Why Abraham Isn't Such a Monster
Updated: May 4
God tells Abraham that he will have descendants that outnumber the stars. This is when Abraham is an old man and his wife, Sarah, is long past being able to physical bear children. Abraham is astonished. Um … okay. That’d be great! Fantastic! A dream come true!
Four thousand years ago, a man’s legacy wasn’t the family farm, the giant company he built, the books he wrote, or the history he made. His legacy was his genes, his children, the number of people who would contain his genetic material and the span of years that those people would inhabit the earth. Back then, this was the only accomplishment that came close to the eternal.
God has just promised Abraham that he would have this legacy. Not only that, it was the greatest legacy of any man who had ever existed and the greatest legacy of any man that would exist. To have descendants that outnumber the stars?? In 2000 B.C., you could see a heck of a lot of starts at night!
So Abraham was pretty darn excited about this promise. He could not have imagined anything nearly so enticing, so satisfying, or so fulfilling. This promise gives his life meaning and purpose. It makes his life worth it.
Time goes by and nothing happens. Abraham and Sarah are just as childless as they have always been. Abraham begins to get antsy. So does his wife, Sarah. She wants God’s promise for him as much as he does.
Finally, she takes matters into her own hands. Her self-will comes up with a solution. It’s Abraham’s genes that will go on; does it matter who mothers them? she thinks. She suggests that Abraham lay with her maid, Hagar.
Abraham makes the same mistake that Adam made with Eve: he listens to his wife, even though she is not advising him from spiritual Truth. She is advising him from fear and control. He agrees to her scheme.
The introduction of Hagar and her son, Ishmael, into their lives brings discord and disharmony. Hagar despises Sarah and Sarah sends her away. Hagar’s son by Abraham, Ishmael, will go on to produce numerous descendants, too, but they will end up enemies of God’s people.
Everything we build out of our own self-will is destructive and/or turns to dust.
God comes through, as He promised, and gives Sarah a child, a son named Isaac. Just one child. That is all it will take to fulfill his promise to Abraham. This child grows up and grows strong. Abraham is proud of his boy. He loves him, for he is the product of his love for his wife, Sarah.
More importantly, though, Isaac now embodies the fulfillment of Abraham’s most powerful desire. Isaac’s existence, his very life, means far more than just an emotional attachment. Isaac is Abraham’s reason for existing, his reason for being alive on the earth. Without Isaac, Abraham would be nothing. He would be a blip in history, as meaningless and purposeless as one of his herd animals.
So when God asks Abraham to take Isaac into the mountains and sacrifice him, Abraham has got to be thinking, “Wait … WHAT?” Not only does he now have to kill his son, whom he loves, he has to completely give up the idea that he will ever have a single descendant, much less countless descendants. His entire reason for living is about to disappear, and at his own hands!
But Abraham has learned his lesson. When his self-will had taken over and allowed Sarah’s suggestion to manifest, it had come to no good. He had seen this. Now Abraham’s self-will is saying, “Um … ahem. You do realize, don’t you, that Isaac is the only way to get God’s promise fulfilled …. Don’t you?” To give up the only way that he could see this future coming to fruition, well, that would be crazy! And it would imply a trust in his Heavenly Father that would be unshakable. It would imply that Abraham knew God’s character well enough to know that He would still fulfill his promise, in some way, and some how, and that it may not necessarily be the way that Abraham could see.
Abraham isn’t just willing to sacrifice his son. He is willing to sacrifice his self-will.
He is willing to step aside and allow God to do it HIS way and in His time. He surrenders his own will to his Father, knowing that what God has planned will not only ultimately fulfill His promise to Abraham, but would do it in such a way as to bring about the greatest good for the greatest number of people until the end of time.
He was right. Abraham’s show of faith, his surrendering of his self-will, has served as an example of great faith, of how confident he was in God’s character, of how doubtful he was of his own machinations, and of how we are to do the same.
God stops him from killing his son at the last minute, fulfilling His promise to Abraham exactly as Abraham has imagined. He doesn’t have to give up his vision. He will not have to give up his son. He doesn’t have to give up his idea of how that vision will come to fruition.
He only has to give up the idea that HE, Abraham, was the one who would make it all happen.