Hearing From God

Genesis 22
Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

I wonder if it's possible that even though Abraham heard God's voice, his understanding of the request was more a reflection of Abraham's own desire - not to kill Issac, but to please God? This was a conversation between two friends, if anything, and God's testing of his people never boils down to one right answer and a million wrong answers. There are many ways this could have played out, and there are many ways that Abraham could have shown his trust and 'fear' of God in this context. When God wants to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham argues incessantly with God over it. Why not now? It's Abraham's only son! Doesn't he care? There are only two options: He was too scared to argue, or something in him desired to follow through with the request. Despite how crazy it sounds to us, it may have sounded exactly right to Abraham at the time.

There have been numerous times in my own life when I've been sure that I was hearing from God on a particular topic of prayer (one was about giving). But I eventually decided that it was more me than anything. Long story short: I gave money (and encouraged a friend to give money) to someone who turned out to be outright lying about their needs.

As much as that hurt, I was still left with this lingering sense that in a mysterious way, my desire to be generous to this person who was lying (and to not go after them when the truth came out) contained an echo of God bringing all of history into reconciliation. Thus, my 'hearing' the call of generosity itself could still be rightly considered from God, even though the context felt wrong in retrospect. In the same way, I think that Abraham heeding this voice from God to sacrifice Isaac actually echoes God's redemptive and restorative work in the world, even though the context of that request was bizarre. But the request isn't the point. The point is that God owned the outcome, which was to solidify Abraham's relationship with God.

I say this because God is utterly and completely able to own and use anything for his good purposes. It brings up the questions: Is it possible that seeing the request for Isaac as 'strictly from God' may be both complete and incomplete at the same time? Is it possible that the way God works is much more of a mystery than we have considered before? Or perhaps our understanding of how God works is very incomplete.


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