In Christianity we often hear about the Abrahamic sacrifice and how important it is. For context, this is found in Genesis 22 and was when Abraham was commanded to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Abraham did not refuse and was about to fulfill the commandment however was stopped by an angel and commended for his righteousness. This is without a doubt an excellent example of faith and dedication to God. However, this example alone is not Abraham’s only sacrifice and likely wasn’t even very difficult for him. At that point Abraham had focused his entire life on the worship of God. This is why God knew that Abraham could even comprehend a monumental request of that nature. We however treat such an enormous request as a once and done type of event and think that if we pass a huge test like that then we are essentially spiritually set for the rest of our lives as we have proven our loyalty to God. This is however not how the gospel of Jesus Christ works in the slightest.
According to Jewish tradition, when Abraham was a child, his father owned a shop selling idols where Abraham occasionally worked at. Abraham knew the idols were not the true God however his entire society was centered around the worship of those idols. As a result, the shop was a profitable business for Abraham’s father. One day his father needed to leave and left Abraham to run the shop. The story describes how Abraham ridiculed a man for wanting a newly made statue when the man was much older than the statue itself. The man was ashamed by his behavior and left the shop without the idol.
The story continues by describing a woman who came in to offer a sacrifice to the idols. Abraham took a large stick and smashed all the idols to pieces except the largest. He then put the stick in the largest idol’s hand. When his father returned, he was quite upset and asked what had happened. Abraham mentioned that all the idols wanted the offering and so fought over it with the largest idol eventually winning the battle. His father mentioned that was not possible because the idols are statues and can’t move. At that point Abraham’s father realized he had been tricked and was very upset because his livelihood was in jeopardy. Even at that young age however, Abraham knew that sacrificing the pleasures of the world was better than gaining the honors of men.
Sacrificed on the Altar
The Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price describes how Abraham was raised in an idolatrous society that had fully turned over to the worship of false gods. These false gods gave them nothing in return, yet the people continued to worship them. Abraham would not bow to these gods and was thus a problem to his father and the leaders. As a result of this he was to be sacrificed to the gods to appease them for his insolence towards them. Abraham was arrested and taken to the priests where he was bound to the alter in preparation for the sacrifice. The records we have don’t describe this in any detail. However, I would imagine Abraham was not worried at this point because he was being punished for following the will of God and for not worshipping dumb idols. Abraham knew that sacrificing his life if needed was better than living a life of delusion worshipping idols of wood and stone.
Separation from Sarah
While travelling in the desert there was a famine which caused Abraham and his household to seek refuge in Egypt. According to Abraham 2, upon approaching Egypt, Jehovah appeared to Abraham and warned him that Pharaoh would find Sarah, his wife, attractive so he was to say she was his sister instead. Abraham obeyed and told Sarah. After approaching Egypt, the Egyptians did in fact notice Sarah and took her to be Pharaoh’s wife. We are not told how long Sarah and Abraham were separated. However, it very likely was not a short period of time and Abraham had no indication of how long it actually would be or what would happen to Sarah while she was away.
During that time Abraham was rewarded quite well for Sarah’s sake. However, the record mentions that the household of Pharaoh was cursed with “great plagues”. Once Pharaoh realized the source of the curses and that they were from God on behalf of Sarah, he was upset with Abraham and commanded him to leave. Abraham knew that the separation from Sarah, his wife, was by God’s design. However, there is no indication that Abraham knew she would ever return or how long it would take before she would. Abraham though knew that if God asked him to make a sacrifice, in the loss of the companionship of his wife, then it was ultimately for his gain. Abraham knew that God asks nothing of us unless it is aimed at assisting us to become more like him.
Lot was the nephew of Abraham and had accompanied him in all his travels since leaving the land of Ur. Very likely Abraham felt a sense of duty since the records indicate Lot’s father, Haran, was killed after professing belief in the god that Abraham worshipped. Genesis 13 describes that after leaving Egypt the flocks of both Abraham and Lot had become so great that it was getting difficult for them to coexist. Abraham didn’t want conflict between his household and that of Lot’s, so he allowed Lot to choose wherever he wanted to settle down and Abraham would choose a different location. Lot saw the better land which “was well watered everywhere … like as the garden of the LORD”. Abraham, obedient to his word, chose a less ideal location to give Lot and his flocks room. Abraham knew that sacrificing the better land to ensure peace between them was well worth the cost. He knew that God could sanctify whatever location he chose as long as he continued to be faithful.
Huge tests of our faith are certainly excellent opportunities to show to ourselves and God that we trust him. However, it is the smaller opportunities that mold us into the people that God wants us to be. Abraham was molded choice by choice until he became the mighty man of God we know today. Through our daily choices of obedience and sacrifice we can also be molded as God wants us to be.
Lehi wouldn’t have seen the pillar of fire, in 1 Nephi 1, if he hadn’t already learned to rely on God and pray “with all his heart”. Daniel wouldn’t have been delivered from the lions, in Daniel 6, if he hadn’t already learned to trust in God more than the king’s meat. Peter wouldn’t have been able to walk on water, in Matthew 14, if he didn’t drop his net and follow Christ first. Alma wouldn’t have been able to help lead hundreds of people to God, in Mosiah 18, if he didn’t decide to first defy his king and listen to Abinadi. Nephi wouldn’t have been able to build a ship and sail to a new land, in 1 Nephi 17, if he hadn’t already learned that God’s ways are better than man’s ways. The most important decision in our spiritual journey back to God is the next one we will make.