A mom recently posted on a social media site, with a heavy dose of sarcasm, that she had the joy of teaching elementary students the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac. All of us “religious” moms and Sunday School teachers giggled under our breath and shook our heads knowingly.
Several comments followed:
“Yep, I try to avoid that one if I can!”
“That’s a tough one, how did that go?”
Most were offering kind observations and virtual pats on the back for tackling what can be a hard passage.
Then one comment took everything to a new level. This one was from someone who clearly is not “religious” or a believer. They were outraged and completely appalled that we (as Christians) would teach such hate and harshness to children. While many attempted to refute the comments, there is some truth in the logic.
Why would a father, especially one who waited and prayed years for a child, willingly take his son to sacrifice him to God? What kind of “loving” God would demand the sacrifice of a child? And why would we, in this day and age, continue to not only tell of this story, but also share a belief in this sort of revengeful, angry God?
I mean, what must Isaac have felt as he walked up the hill, noticing they have no offering? He’s packing the wood. There is no animal. And how must have Abraham’s heart felt as he tied his son to a rock? Heartbroken? Tortured? Spiteful? Angry? Blameful?
We should be appalled at this story. We should be horrified. And yes, we should teach our children of this.
Not about a vengeful, self-serving God. But a God who is pointing out that we can not keep His demands, His law. Abraham couldn’t do it, even though He tried. Just as Adam and Eve couldn’t do it. Moses couldn’t do it. David couldn’t do it. And neither can we. Not even our young precious children. As hard as we may try and as fervently as we may pray—we can’t satisfy God’s demands of us.
And He knew that.
He knew it when He asked Abraham. He knew it when Isaac walked up the hill. He knew it as Abraham tied his son to the rock.
God is God AND He had a better plan. He provided a literal scape goat that day. What a savior. And He pointed to a once and for all promise, to send a final Savior. One that when we can in no way meet the demands of the law, and we confess that to Him, He is right there in His complete, satisfying love and mercy to meet us with the amazing gift of the one who could satisfy the demands. Jesus kept the law. Perfectly. And He covers us in His righteousness (right –ness with God). He covers us in it perfectly. And when we know we can in no way keep the law, how much more do we know we are in need of grace? Unending, perfect grace.
Don’t shy away from the hard stuff. Rather, seek to understand what it is God wants us to know. Ask others in your faith community. Read. Learn. Ask Jesus to enlighten you. Show you. And yes, teach this to our children. Tell them the ways of old. Don’t hide the stories from our young. Help them to know the law, the law-giver and the beauty of our grace extender.