When God reveals himself to Abraham, he lavishes the promise of many gifts upon him. In return, Abraham is invited to worship God. God does not impose himself, nor does he have any need to enter into this covenant for any reason other than love. And so, God lavishes his love upon Abraham and in return seeks his faithfulness in true freedom.
From the outset, however, it could be considered that Abraham’s intentions might not be the most sterling. Obviously, he only needed to say he worshipped God and would receive God’s abundance in return. It seems like an easy, and maybe even selfish, deal for him initially. But then God gives Abraham a defining challenge to prove his commitment to the bargain.
The episode where God asks Abraham to sacrifice Isaac is not the story of a vengeful, twisted God. Rather, God is asking Abraham to worship him in thanksgiving and sacrifice. Abraham knew that the abundant blessings God bestowed upon him would be fulfilled through his promised son, Isaac. Later in the Bible, the prophet Samuel sums it up succinctly: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obedience to the LORD’s command? Obedience is better than sacrifice, to listen, better than the fat of rams” (1 Sam 15: 22).
In this story, Abraham’s true worship of God is put to the test, and his obedience and trust in God is thoroughly established. Abraham is unhesitant to give God his obedience, even if he might not understand what God is asking of him. Abraham serves as a model of what it means to live obedient lives of sacrifice and thanksgiving in worship of God. Abraham’s story shows that God’s plans often defy human logic and show a divine logic at work. Since God is love alone, we have every reason to trust that what he asks of us is in our best interest. As St. Paul says, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God” (Rom 8:28). Abraham’s story embodies this vision.
Michael R. Heinlein is editor of Simply Catholic. Follow him on Twitter @HeinleinMichael.