Summary: We examine a slice of Isaac’s life and find an illustration of the "not of works" principle for success in living the Christian life.
A Study by Charles W. Holt
Good Givers and Reluctant Receivers
Genesis 25:5 and 24:36
Abraham is truly one of the greatest men of the entire Bible. He is not great in an all-encompassing sense. No one has ever attained to that status, except our Lord Jesus Christ. He is great because he faithfully filled his role and functioned within the calling God had determined for him. This same can be said for any of the many other "greats" we might want to name including such men as Daniel, Elijah, Moses, Joseph, and more. We have looked at some of the things that made him great. He was an original in more than one way. For example, he was the first man in Scripture to forsake everything, to enter into Canaan, to be designated a Hebrew (see Gen. 14:13, i.e., one from beyond). He was the first to have an intimate fellowship with God as one man to another man. As far as we know, he was the first to beget an heir at he age of 100 years, who rejected his natural son (Ishmael) in favor of the miraculous gift (Isaac) God gave him. He is the only man we know who was asked to sacrifice this gift from heaven at the request of Him who had given him. Abraham was a father in the fullest natural sense, but he is a father in the deepest and most spiritual sense--with tremendous significance for all that believe today. Scripture says:
And he (Abraham) received the sign of circumcision, a seal of he righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, through they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them (the Gentiles) also, and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision (the Jews) but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised (Rm. 4:11:12 NKJV).
Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (as it is written, "I have made you a father of many nations") in the presence of Him whom he believed--God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did (Rm. 4:16,17 NKJV).
Turning now to chapter 24, we begin a close look at this "son of promise" and "heir" of all Abraham’s possessions. One of the most notable things about Isaac is how much unlike his father he is. That’s merely an observation without any particular importance but serves to illustrate what we all know about ourselves. In many ways we are like our parents but in most ways we are like the person we have chosen to be.
In many respects we can say that Isaac lived a life that was remarkably ordinary. Except for the time and culture differences it was a life very much like the one most of us live. He was a man seemingly without distinctive character. In this way he is just the opposite of Abraham. Abraham did many things that no one else had done. Isaac did nothing that another had not already done.
Think about this:
1. Ishmael mocked Isaac. As far as we know, Isaac said or did nothing about it.
2. He followed his father to Moriah and allowed himself to be laid on the altar. As far as we know, he didn’t utter a word--no questions; asked for no explanations.
3. He had nothing to say about his own marriage. He knew nothing about the woman, was not consulted by his father about her choice.
4. At age 60, Isaac had two sons. Abraham had two sons and one, the oldest, was sent away. Isaac did not do that.
5. Isaac was not asked to lay his son on the altar.
6. Everything was difficult for Abraham. Isaac’s life path was basically predictable, without deviation or too much disruption.
7. In his old, and dying, age he was pretty set on how he would bless his sons. He fully intended to bless Esau. But God wouldn’t allow it. Just like his father Abraham, he had to bless the younger son.
8. He didn’t have a choice of a burial plot. His father provided his tomb.
Abraham gave Isaac all he had. "And Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old; and to him he has given all that he has" (Gen. 24:36 NKJV). "And Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac" (Gen. 25:5 NKJV). Everything was bestowed upon him. Abraham got his wealth through miles of trials and tests. Isaac inherited, in a single outright gift. Of all that he received, nothing was his own work. He didn’t even have to travel to reach Canaan as Abraham did; he was born there. Let’s tie two concepts together and make an important observation.