Abraham and Isaac
There are many stories about Abraham but the one that we will consider now is one that challenges our thought because of the nature of the story. However, when we look into the deeper spiritual meaning we find that it is truly a beautiful and inspiring and encouraging message of spiritual help.
It seems that God decided to test Abraham’s faith and loyalty and obedience. So one day God called Abraham and Abraham said, “Here am I.” Abraham probably thought God was going to tell him something good or exciting. After all, he now had the son he had waited for for almost 100 years. Instead, God told Abraham some bad news. He told him to take his son and to go to the land of Moriah and offer him up as a living, burnt sacrifice. Abraham must have been heartbroken. But being the obedient servant that he was, he did not even ask why God wanted this done, he just did the obedient and unquestioning thing. He probably thought as many today that God had a good reason even though he could nc understand it.
So Abraham got up early one morning and got ready for the trip. He loaded the donkey with a supply of wood, took along two of his servants and Isaac and began the journey that would last three days. Isaac was no child by this time and he was probably wondering what his dad was going to do. As they neared the place Abraham dropped off the servants and he and Isaac went on along toward Moriah. Isaac finally asked his father where the lamb for the sacrifice was. Abraham didn’t want to tell the truth so he just said, “God will provide himself the lamb.” Isaac did not know he was to be that lamb.
When they arrived at Moriah Abraham built an altar. He put wood on the altar and tied up Isaac and put him on top of the wood. Abraham then took the knife he had brought along and was ready to kill his son. Just about that time a voice out of heaven called to him and told him not to kill Isaac. The voice said, “Now I know you fear God.” Abraham must have been relieved. As he looked around he saw a ram caught in a thicket. He took his son off the altar and put the ram on it and offered it up as a sacrifice to God. Abraham named this place “The Lord will provide.”
The Lord then spoke to Abraham and told him of the great blessings that would be coming his way. The Lord said, “I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies. And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.” (Gen. 22:17-18)
This is one of the great stories of the Bible that must be interpreted on a spiritual level. If we try to make history out of this we find that God is a terrible tyrant who is bloodthirsty, unloving, and inconsistent. What would you do if some voice or celestial being appeared to you and told you to kill one of your, children? With your knowledge of truth, with your knowledge of God as love, you would know that this was not God speaking.
Some see the story as a teaching against child sacrifice or even human adult sacrifice which was a common practice in those days, even among the Hebrews. There are a number of references in the Bible that refer to the Hebrews practicing human sacrifice. One notable example is the case of Jephthah who had been called by God to lead the Hebrews in battle against their enemies. The fact that God called him to be the leader should have been sufficient for him to know that he would be victorious. However, he made a vow that he would offer up as a sacrifice the first thing that came from his home when he returned victorious. He may have thought it would be his wife and this would be a good way to get rid of her. But he was quite surprised and disappointed when it turned out to be the daughter he loved. He then offered her up as a living sacrifice.
So this story could be a teaching against human sacrifice and that would be quite an advancement in human consciousness and experience. Another teaching is that it stresses an absolute obedience to the will of God, to do what God wills, whether we like it or not. The human part of us usually thinks God’s will will be something distasteful or horrible or unpleasant. Abraham must certainly have thought that when he was called upon to sacrifice his son Isaac. But we know in truth that God’s will is never something unpleasant or horrible. God’s will is always good.
The question also comes up, “Why would God want to test Abraham?” If God is all-wise He would know Abraham so well that He would know how Abraham would respond when he was told to do something challenging. He would know whether Abraham was totally committed to Him. Could it be that the test was not for God but for Abraham’s benefit? Could it be to help Abraham realize where he stood in his commitment? Many times we make commitments to our inner Lord but they are not strong ones. When the crisis passes we forget about the commitment. Or when something really demanding is called for, we falter or give up.
Sometimes we make commitments because we see the possible benefits that might come our way. In this case Abraham did not know there would be any benefits at all. When we make a commitment to search for truth is it because we want to know the truth or is it because we want the benefits that might be possible from knowing the truth?
When one is truly committed to the search for truth, and this is a commitment of obedience, he is dedicated to the extent that he continues the search whether there seem to be benefits or not. Take for example the search for healing. Do you believe that healing is possible to the extent that you will continue your search for it regardless of how long it takes? Charles Fillmore had that type of commitment. At a young age he was injured in a skating accident. His right leg caused him much suffering and pain for several years. The leg was shorter than the other normal leg. Here he was studying and searching for truth and the secret of healing. Others were experiencing healings and he struggled with this condition all his life. He could have given up. But he was obedient to that inner voice within him that urged him on in his search for truth. Because of this he grew in spiritual understanding and he had a tremendous influence in the lives of many people, an influence that is still being felt today.
This story of Abraham should not be taken literally. If it is it reveals an inconsistent God. And if there is one truth that we should know and realize, it is this: God is consistent; He is eternally good and dependable. He is a God of love and would never call upon anyone to kill his child or even another person for any reason. All the stories in the Old Testament that tell about God commanding that someone or some group of people be killed are just stories that have to be interpreted. Did not God give as one of the Commandments to Moses, “Thou shalt not kill”? God does not even require animal sacrifices. It is amazing that even today there are religious cults in this country that practice animal sacrifice. God is a God of the living. We should always remember the great prophet Ezekiel and what God spoke through him saying, “I have no pleasure in the death of him who dieth,” sayeth the Lord, “wherefore turn yourselves and live.” God is the cause of life, a God of the living, and He never causes anyone to die and He never wants anyone to die. At our present level of knowledge we do not understand many things and death is one of them, but we can know the truth about it — that it is not caused by God.
Why would God tell Abraham to kill his son when so much emphasis was placed on Abraham and Sarah having the son in the first place? Sarah was around 92 years old when Isaac was born and Abraham must have been around 100. What purpose would have been served? Some would interpret the story as an effort to show that the Temple in Jerusalem goes back to the time of Abraham in its connection with Moriah. But the Moriah mentioned in this story was unknown. The site in Jerusalem was already occupied at the time this story was supposed to have taken place. It is believed today that Moriah was the site where the Jerusalem Temple was built by Solomon, the same site where a Mosque sits today. Do you think the Jews will ever get that site back? Abraham was promised the territory from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates but that promise has never been fulfilled and probably never will be in this day and age. We must not take these stories as historical promises. The spiritual meaning is much more beneficial and does not include territorial blessings.
What practical value does this story have for us today? For one thing the story puts a great emphasis upon obedience. This is a word that is usually abhorrent to our human personality. Humanly we do not want to be obedient to anyone or anything. We want to do just exactly what we want to do regardless or the consequences. We don’t want the government to tell us what to do. We don’t want our wives or husbands to tell us what to do. We even want to violate scientific laws and escape the consequences. We want to be able to eat and drink what we want to without any regard to the consequences. We don’t like for some physical law to tell us what to do.
What makes this story even more challenging is that it suggests an absolute and voluntary obedience, an obedience to a commitment or principle. Abraham was not forced, coerced, or threatened. His obedience was strictly voluntary. He was free to do what he was told to do and he was free to reject it. When he made the decision to be obedient it seemed to him to be the most tragic thing that could happen. He was experiencing a classic struggle between his human self and his higher spiritual self.
The human self could not see the potential benefits and blessings that come to one who is obedient to the higher self as it guides him in complying With spiritual law. All the human self could see was that there would be a loss of some kind. In the case of Abraham there would be the loss of his son that he loved so much. One great lesson we can learn from this story is that when we are obedient to the higher self within us there is never a loss; only gains, benefits, and blessings. This should not be our reason for being obedient but it does stress the truth that only blessings come through obedience to spiritual law. When we listen to and follow the inner voice of the higher self we never lose. There are many times when we may have to give up something that is not for our highest good but when we do we find that great blessings come into our lives.
Probably the greatest lesson we can gain from this simple story is the lesson of faith. Abraham represents the developing and expanding quality or faculty of faith. You will recall the blessing that Abraham was to receive. His descendants would multiply as the stars of heaven. Heaven is the Biblical word that refers to the consciousness of the human being when it is in harmony with the higher self. The stars represent the infinite number of ideas that are available to solve problems and to help us meet any challenge in our lives. The stars also represent the many things we can do that will bring forth blessings, unlimited blessings. Whenever you feel lonely, discouraged, and think that there is no solution to some problem in your life, just go outside at night and look up at the stars. There are millions upon millions and billions upon billions and trillions upon trillions of them. Then just stop and think this great truth. There are that many and more possible ideas within your consciousness just waiting to be perceived and accepted and expressed in your life. The potential blessings within you are infinite and unlimited. There isn’t only one way to do something; there are many ways to successful living.
Life offers you an infinite variety. The human ego may think that life is dull and boring but when we see the potential of the inner universe we soon realize that life not only is but can be, an exciting adventure in spiritual growth. When it seems that you have run dry as far as ideas are concerned, take a look at the stars. It is only the human personality that feels empty. The Real Self is filled with infinite opportunities.
The story also relates the tremendous blessings to the sand on the seashore. Just one handful or even a partial handful contains millions of grains of sand. Each grain represents an idea that can bring forth some blessing in your life. It could be a blessing of healing. It could be a blessing of supply. It could be just the answer you need to solve some problem or to inspire you with courage and confidence. How many times have we thought on the human level, “There is no solution.” We now know this is not true. When you think there is no solution just think of this beautiful story and realize that the universe that you see outside of you, the stars and the sand, is only a reflection of the infinite possibilities right within you now. The solution to any problem in your life is already within you waiting for your discovery. It is a solution that will bless you. There will be no sacrifice of blessings when we are obedient to the higher self. The human ego tries to make us think that there will be terrible sacrifices. It may try to discourage us, for it is quite often pessimistic.
Faith grows and expands as we look to the higher Real Self, the God Self, for guidance. We do this on Mt. Moriah. Moriah is the high place in consciousness where we know and experience and feel our oneness with the Higher Self. It is in this contact with the Higher Self that we are inspired with confidence and courage. Our minds are blessed with peace. We experience a poise that we did not know before. We especially have an inner knowing that we can and will be victorious.
Remember that for every excuse for defeat given us by our human perception, there is a star idea that will turn that defeat into a victory and blessing.
© 1985, Jim Lewis
All rights reserved by the author.
Reprinted with permission.