I’ve been reading Genesis slowly, because I have a love/hate relationship with chapter 22, and I am not really wanting to read it right now.
Chapter 22 pisses me off.
(Yes, I did use a naughty word. But, a. it’s in the bible, so there, and b. it’s true. I’d rather say what I really mean then go all Love-Comes-Softly-Christian-fiction-y on you and just type “it bothers me a lot.” If you’re looking for watered-down syrupy-sweet blogs, you should probably move on to the next one.)
Now all of you “God-is-good-all-the-time” types will forgive me, but I think God is decidedly bad here. If we put this story in a modern day setting, we’d rate it NC-17, and never ever read it to our children. (I can’t believe we read it to them now.) Child advocasy groups would riot. This type of crazed violence is beyond the pale. Sort of like when extremist Muslins strap bombs to their children and send them into open air markets to blow-up stuff for Allah. Come on, Abe, give your all to the Lord.
The ramifications of what God demands of Abraham (and Isaac, dear God, how could You do that to Isaac? And then there’s Sarah-whose grief is just ignored here as acceptable collateral damage) show us a lot about the character of God that we do not really want to admit, especially if we are prone to a literal interpretation of this chapter. Genesis 22 uncovers the Almighty God, the all-caps LORD, and we are too scared of Him to look Him in the eye.
God created man in His own image, and therefore humanity is a dim reflection of Him. He is selfish, demanding, kind, creative, prone to bursts of anger, moved by kindness, cruel, gentle, jealous and demanding. Because we understand that He is God, we tend to concentrate only on His nicer Veggie-Tale-approved qualities: that He is Love, Holy Holy Holy, Just, and True and Faithful, and that He made us special and He loves us very much. These things are true, however, they paint an incomplete picture of who God is.
God is perfect, and He is perfect in every way. Part of perfection is completion. You can not love without hate. You can not be merciful without understanding the cruelty of justice. God’s love and His mercy are bottomless eternities, but He is also capable of unimaginable cruelty, just ask Sarah, who had to stand by as her husband took her only son, bound him and forced him up the mountain. This is a Godly cruelty, a limitless and just selfishness that has every right to demand, “Give me your everything. I don’t care what it does to you. I demand your everything.”
We read the story through without ever even getting misty-eyed because we know about that ram in the thicket. And we smile and think, “That’s so beautiful,” but it’s not. It’s cruel, and we just set that aside because we want God to only be Mr. Nice Guy. We don’t want Him to be that violent unpredictable Old Testament God who drowned the entire planet save one family, or who hardened Pharoah’s heart, or pre-scripted (predestined?) the life of Judas to keep His prophetic record clean.
A God whose key descriptors are Love and Holy must be as strong and as eternal and as unbending and as cruel and as creative and as mad and as demanding and as unpredictable and as confusing and horrifying and all-encompassing as love and holiness are. Were He not, He would be powerless to move in the hearts of men, whose hearts, created in His image, are prone to being hard, even closed, yet are capable of astonishing unselfishness, love and beauty.
God is Love and Holiness, completely concentrated, not diluted at all. His capacity for loving you and I exceeds even His capacity for cruelty. I know this because of the unimaginable love and cruelty in Genesis 22:8 “…God will provide Himself a Lamb…”
Dear God, I love Genesis 22.