I continually struggle with the story of Abraham and Isaac. In all truth, this story really bothers me. I realize that God did not have Abraham continue with the sacrifice, but by simply asking this of Abraham, is God not asking Abraham to sin? Is this not considered murder? I understand the principle that God desires our ability to surrender all to Him, even those dearest to ourselves, but asking us to kill, to put it bluntly, a loved one seems so awful.
I always think of the Lafferty brothers, who are Mormon fundamentalists, who killed their youngest brother’s wife and baby “at God’s request.” I realize that this is incredibly outrageous and these men were not seeking God’s will, nor were they in reality receiving instruction from God, but how would one explain the difference to a non-believer?
Thanks for the question. I believe that the Abraham-Isaac event is a “TYPE” A “TYPE” is the theological term used to describe and Old testament picture (or allegory) engineered by God the Father to point to the coming death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
Let me give you several examples of Old Testament TYPES. God instructed Moses to speak to the Rock at Meribah (Numbers 20:1-13) and life giving water would flow forth to quench the cravings of the thirsty-desert-dwelling Israelites. The flowing water was a TYPE of the Living Water which would one day flow forth from everyone who surrendered their lives to Christ as Lord and Savior (John 7:37-39). According to Paul (1 Corinthians 10:1-4), this Rock was a metaphor for Christ.
Moses sinned that day at Meribah when the waters flowed (Numbers 27:12-14). God instructed Moses to speak to the rock. Unfortunately, in his anger Moses struck with rock. Then, he struck it again. He never got around to asking the rock to release the water as God intended. As a result of his disobedience, God disqualified Moses from entering the Promised Land. This punishment seems rather harsh until we see the Rock as a TYPE of Christ. In one sense, Moses’ first strike many have enhanced the TYPE. After all, Christ was struck hard when He was crucified. The rock struck and then asked to pour forth Living Water to all who requested it would make a powerful TYPE. Unfortunately, the second strike certainly ruined any sort of salvation picture the Father might have had in mind.
God forbade Moses to enter into the Promised Land because he ruined the TYPE. Types are serious business to God.
Amy, let me give you another example. In Psalm 22, the “Psalm of the Cross,” David is a TYPE of Christ. His experiences 975 years before Christ exactly mirror Christ’s crucifixion. Psalm 22 begins with the words, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” and ends with the words, “It is finished.” Notice that these are the very words Jesus used to begin and end His work on the cross (Mark 15:34 and John 19:30).
Psalm 22 pictures what Christ saw as He looked down from the cross. On the other hand, Isaiah 53 pictures the view of those who were staring up at Christ as He hung upon the Cross.
Now, with the above background we can understand the Father’s murderous command to Abraham. It is one thing to view God’s command as a test of Abraham’s devotion to God. It is quite another to understand this event as a TYPE of Jesus Christ.
Just so we can’t miss it, God carefully explained the meaning of the Abraham-Isaac story in Hebrews 11:17-19. The writer to the Hebrews tells us that Abraham believed all along that God would raise Isaac back to life: “Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.”
When Abraham raised the knife, Isaac was as good as dead. But, just in time, the Angel of the Lord told Abraham to cease and desist. By the way, the angel of the Lord is an Old Testament “epiphany” (literally “God shining”) or manifestation of Jesus Himself on earth before the incarnation. asa Abraham lowered the knife, he turned around and saw a ram caught up in the bushes. Isaac was saved when his father sacrificed the ram on the altar in place of Isaac.
In the same way we are on the altar of justice and deserve to die for our sin (Romans 3:23 and 6:23). Just in time Jesus substituted Himself on the altar of sacrifice and died in our places in order to pay the price we deserve for our sins. Then, to carry the TYPE to its logical conclusion, we, like Isaac, are saved to new life.
By the way, Genesis 22:14 says, “so Abraham called that place “The LORD Will Provide.” And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.” By the way again, Calvary is the name we use today for Mount Moriah–the Mountain where God provided the ram for Isaac, Jesus lated provided Himself as a lamb for us.
God never again asked a parent to sacrifice a child in order to determine devotion. In fact, God the Father absolutely forbids this practice. He declared in Leviticus 20:4-5: “If the people of the community close their eyes when that man gives one of his children to Molech and they fail to put him to death, I will set my face against that man and his family and will cut off from their people.”
Some theologians argue that Jephthah’s vow in Judges 11:30-39 proves that God condoned the father’s sacrifice of his only daughter as a result of his prayer to God. Jephthah promised that if God would deliver Amorite enemies into his hand, “… whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.” (v. 31). Jephthah’s virgin daughter came running out to meet him as he returned from battle. This sacrifice was not God’s prerequisite for victory. Judges recounts several events that occur that are the result of man’s rejection of His Creator’s authority.
“In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” Judges 21:25 KJV
Regarding the second part to your question, I see the murderous instructions to Abraham as not murderous after all. They are an anomaly that occurred only once. People who claim that God told them to kill are misguided religious nuts, mentally ill people who need treatment, unflinching psychopaths and/or demonically deluded captives to the forces of evil.
The Lafferty brothers, the Mormon fundamentalists that you mentioned, certainly did not kill their youngest brother’s wife and baby “at God’s request”. The Laffertys heard voices all right–but not from God! They were seduced by decptive “doctines of demons.” They murdered cruelly, were deceived mercilessly and will one day stand before god’s Great White Throne of Judgment. The Lake of fire will soon consume them. (Unless by God’s mercy and grace they surrender their lives to Christ–so vast is His forgiving power. Read my ASK ROGER answer entitled, “Rapists in Heaven?” to gain some insight on my last comment.)
By the way, the infamous Mountain Massacre occurred in southern Utah in the late 1800s. A group of Mormon men dressed as Indians murdered an entire wagon train of men, women and children. Here is another example of people who are deluded into thinking that they are following the will of God when they are actually dastardly sinners acting upon the basest horrors of the human heart.
Well, Amy, I hope that I’ve shared some thoughts and information which are helpful both to you personally as well as to your “unbelieving” friends. May God grant you blessings and success as you point them to the lovely person of Jesus Christ.