Oh Mercy! This is a Test

______ 1. How you respond to God testing Abraham in Genesis 22 says a lot about you & your belief system. When God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, which was God testing?

a) Abraham’s obedience

b) Abraham’s faith

c) Abraham’s priorities

d) All of the above

e) None of the above; it was foreshadowing, sacrificing Isaac was a “type” for the coming Christ.

f) None of the above; it was foreshadowing, sacrificing Isaac was a “type” for the coming  sacrifice which God would make of His own son Jesus

g) WTF???!!!


First the ringers- If you chose “f,” you’re probably some kind of theologian. If you chose “e,” you’re probably an English or Literature teacher.

If you chose “g”-  either you don’t like tests, you may not like organized religion, or you have a great deal of compassion for Isaac. I totally get it. I’m with you. What kind of God would demand child sacrifice? Try to be patient. Not only does it not make sense on the surface, it doesn’t make sense in context either.

The Bible claims that God hates child sacrifice, that’s one of the reasons He tells the Israelites to wipe out the tribes when they take possession of the “promise land” later in the book of Genesis, because the tribes there sacrificed their babies to their gods.

Look- I like you’re thinking. It’s not blasphemous or disrespectful to question God, especially if you see Him as illogical, cruel or brutal or hypocritical. But give me a chance and keep reading. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water (okay, pun intended).

At any rate, I like your thinking. You don’t think it’s fair of either God or Abraham to kill poor Isaac. I appreciate that. Look, even if you’re an atheist, an agnostic or some kind of pantheist- keep reading. You may get just get something out of this.

IF YOU’RE PUT OFF BY EITHER MY LANGUAGE or my affinity/empathy for those who choose “g,” 1. You probably chose “a” 2. I won’t use too much more language and 3. please keep reading, even if you feel offended- you might just get something out of this too.

Next, the obvious- Of course the best answer is “d.” Anyone who’s ever taken a multiple choice question knows that if a teacher gives you the ‘ol “all of the above” option, you ought to take it. Notice I didn’t give you the classic Sunday School best answer, “Jesus.” That would have been too easy- although, let’s face it, in this case “f” is pretty much the same as “Jesus.”

So now let’s do some thinking and reflecting. I hope this really gives you something to chew on.

If you chose “c” priorities, you might have made a good Sadducee. You may either have a strong sense of tradition or you may believe in perspective and ethics. You might just believe in social justice. You may see the core of Scripture as Micah 6:8, love mercy, act justly, walk humbly. I wouldn’t be surprised if you were progressive.

Some people seem to think that God was making sure that Abraham put God first, even before family. Abraham had become very wealthy and powerful. In the next chapter, we see that he’s considered a prince by his neighbors. Which was more important to him, serving God, or the promise God had given him of  “becoming a great nation?”

Whereas, if you chose “a”obedience, you might have made a good Pharisee. You have a strong sense of legalism. You like authority, whether it’s exercising it or the secure feeling of having to follow it. Between philosophers Rousseau, Locke and Hobbes, you’d probably pick Hobbes every time.

You believe in security and tradition, am I right? Can I just say something to you? Just because the trains don’t run on time doesn’t mean that we’re all going to Hell in a hand basket.  We’ve always been going to Hell in a hand basket- and probably always will. So chill.

But seriously: What if you chose “b” Abraham’s faith? Ah, now you’re learning Boy-o. Genesis 15:6, Romans 4:3, and 4:22 all talk about how Abraham had FAITH and it was credited to him as righteousness.

If you chose a, c, or g,  alone, you’re barking up the wrong trees.

“A” people- God doesn’t want slaves or robots without free will, although that would make things easy.

“G” people, if you’re pissed off at God for demanding a sacrifice- you aren’t seeing that not only does God want Abraham to trust Him, but He trusts that Abraham trusts Him. The test (as people who answer “F” might tell you) was more for us, the readers than for Abraham. Abraham may not have known with certainty that God would stop him at the last minute, but he trusted that God could bring Isaac back to life if he did end up killing him.

(You think you’re pissed off at God. Really you’re pissed off at we “A” and “C” people- and I don’t blame you.  But, nothing personal, but you really don’t “get” the “B” people, so try not to assume you’re better than them. If you think you’re pissed at them too- maybe the issue is not whether or not there is a God or whether religion is just a bunch of spaghetti monster mythology, or whether they’re wrong- maybe the issue is your anger. Just sayin’.)

[Sorry again for the language “a” people, please keep reading, not more profanity, I promise]

And “C” people, don’t think we’re somehow superior than the “A” people because if we think that our values and choices are morally superior to someone else’s, we’re still trusting those “rules” more than we’re trusting God. It’s a relationship, not a “religion.”

Sadducees had a “religion” or tradition and identity too. Adherence to justice is still following a set of disciplines rather than trusting a loving parent.

Pharisees had a “religion” of rules and identity. Entitled as the chosen tribe but demanding that everyone follow the letter-of-the law while sometimes losing sight of the spirit of the law.

But both groups were tribal and both groups had a frail grasp on the big picture. So one saw the forest and one saw the trees- neither were seeing the creator of those trees.

If I’ve lost you because of this alphabet soup, the bottom line is this- God doesn’t  “test” all of us every day, but He may allow us to be tested from time to time and He does want to know our priorities, whether or not we’re willing to sacrifice our will to His AND above all He wants to know that we TRUST Him because He loves us.

So what IS His will? What does he expect from us? Well…

“Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice.'” ~Matthew 9:13 & Hosea 6:6.

FYI– “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” ~Matthew 5:7




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