Today’s Reading: Genesis 22-3.
(Context: Abraham is 1st born, Isaac, is to be killed by his father, by God’s command. The situation is clearly a typology, never meant to actually kill Isaac, but obviously predicting the day when God would “kill” His own Son, Jesus Christ on the cross, in our place. The next chapter is about Sarah’s death, Isaac’s mother, in which Abraham must bargain to receive land to bury his beloved wife in.)
Abraham has a growing boy, his beloved firstborn Isaac. He was past the dangers of childhood (note how many children die compared to youth in harsh climates and cultures), and was likely healthy, smart, and quite useful to his father. It is precisely here when God calls him to do a remarkable and incredibly questionable thing: kill his son. He was to grab the knife and slaughter his son on an altar, as if he was a human sacrifice to a pagan god.
Abraham’s faith never ceases to amaze me here. Would you do what he did? The question has to do with a number of variables: 1. Does God exist? 2. Is God good? 3. Is the future life better than this life? and, 4. Is anything impossible for God?
Many questions, but one basic principle: do we believe God? God is not lacking in realness, none less than a wall is lacking in matter, and God is not lacking in power or knowledge. We are lacking in trust. It reminds me of the time when Jesus was pleaded with by a desperate father, that He might heal his son of demon-possession. He begs, yet still in him is a seed of doubt, only naturally – Can this man really do what no doctor or witch-doctor has been able to do?
Then Jesus said to him, ” ‘If you are able?’ All things are possible for the one who believes.” Immediately the father of the boy cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:23-24)
I think we can all understand the father, and his words resonate very powerfully with us. When God calls us to do something, certain questions arise, such as Has God really called me?, Can He really help me do this?, and Will I be able to make it through? I wonder if Abraham had doubts the night that God told him to take his son and kill him. I wonder if he felt desperate and helpless. Maybe he felt like running from God with his son. To his credit, all that God sees is his faith, looking over and not even recording his doubt – with he surely had! And yet, curiously, Jesus did not overlook the 2nd father’s doubt, finding it beneficial for us.
I can identify much more with the second father, and yet I also know that Abraham was also just a man, not some super-faith-human (invented word combination of the day!). What both men had in common was enough faith and trust in God’s ability to do what He said. The doubt was with them, and they were not condemned for that. They pushed through the doubt and decided He knew better than they did, and that He was able.
There are lessons from both men, from trust and from doubt. When we hear God telling us to do something, let us say: He is able. And then, in our fear and doubt, let us ask God: Help my unbelief!