Though there was some discussion in the group on that point, it seemed clear to me that God could know exactly what we would choose and yet still allow us free will. After all, God knows everything. (Kansas Dad helped me think about it some more recently and he also believes God does know. Because God is atemporal, for Him everything is at the same time. There's no past, present or future. Though I know it's not quite right, I've been thinking of it as if everything is happening at the same time.)
The group's conversation then moved on to the real topic (our weekly readings) and the story of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac in Genesis 22. I wondered to myself (and have been wondering all week), If God knows the choice Abraham is going to make, why does he ask Abraham to make the choice?
Is it because he wants Abraham himself to know how far he's willing to go? None of us felt like we could sacrifice one of our own children. Did Abraham find the strength to obey God from God? Does Abraham then learn that anything is possible because he, too, cannot fathom how he will sacrifice his own son until he's standing there, seconds away from doing so?
Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. (Genesis 22:10)
Kansas Dad assures me Isaac was willing, allowing himself to be bound as he was probably old enough to fight his father or run away. Does God want Isaac to know his father would sacrifice him in submission and obedience to God? Does he learn to trust God completely, with his very life? Or does he learn that he already trusts God completely? Does he learn that his father serves God first and family second, even the beloved and long-awaited son?
Kansas Dad added another thought: God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son for our edification, so that these thousands of years later we could read about it and contemplate the trust and obedience of this astounding man. God asked Abraham to sacrifice everything so that we could see what obedience looks like. Perhaps it was also to show us that if we really trust God with everything, he will protect it, providing what we need (the sacrificial lamb).
By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, of whom he had been told, ‘It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named after you.’ He considered the fact that God is able even to raise someone from the dead—and figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. (Hebrews 17-19)
God asked much of Abraham. What am I to learn by reading this? What should change in my life today after contemplating these stories? How can I be obedient and trusting while folding four loads of laundry tomorrow? In what frame of mind should I prepare our fish tacos?
My daily life with God is very much a work in progress, and I think I'll have to contemplate these questions a little bit more. Perhaps as I fold that laundry.