Before I begin – a little release:

I miss writing so very much. There is a lot of things in my life that I really enjoy doing, but I don’t do them, and I miss them terribly. I’ve been trying to figure out why that might be. Some of it is just the phase of life I find myself in with two small kids that take a lot of energy and attention. A demanding job also takes a lot of attention. I have a lot of causes or passions that I divvy my time between when I do find time, and I have hobbies that fuel me. But lately I’ve found that while my time often goes to good things, I never give enough to any one thing. I am going to have to prioritize my interests and my relationships if I want to continue to move forward and grow.

So here I am – prioritizing my writing. There are a thousand things I need to be doing but there is only one thing I should be doing – and I’m doing it.

Now back to this surprising God…

A few months back I was listening to a podcast by a person I really admire and respect and he told the story of Abraham and Isaac in a way that I had never heard – and it changed who I thought of when I thought of God. I wanted to share it here with you.

For those of you unfamiliar, the story of Abraham in Genesis 22  is one of those clobber sections of the bible that people will use to prove the cruelty of God. The story goes that God tested Abraham by telling him to take his son, whom he loved, and sacrifice him on the mountain. Thankfully just before the sacrifice takes place God stops him and provides a ram instead.

I’ve never liked this story – it always seemed out of character. It seemed unnecessarily cruel. It was one of those parts of the bible that I had to set aside in order to preserve my faith. After all, what kind of God would do that?

The surprising twist comes when you start asking – why is this story included in the bible? What did this story mean when it was first told. In an ancient time and culture – how did they hear this story?

The first hint that my reaction is not their reaction comes with how Abraham responds when he believes he has been asked to kill a son that he had longed for and waited for. Does he beg for an alternative? Does he refuse? No, he gets up the next day, wakes his precious son, packs up, and heads out. WHAT? Who would do that? Why would he do that?  

Well, because it was not unusual back then, to be asked to sacrifice to your God. There were many different cultures in that time that practiced child sacrifice – and while certainly not welcomed – it was not unheard of. Abraham was hearing the voice of God and that voice asked him to do a hard thing – but not an unheard of thing (like it would be now).    

The story continues and Abraham and Isaac arrive at the location of the sacrifice and Abraham binds his son and puts him on the altar. Again, this illustrates how vastly different things were then – Isaac is a young man and Abraham is very old. Isaac must have consented to some extent – because, even he knew, this is what happens sometimes when one hears from the gods…

The story concludes dramatically at the last moment, God intervenes and stops him and provides a ram for the sacrifice. He says the test has been passed and Abraham has proved himself faithful.

And that is exactly how I had always read the story – focused on the beginning and glossing over the end that I felt was a given. My mind would fixate on the fact that God asked Abraham to do this horrific thing and get stuck there. I couldn’t get past it. Yes, in the end, he didn’t make him – but why ask it in the first place? What kind of God am I following?  

Come to find out – I missed the whole point of the story. The fact that God asked him to sacrifice his son? Not unheard of. The fact that Abraham said ok and just packed up and headed out? Expected. The fact that Isaac willingly went and submitted? Not unusual. Had I been telling you this story in ancient times it would be a yawn fest so far – yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s what all the god’s do. So what? Why are you telling me about this?

So I’m stuck on the part of the story that isn’t really all that interesting back then….I gloss over the end because in my time and in my culture? Of course God sent a ram – surely God would send a ram! I mean after all – I get to read this story after Abraham fathered the Jewish nation, after King David, after Jesus. I get to hear this story after the end game of Christ’s return had happened…I already know about Grace and Mercy and Love your neighbor. The ram is expected.  

But back then – everyone is snoozing wondering why the old man is going on and on about yet another god asking for sacrifices, but suddenly his voice changes and his excitement finally gets their attention, “And then, just as I reached out to take the knife and slay Isaac I heard my name called out two times and I said, ‘Here I am.’ and you will not believe this – He stopped me! He told me to not lay a hand on my precious boy! My God – you guys – my God provided his own sacrifice!” WHAT?!?! Now everyone is awake – what kind of god is this that provides for his people? Abraham had been talking about this God being different, and this? Well, this proved it. Everyone else’s god’s just took and demanded and had to be appeased. All the other gods were insatiable and their favor felt more like chance than divine intervention. All the other gods were takers…but Abraham is talking about a God who provides.

You guys, My God is the God who provides.  

This story that I read with my western modern mind is nothing like what I thought it was. This story that I had heard since I was very young – and hated – it is a beautiful story. This story that seemed steeped in cruelty, it actually a story of care and love. It’s a story of provision.

And He reconciled another piece of His story into the fabric of my life.    

It isn’t just this one story either – although this one makes so much more sense now. But this re-hearing – this new understanding – it’s a reminder that He is consistent and true and lovely. It’s a beautiful reminder that the things that jar me and don’t ring true – are the things I misunderstand. It’s a call to hang in and dig deeper. To continue to seek and search. Because, well….because my God?  My God is the God who provides.  
  

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