Abraham, Isaac and Paradigm Shift

The story of Abraham and Isaac establishes a significant and remarkable shift in worldview for the time.

 (c) Can Stock Photo

(c) Can Stock Photo

We live in a specific cultural and historical time and view things through cultural, historical and other contexts that are familiar to us. Things in the Bible often do not make sense to us immediately because the filter through we see things with modern eyes distorts the context in which the stories in the Bible were told. Whether one believes the Bible is God’s word, no one can understand it without understanding the context.

The story of Abraham and Isaac is hard to understand in modern context. Why would anyone think to sacrifice a child? It’s barbaric, and a God who would ask such a thing must be barbaric too! So, the thinking goes.

Before going further, I think we need to stop and consider a couple of things. First, Abraham clearly was doing what he thought God was asking of him. He was willing to do it, even it would hurt him terribly. This was his only son.

In fact, Isaac was a miracle. Abraham and Sarah thought they were past child-bearing age, but God had promised them a child. Now, God seemed to be urging him to take that child’s life. It could not have made sense to Abraham. It went against what God had promised.

Yet, Abraham was convinced that he must do it, or at least follow through with this urging from God to wherever it leads.

It is hard to understand that kind of commitment to God in our modern world. Continue reading “Abraham, Isaac and Paradigm Shift”

The Point of Faith

God certainly has made Himself known in spectacular ways at times, but not very often. There must be a reason. The reason, I believe, lies in the importance of faith.

MV Pacific Hope Sails to Fiji


I believe that faith has a point, though I have often wondered exactly what it is. I believe there is a reason that faith is necessary, though I have often wondered why. I think these questions are worth exploring.

“Seeing is believing” is a truism that characterizes the world that we live in. Some people are generally skeptical and not willing to believe anything (give themselves to an idea) unless they are overwhelming convinced. Other people are quick to believe the things they want to believe, even in the face of evidence to the contrary. People are kind of funny that way.

I believe both extremes are rooted in the same vein. We are born in sin and naturally want to control our own destinies. Skepticism is one way we hang on to that control. Believing in something we want to believe is just another way of clinging to the control of our own destiny (gullibility and naiveté aside). Continue reading “The Point of Faith”

Abraham and the Love of God

The pagans knew their place in the world, the utter separateness between them and the creative force of the world and the fearful sense of a being so much greater than us that might as soon squash us as let us live. That creative force it turns out, however, loves us and desires relationship with us.

abrahamAbraham, by Sufjan Stevens, ends with these words:

    Abraham

  Put off on your son

Take instead the ram

   Until Jesus comes

Abraham lived around 2000 B.C.E. in Mesopotamia. (Answersingenesis) Child sacrifice was common practice in that time in that area of the world to appease the gods that people thought existed. It would not have been a foreign concept to Abraham for God to ask him to sacrifice his son. That practice was part of the life and culture of the time in which Abraham lived.

The request, however, would have been particularly difficult for Abraham to honor. God had promised him a son. God promised that Abraham’s child would populate the earth as the stars in the sky. Abraham was already old and past normal child rearing age when God made these promises.

The request by God for Abraham to sacrifice his son would have hit Abraham hard. It would have made no sense. It flew in the face of the promises Abraham thought God made to him. Continue reading “Abraham and the Love of God”

The Unsettling Nature of Man, and God

2010-06-15 20.12.35I have been reading through Genesis the last couple of weeks. In reading the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Isaac’s twelve sons, who would become the twelve tribes of Israel, I have been impressed, negatively impressed, with them as people. I must not have really noticed before their blemishes.

Abraham, the father of faith, lied about his relationship to Sarah, not once but twice. When Abraham visited Egypt, and the Pharaoh’s princes were struck by Sarah’s beauty, Abraham instructed Sarah to say she was his sister so they would not kill him. When Pharaoh found out, he was appalled and let her go. Years later, when Abraham was living in the land of the Philistines, Abraham openly declared Sarah was his sister. After King Abimelech discovered the truth, he was equally taken aback.  Why did he lie about it? It hardly seems like a noble thing to do. I would call it cowardly.

After Abraham was told by God that he would bear a son and his descendants would become like the stars in the sky, a number of years went by. Sarah then offered her servant to Abraham, and the servant, Hagar, gave birth to a son, Ishmael. Such an act violating the marital covenant does not sit well with a twenty first century reader. It was also not God’s plan. God’s plan was to give Abraham a son through his wife, Sarah.

Isaac, of course, was the son God promised. He, too, seemed less than sterling as a man of God. He followed his father’s footsteps in deceiving the same King Abimelech that Rebekah was his sister, when she was his wife. Like father like son.

Isaac had twin sons, and he favored the oldest, Esau. God blessed the younger son, Jacob. How could Isaac have gotten it wrong?

As for Jacob, he deceived his father for the blessing that his father thought he was giving to Esau, and he did it with his mother’s help. In his old age, Jacob had become blind. Rebekah put Jacob up to pretending to be Esau to receive his father’s blessing. Deception seems to run in the family.

All of this has been unusually unsettling for me for some reason. I have stewed on it for days. Today it struck me that anyone looking at my life would be equally unsettled (or more I dare say). I am no example to follow. I have made many mistakes in my life, too numerous to count. I have done many things of which I am not proud, and my thoughts are another matter altogether. Why should I expect anything other than humanity from these men of old? The amazing thing is that God chose them!

Clearly, it was not their spotless virtue that is the testament of their lives. It was their faith. They heard God. They responded to God. They honored God with sacrifices and pillars and altars where they went. They believed God when He spoke. They lived their lives in deference to God. They relied on God. Their faith was counted to them as righteousness.

My take away is that these men were in right relation to God. I take comfort in that, even if I am bit unsettled by their weakness and humanity, as well as my own.  I am in good company, but more importantly, I am reminded of the importance of living a life with an attitude toward God.