Many believe the God of the Old Testament is cruel and demanding. Christians have struggled to see the God in the Old Testament and Jesus of the New Testament as one and the same; yet Jesus said he and the heavenly Father were one. Why then, does there seem to be bad God in the Old Testament and good God in the New Testament?
I’m not going to give you an answer to the question of God’s character. I would be the first to admit God’s ways are one trillion times higher than my ability to comprehend Him. What I can give you is context, and perhaps context will give us better understand.
When we read a biblical text without context it can lead to pretext,
and pretext will often leads us to the wrong conclusion.
Let’s look at a disturbing request God made of Abraham in Genesis 22:1-2:
God called out to Abraham, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
Now that is disturbing! God is asking Abraham to sacrifice his son. And equally disturbing is Abraham is going to participate.
When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.
Here is the CONTEXT:
In Genesis 12 God came to Abraham and made a covenant with Him. In that covenant God made three promises to Abraham, and a promise for humanity.
1. I will make your name great.
2. You will become the father of a great nation.
3. Through your offspring (Jesus) I will bless all the nations of the earth.
Through this covenant God is going to introduce himself to the world as the God who redeems!
Q: What does God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son have to do with a covenant and God being the God who redeems?
In ancient times child sacrifices were a common social practice in getting the favor and blessing of their god. In Abraham’s day people would sacrifice a child to their god expecting to receive the blessing from their gods. The people in Abraham’s day would not have found God’s request shocking. What they would have found shocking is what God does next.
But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said.
Wait minute! God ask Abraham to sacrifice his son, and then when he is about to obey God stops him.
This is not about God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son. It’s just the opposite. This is about God communicating to Abraham on Abraham’s terms. God approaches Abraham from Abraham’s experience and understanding to show him he is not a God who sanctions or will accept child/human sacrifices.
This is about God prohibiting child sacrifice,
not requesting it!
God wasn’t interested in Abraham sacrificing his son because God does not delight in sacrifices and Burt offerings. God was however interested in Abraham knowing that he was a God who redeems. He wanted Abraham to know he was nothing like what Abraham believed. This exchange between God and Abraham was a test to see if God could trust Abraham and a test to prove Abraham could trust God.
Whenever God approaches us from an unexpected place
it might be to lead us to an unfamiliar future.
I do not know the mind of God but I do trust the character of God!