Figuring Out God’s Will

29 Sep
from Google Images

from Google Images

In a previous blog-post I suggested that God, through Abraham, showed he did not desire human sacrifice—i.e. men should not seek his favor by taking the life of the innocent. Human sacrifice was part of the cultural point of view in Abraham’s day. It was practiced for the “good” of the many. If the idea didn’t come from God, as God implies in his command to Abraham, “Don’t harm the lad!” (Genesis 22:12), then the idea that God’s favor could be gained by sacrificing the innocent must have come from man’s own imagination. This has been man’s attitude ever since Eden. We’ve always tried to decide on our own what was right and what was wrong. Morality has always been what we understood it to be, not what God says it is (cf. Genesis 3:22).

It may be wise to consider the events in Abraham’s life that led up to the binding of Isaac in Genesis 22.[1] Recall that, although God had promised the land to Abraham and his descendants, Abraham had remained childless, and, as far as the current tradition[2] was concerned his chief servant that was born into his household would be heir to his wealth (Genesis 15:2-3). The text goes on to say that Sarai (Sarah) was barren, and both she and Abraham despaired of her ability to bear a child (Genesis 16:1-2). What occurred next was done according to the laws or customs of that day. That is, Sarai gave Abraham her maid, Hagar, to be his concubine wife, and in doing so legally gave Abraham a son through Hagar. This was not what God had desired (Genesis 17:15-19), but Abraham and Sarai didn’t know. They developed a theory of their own that would fulfill God’s will, as understood by them.

Nevertheless, God allowed Abraham and Sarah to work things out according to their understanding, The text does not record that Abraham actually sought God’s will, implying Abraham thought it was up to him to work it out or make it happen. This too was in accordance with the manner in which people conducted their worship during that time. Just because Abraham obeyed God and left Mesopotamia to seek the Promised Land, does not mean that he automatically knew God, what kind of worship he accepts or how to live according to this God’s will. Many ancients believed in a kind of pantheism, whereby god is everything and everything is God. Although there was a spiritual realm and a physical realm, both were connected. The spiritual realm was what was considered reality, but the physical realm was its symbol or shadow. What occurred in the spiritual realm was made to bear in the physical as well. The shadow reflected the reality. Therefore, if the shadow wished the reality to act a certain way, the shadow (physical world – man) would act out in worship what it desired the reality (divine realm) to do. Since the shadow cannot do anything of itself, if it acts at all, then it must reflect what the divine realm (god) was doing. In this way men, at least in thought, had a certain ‘control’ over the deity—if man was able to do something, and since man is a reflection of the deity, then the deity must be doing what man desires. In other words, by taking Hagar as his concubine wife was seen as God’s will in that Hagar gave Abraham a son. Thus, Abraham perceived he was working out God’s will.

God, of course, didn’t accept such worship, but he permitted both Abraham and Sarah to do what they considered correct in order to show they needed to change their minds about how God worked things out in the physical realm. The custom was wrong in that it didn’t correctly show how the spiritual and physical realms interacted. Eventually, Abraham had to expel both Hagar and his son, Ishmael, whom she bore to him, in order to permit Isaac, the son of promise, to grow up away from their influence.

Thus we are able to see, that God’s calling Abraham out of Mesopotamia was symbolic of God calling him out of the world with its traditions and methods of worship. It wasn’t merely the land that was God’s concern, nor was it merely giving Abraham descendants

. It was God’s will that Abraham and his descendants would come to know the God of the heavens, to understand that he is not as men believe him to be, and that he is Almighty (Genesis 17:1) and able to do as he wished without the need of ‘help’ from men to keep his promises. In other words, the context of Genesis 22 and the binding of Isaac concerns God revealing himself to Abraham in such a manner that it expelled the traditions men wrongly held about God.


[1] As I said HERE, this current theme about “making sense of the Old Testament God” is based upon the book: Is God a Moral Monster by Paul Copan. These are my thoughts about his book. He may or may not agree with the impression his book has made upon me, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading what Paul wrote and recommend his book to anyone who is looking for a good read concerning defending our faith.

[2] It can be shown that Abraham submitted himself to the Laws of Hammurabi, the ancient law of Mesopotamia, which was also embraced by many other groups of people, because its laws were considered fair by many living on the fringes of the empire.

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Posted by on September 29, 2015 in Kingdom of God


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