God tested Abraham by requesting the sacrifice of his son Isaac. But just what was this test? Perhaps rather than a test of obedience, it was a test of Abraham’s moral sense, whether he would question the justice of sacrificing his son. This test Abraham failed. Abraham had previously shown a moral sense of justice by arguing with God about the possible burning of the innocents with the guilty in Sodom. Why did he not argue with God about the planned burning of his son Isaac? He may have cynically resented God testing him again and thus tested God by proceeding in blind faith that God would prevent him from committing the sacrifice. As was Abraham, we are tested again and again. We must continue to respond each time with our moral sense and genuine concern for justice. After this test, God did not speak to Abraham again. The lesson of the Akeida may be that to keep in contact with God, what is necessary is not blind obedience, but an inner moral sense of justice and overcoming the cynicism that impedes the continued expression of that justice.
and a related piece
Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you. (Deuteronomy 16:20)
Why is justice said twice? Maybe because this statement of Moses contains a vital appositive. Maybe “justice shall you pursue” is the appositive of “justice”. That is, our action of pursuing justice is justice. And it is that pursuit which allows us to thrive in the promised land. God’s continuing gift is dependent upon our continuing pursuit of justice. As is plainly stated many times, failure will end in our exile from the promised land. We may become exiled from the land, dispersed among the nations, or worse yet, exiled from the promise even as we hold the land.
Ed Levinemail print