In Genesis 22 we read of the near-sacrifice of Isaac. There’s Christology behind this account as it points to Christ, but there’s something else we can learn by reading it. We learn how to face contradictions. One of the most favoured weapons in the atheist’s arsenal is to throw some imagined contradiction in the Bible at you. In some cases, it’s obvious the “contradiction” they throw at us is just a lie they came to by ignoring the context. In some cases, it’s not as easy. So, what do we do? Let’s look at what Abraham did.
In this account with Abraham, it seems as if God is contradicting Himself. He promised Abraham a son through whom he would have as many descendants as there are stars, He blesses him with Isaac in his old age, and then He tells him to sacrifice his son. When a seemingly problematic contradiction like this happens to us, what do we do? We usually question God, don’t we? I’m prone to think God is testing us, because look at Abraham. We know God was testing Abraham. And what did Abraham do? In Romans, Paul records that “in hope he believed against hope” (Romans 4:18). In spite of this apparent contradiction, Abraham clung to the promise of God in faith. We cling to God in the midst of contradictions—to His promises and putting our trust in Him rather than our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6).
This is exactly what Abraham did. It’s not misplaced optimism; it’s faith in the midst of suffering. Abraham was silent; he did not exercise false happiness and neither did he question God. When God told Abraham to sacrifice his son, he didn’t try reasoning with Him or say, “But You promised!” Instead, directly after God gave him this command, “Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac” (Genesis 22:3a). He did exactly as God told him to without questioning Him. Abraham clung to the promise of God. He knew God would fulfil His promise in whatever way He saw fit. Abraham didn’t know how God would do it; he just knew He would (for faith is knowing, not thinking). And as we know, God sent the Angel of the LORD to stop Abraham because God would not allow Abraham to make such a sacrifice because not only would that not be enough to cover the sins of the world, but also because God was already going to do that for us with His only Son, Jesus Christ.
So, in the midst of contradictions, hope against hope. Cling to the promise of God in Christ. If an unbeliever brings a supposed contradiction to you and you don’t know how to respond, be honest and say you don’t know but will get back to him or her later (then actually go out and do your research and ask a pastor). Or if you come across a supposed contradiction on your own, again, hope against hope and do your research and talk to a pastor. When you’re faced with what seems to be a contradiction, know that 1) it is not a contradiction but simply a misunderstanding of Scripture, and 2) it may be a test of your faith. Cling to your faith in Christ that His Word is inerrant, and by that faith He will make it clear to you.