Our Test of Faith

I really hate biblical texts that start off with telling me that God put so and so “to the test.” Such is the case with today’s first reading, Gen 22: 1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18.

“God put Abraham to the test.”

Untold numbers of fundamentalists have taken this text and used it to explain why the earth is not really as old as it “appears” to be, and evidence of “early hominids?”, just another test by God to see if we are faithful to the Book.

So, you see, I dislike these kinds of stories, although I know it is not the story but the erroneous interpretation that is the culprit. When we accept stories word for word as written as utterly literally true, we miss the point. We miss in fact what the author intended, which is the lesson to be learned from the story. For that was the point of stories in ancient times, they were convenient vehicles to convey truth, convenient in that they were easier to remember than the tenets. Frankly, no story is easier to remember than the one filled with danger, mystery, and shocking turns.

The story of Abraham and the offering of Isaac delivers dramatically.

At first blush it is easy to dismiss the story as grandiose and hyperbole simply because God being omniscient, or so we all believe and contend, has not need to test anyone. God knows us, as we also say, down to having counted every hair on our head.

But it is just as simplistic to dismiss the story as one of “proof of perfect faith.” Abraham is seen thusly as the man willing to murder his most beloved and only son of his wife Sarai. Was this such a demonstration of faith? Maybe.

A wonderful reflection by Father Kavanaugh, based upon a lecture he heard given by Professor Eleonore Stump, suggests something rather different. Professor Stump suggests that Abraham did not offer to execute his son under some vague “God works in mysterious ways” kind of conclusion. But rather that God had made very specific promises to Abraham, among them being that nations would “issue” from Sarai.

Remembering that all the promises of children in old age had come true, Abraham believes that this God of his can indeed be trusted. God had promised that Ishmael would produce nations as well, and Abraham had sent him off into the wilderness with his mother Hagar. He trusted then. He trusts now.

As Kavanaugh says, God asks of Abraham no more than He asks of himself. He offers his son, who goes upon the cross. And yet that son’s death, was not forever, it was burst forth in glorious resurrection. Abraham of course could not have known this, but he trusts.

And the point of the story is not the grand trust of Abraham, but that we may be comforted in our own trials. God is faithful. God has given the great sacrifice, his only Son for our lives. We can trust in this God, we can weather the storms of life knowing that the promise is and was and will be forever.



4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Thomas
    Mar 04, 2012 @ 10:39:17

    I kind of think that whole episode was just so that 4,000 years later Johnny Winter could cover a Bob Dylan song about it. God always was one to think ahead. http://youtu.be/yclRjptWlW8


  2. Tim
    Mar 04, 2012 @ 22:11:02

    It’s a horrible story, Sherry, one that asks much of us, as it expects us not to jump to conclusions. Abraham’s faith is so thoroughly documented throughout Genesis there must be more to it. I think, much like the Noah narrative, it wants us to wonder, “Who is this God?” (Job makes this question his theme.)

    And I so love how you gently bring us back to the cross, where God is revealed as doubly compassionate–the Parent Who can no longer bear to look and the Child Who loves to the death. This question about God’s nature, that would torment the Old Testament foreshadows, continues to haunt us today. Which brings us back to faith and our unshakeable confidence, despite the evidence, that God is Love.

    Another magnificent job of pointing us the right way. Thank you.



    • Sherry
      Mar 05, 2012 @ 09:03:07

      I was never very satisfied with Bonhoffer’s explanation. And I’m not convinced that it is about “real faith” either. One recalls a Texas woman who murdered his children to “save them”. I think this is obvious end to which such thinking can lead. I thought the idea that Abraham was sure God would not abandon the promise to be more on the mark. Blessings,


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