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Fresco with image of Abraham to sacrifice his ...

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Genesis 22:1-14 is one of the texts up for tomorrow. Although I’d rather spend time on Matthew 10:40-42, the call of YHWH on Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice is the one that will have everyone asking questions.

“What sort of a God would ask this of a parent?” we ask. The fact that we do not ask the same question as we send our sons off to war or sacrifice our children’s environmental health on altars of economic expediency does not lessen the impact of this ancient story upon us.

It’s often told as a story that illustrates the superiority of blind faith. There’s more at stake here. In the big story, Abraham and Sarah represent those who are the recipients of a fragile promise of continuing life. For Abraham, it is through the long awaited gift of a son and thus future progeny. Now he is asked to surrender the evidence of even this slender hope. He is fully present both to the provider of hope and to the apple of his eye, Isaac. When YHWH speaks, and when Isaac questions, Abraham’s words are the same “Here I am.” The narrative understates Abraham’s emotional state of mind – in fact doesn’t discuss it at all. It’s left for the reader to imagine the anguish of proceeding in trust “that God will provide” even though circumstances seem to cry out and contradict such a stance.

Abraham’s testing – the cruel craftiness of a capricious Creator?
Or a setting that provides encouragement for those who ponder providence?