LALW 200 – 03
September 19, 2014
Facing the Challenge
The biblical story of Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 22) poses a crucial test for both the father and son as God challenges Abraham to offer his son as a sacrifice. As he follows God’s commands, the primary aim of the test is to teach Abraham that obedience and commitment are vital to keeping covenants. Obedience to covenant obligations bring a guarantee of the fulfillment of God’s promises and fresh bestowal of the blessings that goes with covenant keeping.
The literal setting of the story is Mount Moriah and has symbolic meaning. God tells Abraham: “Go to the land of Moriah. There on a mountain that I will show you...” (Genesis 22:2). As the highest points on earth, a mountain is the closest point to reach out to God who is above us in heaven (the sky). God’s decision of having Abraham and Isaac climb Mount Moriah symbolically tells the audience that they were asked to do so because it would lead them closer to God.
The protagonist of this story is Abraham, who is the father of Isaac and a willing servant of God. Abraham is conflicted because he loves his son, yet on God’s command he prepares to sacrifice his beloved son. Abraham is a rounded character. For example, his long speeches and prayers disclose his misery over losing his only child, but no complaint against God’s command passes his lips. He is tender and frank in his explanation to Isaac about the necessity for the sacrifice.
On the other hand, God is a flat character because we do not see any changes in him. The creator of the world and an all-powerful being, God reveals himself as an antagonist and calls himself the only true deity worthy of human worship. He plays a vital role in bringing out the moral of this story to the audience.
The order of events in this story is presented in a chronological order. The point of view in this story of can best be described as third-person limited, objective. The audience does see everything predominantly from Abraham’s perspective. We are only aware of people if Abraham is aware of them, and we are only part of conversations in which he takes part. However, the narrator is also objective in the presentation. We don't know God’s thoughts, for instance.
The two example of situational irony that occur in this story are where Abraham spoke out of ignorance of God’s specific plans, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for burnt offering...” (Genesis 22:8) but instead, God fulfilled Abraham’s words in a way that Abraham did not expect. Another irony is when God saves Isaac only because Abraham choose to follow His command and kill him, ‘And Abraham stretched forth his hand, an tool the knife to slay his son’ (Genesis 22:10).
One obvious lesson to draw from Abraham’s life is that we are to live a life of faith. Abraham could take his son, Isaac, up to Mount Moriah because he knew God was faithful to keep His promises. While God's command (in view of the promise) is bizarre, Abraham's response over the course of the journey is informed more and more by a conviction that God can be trusted finally to save Isaac; Abraham’s move in fact places the burden back on God to be true to promises made and his faith is evident in the story, where he conveys this confidence in God by means of his attentive response to Isaac's question. Abraham’s faith wasn’t a blind faith; his faith was a settled assurance and trust in the One who had proven Himself faithful and true.
Isaac's response shows that he believes his father's trust is well placed, “And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (Genesis 22:7). The provision of a ram for the sacrifice…