Lessons from the life of Abram & his son Isaac(Genesis 11-22)
The narrative of Abram* (later known as Abraham) is one of the most interesting in the Holy Bible.It is very important to note that Abram was the father of three very important and major religions of the world namely Judaism, Christianity and Islam.It talks about a man grew up in a very idolatrous city called Ur, whose culture was completely foreign to the faith he would later come to embrace.
Though very little is known about the culture and religion of the Chaldeans who inhabited the city of Ur, it was known to be an idolatrous city and was the principal center of worship of the Sumerian moon god Nanna and its Babylonian equivalent Sin. Its inhabitants in order to appease their gods, offered their first born son as an offering.Given the circumstances and culture, it is fascinating to know that Abram who belonged to such a culture could heed the voice of God, a God who could not be seen and had no idol resembling him.
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation…” Gen 12:1,2
This was how Abram started his journey with God, no prior encounters either. It starts with God commanding him to leave his country.
If I were him, I’m not sure if I would have obeyed God’s voice. Here is a God who is a total stranger to him culturally, one whom his ancestors didn’t know much about, a God who may have made it difficult for him by asking him to leave his homeland ( given his culture and time, not an easy task by any calculation) .Yet Abram chose to daringly obey the voice of God.
God’s Covenant with Abraham
Years later God makes a covenant with Abram and changes his name to Abraham**. If we read through the entire narrative beginning with chapter 12 till 22, we find Abraham trusting God implicitly and daringly; though he did ask God how the promise of making him a great nation would come about; as both he and his wife Sarah were old and were well past their child bearing age.
However, due to his cultural influence he often resorted to lies to save his life ( Gen 12:12-20) where in one instance he pretended that his wife was his sister, his older self was yet to get in line with God’s ways.
Let me now fast-forward to chapter 22(please do read the remaining chapters if you are not familiar with the narrative) where God asks Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, his promised offspring. For a modern thinker, this might sound outrageous since, it is not only barbaric and cannibalistic but totally in contrast to the nature of God we know; but to Abraham this was nothing new, since sacrificing the firstborn was very common in his Chaldeaic culture.Some of us may interpret it as God testing Abraham,was He really ? let’s examine..
..Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”;as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided….Gen 22:10-14
Test of Faith?
From the above passage, we can see that God did not allow Abraham to lay his hands on his son Isaac, in other words if God were to test one by inflicting pain( as some may think) , he would have allowed Abraham to kill or at least harm Isaac and later healed or resurrected him( as Abraham believed).
To make it more contextual; if God were to teach us a lesson by giving us diseases and pain , he would not have stopped Abraham but allowed him to kill Isaac and then would have taught him a lesson. However what happened was different; Not only did God stop Abraham but provided a ram for the sacrifice.
In other words, it can said that God was changing Abraham’s understanding of who God is- A God distinct from the gods he knew; a God who doesn’t demand human sacrifice; A God who doesn’t inflict pain to teach him a lesson. God was in fact showing him that He’s a loving and a caring God who is unlike any other.
Because above everything we know of God, our God is our Father and we are His children;
Dear Lord Jesus,help me to understand your fatherly heart for us.Amen!
Abram* = Exalted father
Abraham** = Father of a multitude(or nations)
(Note:Some may not agree with my take on this subject; If needed I am willing to have a healthy discussion on the same. Thank you )