Abraham and Spiritual Surrender

Abraham Sacrifices Isaac

More meditation on the faith of Abraham.

Genesis 22

God, in His love and favor over Abraham, gave him this bizarre task, to offer his son as a burnt offering. This is on the surface one of the craziest and most difficult stories in all of scripture. How could a good and loving God ask His favored servant to do such a terrible thing?

Let’s unpack this a bit. God bid him to sacrifice both his moral sense and his aesthetic sense, touching Abraham’s deepest identity inherited from the fall. The split we have inside of us between the two kinds of good, the moral good and the aesthetic good, is something we inherited from the earliest time of the fall. Read more about this here: http://thereforenow.com/2011/04/two-kinds-of-good/.

Sacrificing your child is a moral offense. It is murder, but worse, it is murder of your own trusting dependent child. Murder of your own child is something that is considered in any culture at any time beyond even the worst offender. This is no justified warfare killing. This bidding asked Abraham to deeply and truly sacrifice his moral sense. Further, saying yes to this was the kind of thing one could not do halfway, nor could one undo it.

However, Isaac’s name, which Abraham and Sarah gave him, meant laughter. They had waited decades for this child, beyond the time when there was any hope they could conceive. They had been led on for years with the promise of children, and finally, a son! He was their joy and hope, the fulfillment of their promise. More than a moral offense, the sacrifice of Isaac represented the end of Abraham’s greatest hope and joy on earth.

He was bid to let go of his control over both his moral sense of good and his aesthetic sense of good, his sense of obligation and his sense of delight, his will and his desire, to trust God only. In doing so, when God stopped his hand from killing Isaac, Abraham’s moral life and his happiness, were no longer things that he had to strive to establish or control. They were restored, given to him as a gift, he had been liberated from having to design or procure his own good. God controlled these things for Abraham, because in faith he had surrendered them to God.

Instead, he was absolved of all control over these things, like a baby. He entered into the universe of grace, where all things, even moral character, are given free of charge or earnings, established only by miracles and revelation. His morals had become the safe trusted play of a child. He no longer had to control the world around him or God to achieve his morals or desires. He released control to God, he was liberated into faith. It isn’t that Abraham now was immoral, or an emotional martyr, or non-existent as a individual. When Paul says “It is no longer I who live, but Christ” I think he means this exact sort of dynamic. It is that these things had been dethroned, his trust was no longer in himself to procure them or even to cling to them as his master. This is how faith leads to a unity of good, of morals and desire reunited. It is by simply dropping all necessity for either morals or desire and to trust that God loves us and will provide these things for us outside of our own control. This was the faith of Abraham, and it is the life of Jesus Himself.

So, God bids us to release our need for moral or desirable good altogether, to enter pure relationship with Him. The question really isn’t how can we hear God. The question is, what is God saying? For most of our lives we are not ready to hear what He says. If we make an idol of either our morals or our desire, we miss God, but if release our idolatry of these things, we worship Him only, and He is able to restore both.

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