Friday, December 14, 2007

inconsistent or what

I have been having a discussion with some friends about the seeming contradictions of God as portrayed in the Bible. The particular story which was the focus of our talk was the one where God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. This could be construed as murder, which is strictly forbidden in the commandments which were cited earlier. I must confess, this story has always annoyed me a bit, as Abraham seems to be at the mercy of a God who demands something outrageous one moment, then changes his mind, all because he proved a point or Abraham passed the test or whatever the goal was. I guess we all hate the feeling of being a pawn in some larger game in which we have no control. I know I do. But I must also remember that from the start (that would be Genesis), God insisted that man have the freedom to choose. And choice is what takes us to where we are going.

Anyway, in my friend's living room, while we were talking and venting and in general just being honest about how this story made us feel, I suddenly had the overwhelming sense that God's presence was very near me. Then I heard him say (in the kindest voice, audible only to myself), "Mattie, Mattie, Mattie. You have let these things come between us. These things that you don't understand. You don't trust me in these places. Just let them go. You can trust me."

I was undone. I saw my unbelief and how I was withholding myself from God because I didn't care for his methods (polar opposite of Abraham's response, you might observe). And then I let the distrust go. I let go the misunderstanding I was carrying. I let my wary and cynical guard down and I chose to trust.

It is easy to confuse the two: a) a perception of inconsistency and b) unfaithfulness, but they are not equal. God's behaviour may seem erratic to us but that is because he dwells beyond the four dimensions that I am comfortable with. The stories and words in the Bible cannot encompass his character or adequately describe him, but they give us a glimpse of faithfulness that defies anything we have ever experienced on this earth. He will never leave me. He might do things I do not understand (in fact, I am certain he will because my understanding is less than God's by definition, especially in light of my limited view of time), but he will never be found unfaithful. He will stick by me when I am trusting and when I doubt. He will always respond to my call and my desire to come close. He will never put me in a position that cannot be turned into good. He will always do what he says. He will always be making things right. And in the end, he will always be trustworthy.

This is the snow on my deck today as seen through the vertical blinds.


shane magee said...

good post matte. god questions too. i have similar ones questioning is not necessarily the same as disobeying or not trusting. we are not called to blind obedience ("i was only following orders") - rather we are called to a relationship, one which allows for questions, dissent, temper, accusation. job, jacob, jeremiah, abraham (all the time except this time!), moses and the psalmists knew this kind of relationship. i believe we have lost something in believing ourselves not intimate enough with god to question him at all.

Richard Harty said...

One is certainly free to interpret the Bible in a more mystical fashion. I think we can also look at the story of Abraham and Isaac as a particular apologetic.

One gets the sense from particular stories in the Bible that sacrificing one's first born was one of the highest regarded offerings. And the Israelites might have been criticized for only sacrificing animals and not being as dedicated to their god as the nations around them were to theirs. We know a number of them practiced human sacrifice.

So, a story about Abraham intending to sacrifice his own son and then being prevented from doing so by God or in the actual language Ba-el (Lord God) would tend to avert the critical attacks in regard to loyalty and willingness to sacrifice for one's own god.

This also might mark a point where Israel stopped practicing human sacrifice and this was the apologetic designed to move the sacrificial system to animals. There are strong indications that in certain rare cases human sacrifice was acceptable in Israel.

Shelley said...

About a month ago I had a very good cry over all the stuff I don't understand about God and how I had let it get between us. It creates little doubts, little walls, little points of contention and insecurity. Much like what you are saying here. And there are things I really want him to do...and what that might do to "us" if he doesn't. I let it all go, gave it all up. My relationship with Him is way more important to me than anything I want him to do, and more important than me understanding everything too.