Today the Daily Office takes us through Genesis 22. In one of the more disturbing stories in the Bible, God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son, his only son that he loves, as a burnt offering. The narrative is heart-wrenching as Abraham binds Isaac and raises the knife to perform sacrifice. Yet his hand is stayed. An angel of the Lord commands Abraham to hold back as God has provided a ram for the offering rather than a son.
Many will find this passage repugnant: “How could God command such a thing? What a sick monster! How diabolical of God to tell Abraham to sacrifice his son. That is no God of love, but rather a wrathful God that is not worthy of my devotion.”
Rather than answering these questions, I only hold up a mirror. Here is a poem by Wilfred Owen about World War One. Though it is describing that particular war, I believe that this poem transcends time, and condemns us for refusing to hold back, and slaying our sons. Perhaps we shouldn’t point a finger at God for demanding and relenting, but rather point a finger at ourselves for demanding and following through with our bloody schemes.
Parable of the Old Man and the Young
So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
and builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretchèd forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.
But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.