Lessons from the Fathers’ Hearts: Isaac

Isaac was almost the Bible’s first human sacrifice. But God honored his father’s faith and all of Israel was spared.

A devotional look at eleven Biblical dads and what we can learn from them.

The next in the line of the three great fathers of the Hebrew faith is Isaac… son of Abraham and Sarah.  Named Isaac, which means “laughter,” because the two were so old when they conceived.

Now the Word says in Genesis 22 that God chose to test Abraham.  God told him to take his son Isaac and sacrifice him as a burnt offering.  Are you kidding me?  What kind of God would ask a man to do that?  As we learned, Abraham was a trusting man. He believed that God knew what He was doing. And God did…

I’ve often been curious about this story.

They arrived at the place to which God had directed him. Abraham built an altar. He laid out the wood. Then he tied up Isaac and laid him on the wood. Abraham reached out and took the knife to kill his son. (Genesis 22:9-10, The Message).

Of course, an angel stops him and God provides a ram, stuck in the thicket, for the sacrifice.  Abraham trusted. God delivered. Blow the shofar! This story is where the ram’s horn originates and I’m guessing Isaac might have given it a blast or two with a huge smile on his face since his life was spared.  And in his place, a sacrifice. A ram. A lamb? Jesus again? Yes, another example of our Messiah in the Old Testament!

While some of my curiosity has centered around Abraham, I think because I first heard this story when I was a boy, my focus has mostly been about Isaac.  Think about Isaac.  Isaac is a man who yields.  There is no recorded fight or struggle with Abraham. Isn’t that amazing? Whether he was a young boy or a 30-something year old man at the time of this incident —  scholars disagree — Isaac yielded to his father’s desire… trusting Abraham the same way that Abraham trusted God.

Yielding and trusting are character traits that I think we all want, yes? I’ve heard it said that one can never trust too much.  Yes, some people get away with scamming people who trust too much, but, is it wrong to be someone who trusts?

So, Isaac trusted Abraham because Abraham trusted God.  That makes sense doesn’t it? Isaac is a man who is a lot like his father.  Dads, don’t you see a lot of you in your sons?  Moms, don’t you see a mirror when you look at your children? What is the saying, “the apple never falls far from the tree.”  Isn’t that true?  Your children have your DNA in them, right? I believe they also have your spiritual DNA as well. If you are one who yields in your faith and trusts God, you can have confidence that your son or daughter, if not today, someday, will be one who yields in his or her faith and trusts in God.

A unique note about this text.  There is something special about the first references in the Bible… the place where a certain doctrine or word is initially mentioned.  This interchange between God and Abraham, and Abraham and Isaac, is the first time the word “love” is mentioned in the Bible.  Genesis 22:2: God said, ‘take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac…”  I believe it is because Abraham loves Isaac so much that God spares the youngster’s life.  I believe this is also a place where God knows what will happen many, many centuries later. Where He will offer up His son, Jesus. And yet, there will be no substitute.  God has such love for us all… wow!

A couple of other quick stories about Isaac.  Like his parents, Isaac and his wife Rebekah could not conceive.  Hmmm, isn’t that interesting? The text says:

Isaac prayed hard to God  for his wife because she was barren. God answered his prayer and Rebekah became pregnant. (Genesis 25:21, The Message).

So, he prayed hard.  God answered the prayer.  Rebekah had children because Isaac was a man of prayer.  That’s a lesson we can learn.  God listens when we pray. We’ll get to the two children of that pregnancy in the next post.

Isaac also was man who was a restorer.  Look at a story in Genesis 26.  After Abraham’s death, the Philistines went through the land and in an act of agression filled in the water wells that Abraham had dug.  Water was such a precious commodity – especially during a time of famine. And, digging and owning a well was the same as owning the land.  Abraham dug a lot of wells because he owned a lot of land.  Bob Deffinbaugh writes that God was leading Isaac around as he restored and re-dug the wells of his father.  And something cool happens.  Isaac is digging wells and moving around the land with his large quantities of cattle.  He finally goes to Beersheba, the place he and his father Abraham went after the “sacrifice” incident.  And it is here where, for the first time,  God came and spoke directly to Isaac.  He reiterated the promises of the Covenant He spoke often to Abraham.

I am the God of Abraham your father; don’t fear a thing because I’m with you.  I’ll bless you and make your children flourish because of Abraham my servant. (Genesis 26:24, The Message).

Familiar words? Yes.  But the first time Isaac hears them from God himself. And so Isaac, like his father, built an altar and prayed to God. As the One who restores.

So, the lessons from Isaac: he was a person who trusted, a person who prayed and one who restored what was right. Great lessons! And I’m guessing he laughed a lot too.

(c) 2012. Rich Ronald.

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