Abraham and His Non-Sacrifice of Isaac

Did you ever notice that several of the most noteworthy Old Testament texts seem to have two different Gods.The one at the beginning of each story who at the start makes a use of violence to eradicate violence, and at the end, the god who makes a covenant never to make such an attempt again.† This is also illustrated in the two Elijah Sermons I preached.† At the beginning Elijah is the Fire and Hammer of God and at the end he is the humble hearer of the still small voice.

In the myth of the great flood in Genesis 6:11 we are told of a grieved and desperate creator who sees ďthe earth filled with violence.Ē† God at first responds to our violence with divine violence and then makes a promise to never do that again.

This change of mind is projected onto God.† But is not the real change in the people.† Isnít it people that need to change to see that the true God only appears at the end to fore-swear the original violence and to show us that the god at the beginning of the story is just a god of our own making?† We need to be aware of the gods we make up in order to recognize the True God.

Another Pastor or theologian might recognize that this is close to Marcionism, to discounting the God of the Old Testament because he seems so different than the God of Jesus.† I hope I have not gone too far with this!† But the central movement of the Old Testament is the move away from idolatry, the move away from polytheism to the one true living God

I am fairly certain this did not happen in a straight line.† There are many stories of Godís people lapsing back into idolatry.† Every Sunday School Student remembers that Moses found all Israel worshipping the golden calf as he descended from Mt. Sinai with the tablets of the law in his arms.

I finally want to speak with you this day about Abraham and the non-sacrifice of Isaac.† But I want to first point to the link many Christians throughout the ages have made between Abrahamís non-sacrifice of Isaac and viewing Christís death on the cross as a substitutionary atonement.† The substitutionary atonement worships the false god at the beginning of these Old Testament stories instead of learning to know the Father of Jesus the Christ, revealed at the end of them.† It is time to burry the substitutionary atonement and it blaming The Father for Jesusí death.† That is once again a god of our own making.

Many modern people try to put themselves into Abrahamís head.† How could someone actually consider sacrificing his son on an altar.† But this is a big mistake.† Because our culture and Abrahamís are so different that this is not possible.† He is from the Stone Age, where child sacrifice was common.† Killing your child was no problem in Abrahamís world.

In the beginning when God called Abraham he did not know who was calling him.† Israelísí abandonment of human sacrifice took place over a long period of time, during which there was backsliding.† Remember Elijah and King Ahab, at least a millennium after the time of Abraham where this was still happening.

No bible story shows how this worked better than the story of Abraham and Isaac.† We are told that God bestowed the blessing and promise on Abraham after he passed the test on Mt. Moriah, because he had been willing to sacrifice his son.

This understanding might have been possible in the dark history of the world and perhaps even before Jesus the Christ, but not now.† The Faith of Abraham consisted not of almost doing what he did not do, sacrifice Isaac.† But his faith was shown in NOT doing what he almost did.† He did not sacrifice Isaac to his god as all his contemporaries would have.

I have some skills in reading Greek but all I know about Hebrew is that it looks really funny and reads backwards.† So I recount here an argument based of Von Radís Hebrew translation of the Abraham and Isaac non-sacrifice story.

It is important for all of us to see that the god at the beginning of this story is different from the one at the end.† The god who demands the sacrifice from Abraham is Elohim. (vs. 1,3,8,9)† In verses 11 and 14 however the name for God is Yahweh.† (Genesis 22:11-14)

ď 11 Then an angel of Yahweh called him from heaven:† Abraham! Abraham!† And he answered Here I am.† 12 and he said, Do not raise your and against the boy, or do anything to him.† For I know that you fear Elohim, since you have not withheld your son, your favored one, from me.† 13 When Abraham looked up, his eye fell upon a ram, caught in the thicket by its horns.† So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering in place of his son.† 14 And Abraham named that place Adonai-Yahweh, hence the present saying On the Mount of Yahweh there is vision."

This story is trying to sort out the gods.† Abraham begins by hearing the common ancient, man-made gods of polytheism that demand human sacrifice.† At the end on the Mount of Yaweh, he begins to hear and see the one true God who wants us to stop that nonsense.

The Father did not demand Jesusí blood any more than he wanted Isaacís.† It was necessary for Jesus the Christ to die to reveal to us the futility of our ways of dealing with God.† He was raised to show us that Godís way is one of forgiveness and love beyond even death.

Everyoneís favorite Bible verse is John 3:16, ďGod so loved the world that he gave us his only begotten son.Ē† This beloved verse is St. Johnís demythologization of the Abraham non-sacrifice story in Genesis 22.† In that Story Abraham is willing to give his son by sacrificing him.† God organizes a substitute sacrifice, but we still have a capricious God.† In the New Testament, Jesus shows us the proper view of God.† He is the revealer of his Father.† The father and he are one.† Jesus shows us that it is not people who have offered a sacrifice to God by, for example killing a blasphemous transgressor on the cross, but God who offers a sacrifice to people.†† The whole self giving of Jesus becomes possible because Jesus is obedient to God, giving himself to the people demanding his blood, to finally unmask and reveal the system of darkness by which the world and its prince work.

All this is beautifully reiterated in the letter of John.

This then is the message which we heard of Jesus, and declare to you,† that God is light and in him is no darkness at all.† 1 John 1:5

Jesus came to announce a God without darkness, ambivalence or ambiguity.† Abraham made a start in perceiving God as he is.† Jesus finishes the process.

For God is love.† In this was manifested the love of God toward us that God sent his only begotten Son into the world that we might live through him.† Here is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his son to be the forgiveness of our sins.† (1John 4:8-10)

Behind the death of Jesus there is not a violent God, but a loving God who leads us out of our violent and sinful life.† Not a sacrifice to God but Godís sacrifice to us.† This is what the risen Christ made clear:† We are the ones who crucify, God is the one who raises.