“[The angel of the Lord] said: ‘Do not raise your hand against the boy’”
Thursday, 11 June 2020
Genesis 22:9-18; Psalm 98:1-6; Matthew 5:20-26
Sometimes in the history of religions a sea change occurs. The story of Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of his son Isaac illustrates, some biblical scholars tell us, one such great event: the rejection of human sacrifice by the Israelites. This reflects a change in a religious community’s understanding of God, of what God wants.
We do not really know the background to this change in perception, how, why or even when it happened. (I say the latter because we know that Genesis is a later book written in the Hebrew Bible, even if it is located at the first book in the biblical sequence). We can only speculate that somewhere in their history, the Israelites realised that such demands for human sacrifice did not fit into the God they encountered in their lives.
This is important for us today.
It is important because it reminds us that our understanding of God and what God wants of us can change. As thinking believers (and here I would not limit this to the Judeo-Christian traditions) I think one of the greatest challenges is to constantly discern who God is and what God wants. We do this not (normally!) through some dramatic encounter with God, but through constantly seeking to find God’s will in our daily lives. Faith must be in dialogue with our lives, the best insights of science, and a prudent reflection on the world around us.