary, so by the time he was told to sacrifice Isaac, all of these past experiences would have come to his mind to assure him somehow, someway, Isaac would be delivered. Just as Paul in Hebrews and James used this story as something to emulate concerning our faith, we should embrace it and not be ashamed of it.


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