Abraham, Isaac & Child Sacrifice
by Jean E. Jones
This week the women’s Bible study at my church is reading about God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. This distresses many Christians. They question how it could possibly be fair or right for God to ask this. So I thought I’d write about it.
The story begins: “Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about’” (Genesis 22:2).
Now the Law had not yet been given, so God was not asking Abraham to disobey a commandment. Still, this request must have torn Abraham’s heart. What purpose could it serve?
Let’s start with some background.
Abraham was a prophet. At times, God called prophets to perform actions that foreshadowed and explained future events. When God asked Abraham to offer his beloved son Isaac as a sacrifice, He was calling Abraham to be a portent: a foreshadowing of a momentous future event, God the Father’s offering of His beloved Son, Jesus, to save the world.
God carefully and lovingly prepared Abraham for this task. By the time of this event, Abraham had seen God’s miraculous intervention in the blazing torch and fire pot when He made His covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15:17), the rescue of nephew Lot with only 318 men from the armies of four kings (Genesis 14), and the saving of Lot from the destruction of Sodom (Genesis 19).
Most importantly, God had shown Himself faithful to His promise even when all looked impossible through the miraculous birth of Isaac to his wife Sarah, who was barren, past menopause, and 91 years old.
Abraham had talked with angels and God himself. God gave Abraham more evidence of His nature than He gives most people to prepare him for the position for which God chose him: the father of the nation that was to represent God on earth. But to whom much is given, much is required, and God required Abraham to demonstrate unwavering faith.
God had promised Abraham Isaac would be his heir: “Then God said, ‘Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him’” (Genesis 17:19).
God tested Abraham’s faith in this promise by asking him to do something that appeared to make the promise’s fulfillment impossible…
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