So I learned a new funny word in Seminary, Agedah, which is a Herbew term to describe the story of Abraham binding his son, Isaac, in order to sacrifice him. My professor said I should use it to be impressive some time. It’s what my tuition is going towards, so I thought I’d throw it out there. 🙂
The interesting question about this particular passage is from a quote in chapter 22 (specifically verse 12). In the story, God had finally given the child he had promised to Abraham many years after he first promised that he would become a great nation. Just as everything is beginning to look good for Abraham, he hears a voice from heaven which tells him to take his son out into the wilderness and kill him as a sacrifice. And Abraham actually goes to do it and just as he stands with the knife at Isaac’s throat, a messenger from God stops him and says, “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
…NOW I KNOW that you fear God, BECAUSE you have not withheld from me your son…
The question that arises from this passage is: Does God learn? Is it at all possible that God doesn’t KNOW that Abraham will be obedient and that he required this incredible test in order to clarify his understanding of his creation. Literally looking at what it says in Genesis, God NOW knows that Abraham really honors him through his obedience. This trial from God, literally speaking, seems to demonstrate that he did not really know the truth of Abraham until Abraham was right there with the knife at his son’s neck.
This is a weird thought. I’m so used to resting with the idea of God knowing everything that God not knowing something is hard to sit with. The other passage that comes to mind (also from my Old Testament class) is right after Adam and Eve eat the fruit. God asks them many questions and gives them the opportunity to tell the story. Doesn’t God know what they have done already? Does he need to hear the story of their life in order to understand them?
One of the commentaries we read to help with this idea was written by a guy named John Goldingay and he presented an interesting idea. Could God limit his knowledge on our behalf to give us the opportunity to tell him? This is what real relationship is like. Getting to know someone by telling them about yourself and learning more about them. God models real relationship with his people in the Old Testament. The big, scary God who blew up Sodom and Gomorrah and gave the Ten Commandments while storming around on top of a mountain and making Israel pee their pants interacts with individual people and asks them simple questions to get to know them better. He doesn’t play the all-knowing card of awesomeness and lordship that he could, but in true form he humbles himself and chooses to interact with us on a level where we can interact with him.
We struggle with reconciling the picture of God that we see in both Old and New Testament, but Goldingay suggests that this God of the Old Testament’s first acts with his creation were to humble himself to interact with his creation and allow them the opportunity to reveal themselves to him.
I’m not saying that God doesn’t know us completely (i.e. hairs on our head, the paths set before us…), but it seems fitting with the idea of God choosing to make himself available and concerned with us.
I picture it like this:
Our administrative assistant in the office is alot like God in this way. Whenever I come in and share something (no matter how pointless or silly my story might be), she is one of the most attentive listeners and is so good at making me feel connected when I share something with her, even if it’s something she already knows. She cares for people and loves them by engaging and listening to them.
That is the kind of God I can be excited about. One who is both amazing and tremendous beyond my comprehension, but also engageable. That is a God I can engage with and I am moved to love him.