This is one part in Holy Scriptures which disturbed me the most because in various passages in Old Testament, God condemned Canaanites because of their child sacrifice practice to their God, Moloch (Leviticus 18: 21) but He commanded the same thing to Abraham (Genesis 22: 1-2). What has prompted God to tell the father of righteous men to do a command that He himself abhorred? Wasn’t it God himself who promised to Abraham that He will establish His covenant through Isaac (Genesis 17: 21)? What has caused God to apparently change His mind?
It turned out that according to Book of Jubilees, there was a figure called prince Mastema. Mastema is Satan. The name Mastema is derived from the Hebrew, “Mastim” meaning “adversary”. The word is equivalent to Satan (adversary or accuser). His task is to tempt men to sin and if they do, he accuses them in the presence of the Throne of God.
This Satan prompted God to tell Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (Jubilees 17: 15-18):
15) In the seventh week, in the first year of it, in the first month in this Jubilee, on the twelfth of this month, there were voices in heaven regarding Abraham, that he was faithful in all that He told him, and that he loved the Lord, and that in every affliction he was faithful. 16) Prince Mastema came and said before God, “Look, Abraham loves Isaac his son, and he delights in him above all things, tell him to offer him as a burnt-offering on the altar, and You will see if he will do this command, and You will know if he is faithful in every way that You test him.”. 17) The Lord knew that Abraham was faithful throughout all his afflictions, for He had tried him through his country and with famine, and had tried him with the wealth of kings, and had tried him again through his wife, when she was torn from him, and with circumcision; and had tried him through Ishmael and Hagar, his maid-servant, when he sent them away. 18) In everything that He had tried him, he was found faithful, and his soul was not impatient, and he was not slow to act, because he was faithful and a lover of the Lord.
That explained absurdity of testing Abraham with child sacrifice. But of course, there will be another question: Why did God even need to approve Satan’s suggestion to test Abraham? I also think the answer for some times, and the closest I can respond is that God has known Abraham’s heart and he knew that Abraham has faith and strength to overcome the test. (Oh, btw don’t bother to ask me that if God is omniscience and hence knew the future why did He need to test Abraham because I don’t believe God knew future in definite sense. I have explained that topic here).
Life difficulty is not nice thing. It can drain our energy, focus, health, finance and even life. We also do not get useful things after life difficulty from material perspective. Most often, human responds for this situation in wrong and nonproductive ways, such as grumbling, blaming, excessive eating, sleeping, alcoholism, violence, drug abuse, and even suicide. Even Christians are not immune to such response.
However, as apostle Paul said that our temptation is common to man. And God is faithful for he will not let us to be tempted beyond what we can bear. He will provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (1 Corinthians 10: 13). And I am convinced that God is all-just that He will still provide reward in the afterlife for our faithfulness during our life difficulty. As He rewarded Abraham for his faithfulness to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22: 15-18), surely He will reward us for our faithfulness. Life trial is not nice thing but we need to remember that there will be no reward if there is no trial.
Having said all these things, it does not mean that it is easy to be done. Many of us also struggle with life problem especially during this economic crisis. Many people have been retrenched. Many business have been closed. Family problems are everywhere. However, we just need to remember as God has promised Israelite He will never leave them (Deuteronomy 31: 6), He will also never leave us.
That’s all for now. I wish you readers merry Christmas and happy new year. May God always provide us with strength to overcome life trial and reward us just like He rewarded Abraham.