Few stories of the biblical canon are as abhorrent to the modern sensibilities as the one where Abraham takes Isaac to the mountain to sacrifice him to this new god that he had chosen to follow.
Recall that monotheism was relatively new among the Semitic tribes in the area we know as the Middle East. Abraham, considered the father of the “people of the book” (Judaism, Islam and Christianity) was a pioneer in this regard (the one-God concept).
If your Sunday School story days are a ways back, here’s a refresher (caution – if you’re not familiar with biblical tales, this one is a bit tough to start with).
6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. 7 And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.
9 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son.Genesis 22
Many modern readers will shake their heads, wondering what kind of god would ask for such a sacrifice – even if it was only a test; and I’d have to agree if this was historical.
Metaphysical scholars, however, do not read the biblical canon as history but as allegory, so let’s examine this story through that lens.
Abraham and his wife Sarah wanted a child for a very long time. I wrote about the metaphysical meanings around their saga in an earlier blog post. Isaac, their son, was the most precious thing in their lives. While all children are precious, the story of how Isaac came to be underscores the seemingly rare and fragile gift that he represents.
In this story, the God of Abraham, the same God that answered his prayers for this long sought-after son, asks Abraham to sacrifice him as a way of honoring God.
Being an obedient and observant man, Abraham puts the plan in motion. He most assuredly has a heavy heart as he misleads his son on the way up the mountain, and then overpowers him to bind him, and lay him on the sacrificial altar.
Just as Abraham is about to carry out what he believes he must do, an angel stops him.
11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”Genesis 22
Many teach this story as one of obedience. I disagree, and think that the concept of obedience to a religious authority has created more problems and pain in the world than it has solved. Instead, I see it as a lesson about trust.
In the physical world, the world of Caesar, it can sometimes seem that walking the spiritual path is a one-step-forward, two-steps-back proposition. We pray, intend, meditate, chant and make some forward progress, just to have more challenges show up in our path that seem to reverse the Good we’ve just received, and then some.
In the story of Abraham, Isaac and the ram we are being taught that the blessings we have received are not being given and then yanked back in some sort of cosmic joke, as it appeared was happening with Isaac. The gifts and blessings that come from Spirit are freely given, but we too often doubt our worthiness to receive; we question whether this good fortune is “too good to be true“, and we wonder if we have been foolish to think that “an old woman could give birth to a son“.
When it begins to look like we really can’t hold on to the blessings we’ve had come into our lives, we need to stop, realign with the sacred Trust that allowed us to believe that our dream (success, healing, restoration, etc.) was possible in the first place, and look around: there’s a ram in the thicket – a solution close by, placed there in divine perfect timing and divine right order.
No matter how awful things appear on the physical plane, we need to remember that we exist on the mount of “the Lord will provide“.
Traditional religions teach of a God that is all-powerful and loving; as well as stern and prone to anger and retribution. These descriptions sound an awful lot more like an unstable human than the creator of the Universe.
In metaphysical studies we move away from this very-human understanding of God and onto one that comprehends God as a power for Good that exists everywhere, always. Omnipresence is a term that was used extensively in the Divine Science writings of the late 19th century and the quantum physics of the 20th century began to add some scientific validation to that concept of an ever present Substance, as some early 20th century teachers taught it.
Ernest Holmes is famous for many things, but perhaps none more so than the statement he opened his radio show with each week: “There is a power for Good in the Universe, greater than we are, and we can use it!“
Yes, there is a Power, and yes we can use it – but not unless we’re tuned in to receive the guidance; to hear the voice, to see the ram.
The best tools we have to ensure that we are tuned in are the tools of a daily spiritual practice (meditation, prayer, contemplation, etc.). These help us to avoid unnecessary sacrifice of the Good that we have in our lives.
It can be as easy as turning off the TV, putting down our phones, walking away from drama and gossip. We can sit quietly in nature, walk outside, offer an ear to a friend in need, spend time with those who are lonely, smile at someone for no reason, do Good, be peace, live in integrity with people and the planet, strive always for the highest and best for all in every circumstance. All of these choices (as well as many others) help keep our connection to Spirit clear and open.
One of my favorite New Thought musicians, Denise Rosier, wrote a song titled “I Couldn’t Love You More“. It reads as a sort of love note from Spirit – and there’s a particularly touching line early on:
“I’ll, always be with you, I’ll – I’ll never leave you;
See, my Light here to guide you,…”
There is indeed a Power and Presence that is always with us and will never leave; a Light here to guide us out of the darkest places. It’s not hard to find, and is impossible to miss if we are willing to pause, and say, “Here I am“.
And so it is.
(C) 2019 Practitioner's Path