Weird Wednesdays: The Test


So, it’s Thursday, sue me.

Those of you who are parents will be able to understand this better than those who aren’t, but let’s imagine a day.

It’s a beautiful, sunny day and you’re sitting on your porch, sipping a beer or a glass of lemonade, just enjoying the cool breeze, the warm sunlight on your skin, and watching your children play in the front yard having fun. They’re running, jumping, maybe playing a game like tag or baseball or soccer. Maybe they’re brave knights storming a castle or space explorers fighting an evil empire. But you watch them and you smile. Each day is an endless possibility for adventure and fun with them. It reminds you of a time long ago when you felt the same way. They keep you young.

Perhaps it was difficult for you and your spouse to have those children. Maybe it took money, more doctor’s appointments than you could remember, heartbreak, and every technique that science had at its disposal. Perhaps it was rather easy. Maybe a missed birth control pill or a forgotten condom, and before you knew it, you and your spouse or partner were seeing two plus signs on a pregnancy test.

You love them, in the most selfless way that a human can love another human being and you would do anything to protect them or prevent harm from them, and it grieves you sometimes to think that you can’t protect them from every hurt. Every day though, you look upon your kids and you are grateful for their presence in your life. You thank God for them every day.

Yes, you believe in God. As a family, you go every week to worship Him. You do your best to live up to His commandments as you understand them. You know that God loves you and that He has a future for you and your children.  He’s blessed you with good things, maybe not everything you want, but everything you need.

And so it is on this fine, perfect, summer day, that you hear the voice of the Lord.

“Hey, do you see your child there? You love your child, don’t you?”

“Yes, Lord,” you think.

“You love me too, right?” the voice asks.

“Of course, I love you,” you think.

“Great. Here’s what I’d like you to do. I’d like you to worship Me.”

“Okay, ‘I love you, Lord…’” you start to sing in your head.

“No, no, no, no… I want you to worship me by taking your child three days into the woods, there, the two of you will build an altar to me.”

“O-kay…”

“Right then, so when the altar is done, I’d like you to take your child, put them on the altar, plunge a knife into their heart, slit their throat, and incinerate them as a burnt offering to me.”

That’s the story in Genesis 22:

Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”

Think about that. Really think about it.

You have God telling you to kill your child. How many of us would do that? I’m guessing the number is zero.

I mean the first obvious question is why should we believe that we were really hearing the voice of God and not some darker thoughts from our own minds?

Why should we assume that God who, to this point, hasn’t asked for human sacrifice suddenly decided to go ahead and ask for one now?

Why would we think God would want us to kill an innocent child that we loved and that would emotionally and mentally destroy us?

Wouldn’t our first response be, “That can’t be God.”

Wouldn’t our second response be to argue with God?

Lastly, wouldn’t our response be to say that if God wanted us to kill a child, then He cannot be a good God?

Was that the point of this test? To see if Abraham would use what he had learned about God, who not a chapter or two before, said He would not destroy the righteous with the wicked (even if Lot’s righteousness is questionable), would object and tell God, “No.”

Or was Abraham so sure that God would eventually tell him to stop, that he decided to test God back? To push forward and play chicken with God until God blinked and stopped him from committing a horrific act that would have destroyed their relationship forever. And as Isaac asked where the sacrifice was, the old man looked up at God and said, “He’ll give us one.” Or was the author of Hebrews correct and Abraham was thinking that he’d go through with it if God didn’t blink and God would have to raise Isaac from the dead.

Or did he fail the test? Some point out that after this, God no longer speaks with Abraham again, though that’s an argument from silence.

It’s a weird story, one that we’re not privy to the internal thoughts of the patriarch, but it’s far more complex than the story we hear in Sunday School or the Christianization of the tale into a Christ metaphor.

Personally speaking, if I heard the voice of God telling me to kill anyone, I’d go check myself into a psych ward and take whatever pills they gave me until I didn’t hear that voice anymore.

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