I recently read about a man who claimed to be a follower of God. He also claimed that God had told him to kill his child. This unfathomable story continued with the father taking the child to a place where no one would see his murderous deed. Only moments before he plunged the shiny blade of his knife into his child’s helpless body, an authority figure arrived and the child’s life was spared. But, the authority figure allowed the child to go home with his dad, no questions asked.

I didn’t read that story on a news website. I read it this morning in Genesis 22.

And therein lies the problem for non-believers. Some non-Christians are quick to call Christians inconsistent by saying things like this: “There are behaviors and mindsets that you would abhor and seek to stop if you heard of them in contemporary life. Yet, when you see those same behaviors and mindsets in the Bible, you drop your guard and are perfectly fine with them.”

We can understand where they are coming from, can’t we? If we had read that first paragraph on a news website this morning, we’d want the child taken into protective custody and the father treated for psychiatric problems. Further, we would want him to get into the habit of viewing the world through prison bars.
Yet, when Christians read Genesis 22, we think no such things.

How are we to reconcile our tame approach to handling the incident in Genesis 22?

First, this was the only time in recorded history that God called upon a man to take the life of his son. We are convinced that God would never ever again call upon someone to do such a thing.

Besides, it is easy to discern that it was never God’s intention for Abraham to follow through with this action. It seems that this action was for the purpose of doing surgery on Abraham’s heart (Abraham’s son had become his ‘god.’ He treasured Isaac more than he treasured God). It also seems that it was done to illustrate what would take place in this very location many years later. On that occasion, God would not stop the process but would actually sacrifice His own Son. (Click here to read my thoughts on this point.)

Second, there is a variable in the story of Genesis 22 that changes the whole thing. It is Genesis 22:1-2 where it says:
“Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith.
‘Abraham!’ God called.
‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘Here I am.’
‘Take your son, your only son – yes, Isaac, whom you love so much – and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.’”

This principle is easy to understand. For instance, if you filled a needle with poison and then injected someone with that toxin so that they died, you would be brought up on charges of murder. Yet, if you were the doctor who the state selected to inject toxins into the veins of someone on death row, you would NOT be guilty of murder. You were operating under the authority of and in compliance with the one who had the right to take the life.

It is in this way that we are to understand the incident in Genesis 22. If Abraham, of his own will, determined to kill his son, he would have been guilty of murder and forfeited his life in the process. Yet, he was operating under the authority of and in compliance with the one who had the right to give life and take it away. So, in this one instance in all of the world’s history, Abraham’s actions were not murderous.

It is in this way that Christians are justified in abhorring the actions of the murderous parent whose actions were broadcasted on the news while at the same time excusing Abraham for being willing to do the same thing.