The command to sacrifice Isaac. We’ve read it in such disastrous ways for so long. Blind faith. Obedience to the point of destructiveness. God will step in, right? I’ve heard preachers say, Abraham was just improvising, like jazz to God’s melody. Does God’s song have a knife in it?
But there is more here. How did I miss the one word that makes all the difference. We. Not I but We. I’d never seen it until now.
We read it that God tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. And that is indeed the story on the surface:
Take your son… (wait for it)
Your only son… (again, wait)
whom you love…
Each line a dagger to the heart of Abraham, surely. Right? What father would not be undone by such a request? But something happens along the way of our reading. We collapse the range of emotions and complicated relationships. We make Abraham dimensional, the Champion of faith, an overly confidant character who seems indifferent to this child he supposedly loves. His faith is steel. His empathy not so much. But then there’s the word. We.
They make it to Moriah. They unpack the donkey and Abraham says to [his servant], “stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; We will worship, and then WE will come back to you.”
What’s going on here? Didn’t Abraham, with steely gaze, uncompromisingly intend on his son’s death. If so, it should read I will return. There should be no we. Only the singular, not the plural.
The surface story is not the whole story. There is always a deeper story of our life with God. And so it is the same here. Our spiritual lives are just under the surface of the narratives of history, and just under the narrative here. It can so often look like headlong disaster on the surface. But there are those so in sync, so in time, they see a different story.
Maybe it is like jazz, after all. Maybe there is an undercurrent and connection between the players that cannot be seen by the audience. Maybe Abraham and God are so at sync that on the surface it looks like a “command” to sacrifice Isaac. But to the one in rhythm, the one in-time this is not a disaster story. Disaster is only a bridge, and it’s not even close to the song.
We will come back to you.