Thoroughly enjoying Leonard Sweet‘s Out of the Question… Into the Mystery. The book is a consideration of the relationship between Abraham and Isaac, as well as of the relationship between God and Abraham… because God is all about relationship.
In his wonderful book Jesus Asked, biblical scholar Conrad Gempf contends:
The God of the Jews and Christians is unlike any other god. Dispute with Jupiter and you’ll have one of those yellow-painted wooden lightning bolts shoved down your throat. Talking back to Allah is likely to get you into even more trouble than talking back to my sixth-grade teacher, Mr. Davidovitch. Try arguing with Buddha and he’ll laugh at you derisively for treating any conversation as if it referred to something real. But when you start arguing with Yahweh, he smiles, rolls up his anthropocentric sleeves, and starts to look interested. The strangest thing is that he likes losing the arguments even more than he likes winning them. Jacob, the trickster, is beloved of God. And Abraham didn’t just get wawy with asking, “What about if there are only twenty righteous men in the city?” The God of the Jews and Christians is the only God that allows his followers to hear him say, “Oh, all right, you win.”
What does this bring to mind if not good friends who get together for dinner and engage in a spirited and compelling discussion of their differences? One wins over the other, and they part better friends than before. In other words, a “relationship.”
Leonard Sweet, Out of the Question… Into the Mystery, p.56.
The “binding of Isaac” is of course a central subject to be considered, and not an easy one with which to grapple. Sweet confesses to have struggled with this account, and the book (so far) is an attempt to work through it. I’m looking forward to more, having already gleaned some excellent insights through it. I confess that this account has seemed to me to perhaps be misplaced in scripture, as it has God asking something contrary to his nature, and Abraham considered righteous for being willing to obey… and yet there it is. Still, there’s got to be more to it, and coming from a place as I have where church leaders encourage congregants to “lay it all on the altar” as Abraham did, a fuller understanding will be most welcome. So far, I have this: in one sense, the story isn’t about Abraham at all, it’s about Isaac… or Israel. Rather than being about a man willing to sacrifice his son, it’s about a son who has perhaps done nothing wrong but is nonetheless about to be killed as an offering… and yet was spared when God intervened.
…Into the Mystery.