Happy Thanksgiving (belated)
This week we celebrated Thanksgiving and Eid Al-Adha. They go together really well. Thanksgiving is all about giving thanks to God, the one to whom all thanks is due, for all good things are from him. With Thanksgiving coming one day before Eid Al-Adha I found myself thinking a lot more about sacrifice and how I am so grateful that God has provided the greatest sacrifice.
During Eid Al-Adha Muslims sacrifice a sheep and then share the meat with the poor. The Eid commemorates the time when Abraham was willing to obey God by sacrificing his son. This story is in both the Tawrat (Genesis 22:1-19)and the Qur’an (37:100-113). See below to read the full text in both books.
It is a remarkable story of obedience. Abraham was going to kill his son in order to obey God. But at the last moment God stepped in and stopped him. Then God provided the sacrifice. As it says in the Tawrat, “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.’ 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. 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 22:12-14). The Qur’an says, “When they had both surrendered, and he threw him on his face, We called, ‘Abraham, you have fulfilled the vision. Thus we reward those who do good. This was a clear test.’ And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice and left for him in later times ‘Peace be to Abraham’” (37:103-109).
Both texts make it clear that God was the one who provided the sacrifice in place of Abraham’s son. And the Qur’an adds a very significant comment. It says, “We ransomed him with a great sacrifice.” There is nothing particularly great about a ram in and of itself. Certainly it is not greater than a human. So the greatness of the sacrifice must come from something else. What makes the sacrifice great is that God provided it and he used it to ransom Abraham’s son.
This whole story points forward to the great sacrifice that God provided for all mankind – the sacrifice of Jesus the Messiah. (I know that Muslims don’t believe Jesus died on the cross, but the Injil teaches this. What the Qur’an teaches about the death of the Messiah and whether the Injil is trustworthy are posts for another day [both will be good topics for Contentious Issues]). The Injil says, “Christ our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7) and “But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:26-28).
So this weekend I give thanks to God for doing what I cannot. I cannot purify myself. I cannot remove my sin. I cannot ransom myself. I cannot redeem myself. But God has provided. He has provided a great sacrifice. He has ransomed me. Thank you God.
The texts from the Qur’an and the Tawrat
The Qur’an (37:100-113):
“Lord, give me one of the righteous,” so We gave him good news of a gentle son. When he could walk, (Abraham) said, “Son, I saw in a dream that I must sacrifice you. Look and see.” He said, “Father, do what you have been commanded. Lord willing, you will find me patient.” When they had both surrendered, and he threw him on his face, We called, “Abraham, you have fulfilled the vision. Thus we reward those who do good. This was a clear test.” And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice and left for him in later times “Peace be to Abraham.” Thus we reward those who do good. He is one of our believing servants. And we gave him news of Isaac’s prophethood and goodness, and we blessed him and Isaac. Some of their descendants were good, and some obvious wrongdoers.
The Tawrat (Genesis 22:1-19):
After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” 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. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here am I, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.
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. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” 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.” 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. 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.”
And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba. And Abraham lived at Beersheba.