Abraham’s Faith

Today’s first reading is one of my favorites. I know someone is thinking…”FAVORITES? God asks Abraham to kill his only son–why in the world would that be your favorite reading?”

Well it is. And here’s why.

First of all it’s a dramatic story where God seemingly asks Abraham to do something unthinkable. And the question we have to ask is the one we should ask: Why?

In some ways I wonder why Abraham wouldn’t ask the same question. And I’m sure he did. I can see him standing there wondering why God would ask such a question of him. But I can also see him humbly standing before God, assured that it was God’s voice that asked this of him–because Abraham knew God well–and after all, Isaac was given to Abraham and Sarah in their old age by God. “Who am I to not give him back to God if he wants him?” is something I can imagine him saying in a deep Brooklyn Jewish accent (as I hear almost all biblical characters speak)–a resignation that simply in the retelling of the story says: “So I went. What could I do? I could do nothing else but what God commands.”

But even deeper thinking reminds us not of the horror of the command, but of God’s promise.

God further said to Abraham: As for Sarai your wife, do not call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah.
I will bless her, and I will give you a son by her. Her also will I bless; she will give rise to nations, and rulers of peoples will issue from her.j
Abraham fell face down and laughed* as he said to himself, “Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah give birth at ninety?”
So Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael could live in your favor!”
God replied: Even so, your wife Sarah is to bear you a son, and you shall call him Isaac. It is with him that I will maintain my covenant as an everlasting covenant and with his descendants after him

Isaac is Abraham and Sarah’s only descendant. So God MUST have a plan. Abraham knows to trust God that he must be going to make this OK.

I can see Abraham’s eyes well up with water when Isaac asks him where the lamb is for the sacrifice. “Son, God himself will provide the lamb.”

I hear that voice of the angel shouting “Abraham, ABRAHAM!” stopping the forward thrust of the knife just in time. And the shock in the angel’s voice “Do not do the least thing to him.”

Child sacrifice was common at the time of Abraham. And God’s test is one of Abraham’s faithfulness. I often think that God wanted to see if even a righteous man like Abraham would think that this could possibly come from God and the truth is that the child sacrifice was so common that even Abraham thought that God could require it. Legend tells us that sacrificing children was ceased after this.

How do we listen to the voice of God in our lives and can we trust enough that we might go somewhere where we might not wish to go? Can we discern between God’s voice and the evil one and know what voice to listen to?

Can we believe that the promise God makes to Abraham is also one he makes to us? That all good things come from God and that our job is to trust God enough to know that God is all we truly need.

And that when God truly calls us, we just might look beyond everything and remember all that God has promised to us.

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