Could God be That Cruel?

What kind of god would command a father to kill his only natural son?  In Genesis, we read how God told Abraham,

…“Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” (Genesis 22:2b)

Some say there is no way this God could be the same God described in the New Testament, the God of Jesus, the God of love.  In their opinion, there is no way a “good” God would even suggest child sacrifice.  Makes sense, unless you know the whole story…

First, we must understand that it was not unheard of for pagan gods to require child sacrifice.  Abraham’s unquestioning obedience gives a strong indication that he had been aware of such practices.  Secondly, as you read through the account, just before Abraham stabs his son, Isaac, to prepare him as a sacrifice, God puts a stop to it.  Instead, God Himself provides the sacrifice.

“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.” Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 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.” (Genesis 22:12-14)

God’s purpose, He said, was to test Abraham’s faith.  Even as a test of faith, however, this seems unnecessarily cruel.  Why would God put both Abraham and Isaac through such torment?  But there is more going on here.  God tells Abraham:

“I swear by myself, … that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you … and through your offspring [literally seed] all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” (Genesis 22:16-18, excerpts only, for clarity)

God’s plan to redeem and rescue “all nations” is reaffirmed after Abraham’s act of faith.  How will His plan be accomplished?  “Through [Abraham’s] seed.”  Who is that “seed,” that descendant?  It is  Jesus.  How do we know it is Jesus?  Because through Jesus, God fulfilled the plan.  How?  By sacrificing His One and Only Son as a sacrifice for our own sin.  Where did this happen?  On the same mountain!  Do you see the beautiful symmetry?

With that information in mind, reread this:

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.”

The God of the Old and New Testament does not require sacrifice from us.  This same God provided the necessary sacrifice, for us.  (If you don’t understand why the sacrifice was necessary, click here.)  Jesus, God’s One and Only Son, went to the cross on Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem, to pay for our sins.  Here’s how this was foretold by the prophet, Isaiah:

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.  (Isaiah 53:5)

This profound gift of grace, given to redeem and rescue all those who will receive it by faith, is perhaps the most compelling evidence that God has not changed.  He is the same God throughout the whole Bible.

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