Thoughts on Abraham
Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac is one of the greatest examples of faith in the Bible, as it was through this child whom God had promised that the nation of Israel was born. This article is particularly timely in light of the events of September 11, 2001, as it was Abraham’s "unfaith" in God’s promise that led to the birth of Ishmael, his son by the maidservant Hagar, which in turn gave us the Arabs. Thus began thousands of years of bloodshed that continues on to this day.
A friend of mine sent me an excerpt about the sacrifice of Isaac from a book by Elie Wiesel, the Jewish concentration camp survivor and author. I had been reading Fear and Trembling, Kierkegaard’s account of the same story. The difference between the two is marked.
Elie Wiesel calls Isaac "the most tragic of our ancestors," which puzzles me, as I would call him one of the most triumphant evidences of the power of faith in God prior to Christ Himself. Isaac and Jesus have similar roles. God, in fact, asked Abraham to do nothing He Himself had not done.
God promised that the nation of Israel was to come into existence through Abraham’s seed, Isaac, and yet God said to sacrifice him. Mankind was to be saved from eternal separation from God through Jesus Christ, yet He was crucified. Abraham so believed God’s promise that he acted, as Kierkegaard says "on the strength of the absurd," and believed that even if he killed Isaac, God could raise him from the dead. Jesus, who was scorned, mocked, hated and totally disbelieved by almost everyone to be the Son of God, actually died and was buried, and did rise again.
Absurd is a good word for both: it is absurd and ridiculous to the natural mind to imagine a father willing to kill the only son he has waited for many years to be born, a son through whom will come a nation, and from that nation the salvation of the world, and yet willing because God–the one in whom he has put his faith–told him to, so He must have a plan to raise him.
It is equally absurd that a man who grew up like you and me and had brothers and sisters, learned a trade, ate, drank, slept, got hot and itchy or cold and hungry, said He was God in the flesh, was killed for it, and came back to life and was then seen by over five hundred people. Two very bizarre stories, unintelligible to reason, but sensible to the eye of faith.
The reason Wiesel misses the point is that he is not equipped with the only faculty that can bring understanding–the Holy Spirit, who lives in a person once he accepts Jesus Christ as his savior. Jesus knew His disciples did not comprehend most of what He said, and He told them, "The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you." This proved to be the case, as attested by the fact that after the disciples received the Holy Spirit, they are almost unrecognizable from the scared, doubting group who ran for cover at the crucifixion.
So the still, small voice is the Holy Spirit: He makes the path clear, whether or not it feels hard or soft, pleasant or painful, or is "normal" according to many people’s standards. Jesus said, "For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake shall find it." So, we are in the "losing" business. So was Abraham, and look what he gained.
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 26 No 3
- Zerubbabel’s Commission
- Editor’s Note
- A Christmas Letter
- A Look at a Book
- God’s Standards Have Not Changed: British Fall Conference 1997
- Editorial…Our First Issue
- Free At Last!
- The Faith Process
- Why We Are Attacked
- The Missing Truth
- Nothing Short of a Miracle
- Our Financial Support
- Letters from Norman
- Thoughts on Abraham
- Not by might nor by power…
- Words to Live By