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What would be the hardest thing for you to give away forever?
All three faiths claim their particular son of Abraham was the one recalled in the story on the mountain. The Bible tells us it was Isaac. The Koran tells Muslims that it was Ishmael. My point here is not to compare these claims or to debate their truthfulness.
I want to look at the story of what happened on the mountain top and how it gave us a God like no other.
But, before we can get to that mountain top of beginnings, we must travel through the valley. In the valleys, all around Abraham and his nomadic family there were many diverse people groups. They had their own languages, cultural practices and gods. Many gods. There was a god for the stars, the sun, the harvest, the rain, the clouds, the animals, the birds and many more.
These cultures were all caught up in begging their gods for help and thanking their gods when times were good. They would offer sacrifices - much like the Israelites to come - on altars to their gods. There were hundreds of temples, high places and altars where the people could go to worship the particular god they wanted to beseech. Depending on their wealth, and the severity of their need for help, they would bring gifts that cost them from little to very much.
When things got VERY bad, they believed they had to get the attention of their gods. Many of their ideas about their gods were similar to the way we feel about our political leaders. Some are good. Some are bad. All are hard to talk to because they are too busy doing their own thing to listen to their people. Today, it takes a desperate crisis - like an earthquake or a terrorist attack - to get our leaders to hear the cries of their people. This is how the many cultures in Abraham’s day believed their gods thought and acted. They needed a shock to be distracted.
When the people were dying of starvation or loosing a battle to an enemy, they would make huge sacrifices in the hopes that their gods would listen. The most impressive offering they could give - because of how much it hurt their hearts - was to offer their children to the gods. And they did. Often. And it was just as terrible and painful to families then as it is to families today when children die in accidents or of illness. Everyone weeps. And this, they hoped, would get the attention of the gods.
It is through this valley of despair that the journey of Abraham to the Lord’s mountain takes place.
** Continued tomorrow **
Patriarchs and Prophets, 153, 154