Doctrine: Abraham is one scriptural example, among many, that proves that God DOES and will continue to ask, command, and request His people to do things that don’t make sense…initially. He does this, not for His own benefit, but to teach us about ourselves. We learn the extent of our trust, spiritual commitment, and power. If we will trust Him and do what He asks, even when it doesn’t make sense, we will be rewarded with meaning, purpose, answers, and unshakable faith.
People throughout the history of the earth have gotten frustrated when God has asked them to do things that didn’t make sense, or even seemed crazy, initially. Some people have pressed forward and done the apparently senseless things anyway. Some have thought that because the requests or commands appear senseless, even unfair, that God can’t be behind them; so they have jumped out of the church/God wagon. Human logic, human sense, they feel, dictates whether or not God will do something.
If you don’t believe in God or religion, then, this post isn’t for you. However, if you believe in any scripture (the Bible, the Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, etc.) and you take the time to pay attention to the things God asks, does, or institutes in His church, you will find that He frequently DOES, ASKS, and INSTITUTES things that don’t make sense…initially.
Let’s talk about Abraham. Abraham and his father didn’t agree on their religious beliefs or practices. In fact, Abraham’s father set aside Jehovah and instead opted for Egyptian gods and Egyptian culture. Abraham’s father was so far off the straight and narrow that he willingly allowed the priests of Pharoah to take Abraham and sacrifice him to Egyptian idols. Abraham was, of course, saved by Jehovah and led away to safety; but I’m guessing the psychology of such an experience was still plenty horrific and made a sufficient scar on Abraham’s soul.
Fast forward many, many years. You’re Abraham. God has repeatedly promised you posterity (seed) that will number more than the stars in the sky and the granules of sand on beach. But, you and your wife are barren. So, then, the Lord commands you to take a second wife—a concubine. Your first wife agrees because the Lord has commanded it, and because you both think, “Well, perhaps this is how the Lord’s promise will be fulfilled.”
So, the concubine conceives and gives Abraham Ishmael, who was undoubtedly righteous. But, because of the bickering between the concubine and the wife, the Lord tells Abraham to send Ishmael, his son, and concubine away. Then, God renews the promise of seed through another child. But, Abraham and Sara are still barren, and getting older, and still don’t conceive.
Then, by another miracle, some angels visit and renew the promise of a birthright child. Sarah at last conceives and brings forth a son. The miracle at last! This son grows up. He is a joy. He is righteous. He is good.
Then, the Lord comes one day and asks Abraham to take his only son, Isaac, by his wife Sarah, and sacrifice him to the Lord. WHAT? THAT DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE!
Let’s simply consider all the reasons this request was somewhat incredible, ridiculous, sort of twisted, and simply senseless.
- First, how many times and over how many years had God promised Abraham seed by his wife Sarah?
- For how long had Sarah been barren? We know she was in her 90s and Abraham about 100 or so. That’s a long time.
- How much of an impossible miracle was it that Isaac had ever been born to begin with? It was amazing!
- Second, let’s not forget Abraham was nearly sacrificed to Egyptian gods by his own father. We have to believe that that left a psychological scar.
So, any of us might, as Abraham certainly could have, be tempted to think that God was not who we thought He was. Any person might be completely justified in thinking that this was a sick joke and that all that they had once thought they believed in was somehow now completely off. Any person might be tempted to leave the faith of Jehovah over a request like this. This was not from God. God wouldn’t do this, right?
But, Abraham didn’t leave. Why? The answer: FAITH.
Now, we know the Lord did not, in the end, allow Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. We also know that Isaac was a willing sacrifice. He too exercised FAITH in Jehovah. There are many beautiful doctrines and parallels to be extracted from this account. However, let’s talk about Abraham.
Genesis 22:11-12 reads:
And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.
Now, scripture also teaches us that God knows everything (2 Nephi 9:20). And, if He knows everything, then He already knew what Abraham would do. So, what then was the purpose of this seemingly senseless request?
Hugh B. Brown said of this experience. “Abraham needed to learn something about Abraham” (Joseph Smith the Prophet , 93).
Abraham had to trust what He knew about the Lord and have FAITH, despite the senseless request. By doing what the Lord asked (or complying with the Lord’s request) despite the fact that it didn’t make any sense, he was rewarded with a FAITH that could not be shaken and a knowledge of his own righteousness. Abraham now knew that the LORD would always provide, as he named the place Jehovah-jireh (Genesis 22:14). He also learned about himself! He learned that He really would do all the Lord God asked of him. He didn’t just hope he was faithful. He didn’t just assume he was faithful. He now knew.
There are numerous other scriptural examples of God asking His church, the Saints, and His children individually, to do things that don’t make sense…initially. Each one is different. And, it is for you to search them out for yourself. Abraham (as far as we know) was the only one asked to offer his only son as a sacrifice (symbolic of God offering Christ). Ultimately, Abraham didn’t have to sacrifice Isaac. But, others are asked to do other things and God doesn’t always provide a ram. God doesn’t always step in. Sometimes the hard, seemingly nonsensical things He implements or asks us to do we are expected to do (like Nephi being asked to kill Laban). We receive no witness, no added strength, no confirmation of our own standing and power, until after the trial of our faith (Ether 12:6)!
But, no matter the sense or senselessness of the commands of God, they have a clear purpose. They teach us about ourselves. They teach us the extent of our personal commitment to God and the covenants we’ve made. They can significantly grow our faith and increase our trust in God and make us unshakable.
It seems in these current times, these last days, these modern moments, that people like to highlight that faith is waning. They like to make a big deal out of people leaving the LDS church. They cite the people dropping out of the church as evidence for its false nature and fallibility. They think the prophets and apostles are coming out with policies that don’t make sense, and are “not what God would do.” They think the church has always done things that don’t make sense. They find anything they can to prove we don’t know what we’re talking about, or that leaders and members past and present are flawed.
Now, I’m not about to say that people in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are perfect. They’re not. They’re flawed, messed up, human, prone to regular struggles, prone to pride and over-zealousness, and sin. Even the church leadership, past and present, is not perfect. Yet, I can’t find anywhere in scripture where God cites that prophets have to be perfect. But, He does say that prophets receive direct revelation from Jehovah, the Savior, Jesus Christ; and that this is how God communicates with His people (Amos 3:7). And, when these prophets and apostles release a policy or maintain a policy that we feel doesn’t make sense, I know that the policy (or the maintenance of it) has been given by revelation from God.
These are the days to be tested! These are the days to be tried! These are the days to learn about ourselves. To find out the extent of our trust and faith in the God we believe in; in the organization of his latter-day church. We can’t sit lukewarm in the middle (Revelations 3:16). There isn’t a middle, not really. There never really has been. But these are the days to choose, once and for all! Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
So, when things that don’t make sense to you come up. Will you fear and jump out of the wagon? Or, will you, like Abraham, trust in the Lord with FAITH that He will provide answers, meaning, resolution, guidance, and peace regarding the things you don’t understand—in time.
Now, everyone has a different experience. And I can’t speak for others. But, I’ve had my share of opportunities to jump out of the wagon. I’ve had my share of things I didn’t understand and that didn’t make sense. I’ve often been crushed under the weight of uncertainty. But, though it’s often only been by a sliver, I’ve held on. And, without fail, without any exception, God has given meaning, purpose, and perspective to everything that didn’t make sense…to every struggle that logically justified jumping out of the wagon.
How grateful I am that up to this point I have hung in there. My FAITH and diligence has been rewarded. It ALWAYS is. I know, that if you are struggling with things you don’t understand. You’re not alone. And, I know that in many ways it’s on purpose. God is teaching you about you. You will learn, as you press forward in faith, the extent of your own strength. You will come to know as Abraham did, that you fear God and will do what He says…no matter what.