Summary: Isaac and Jacob / Israel – God calls a people for Himself
Isaac and Israel
I remember when I was a new Christian and I read Genesis and the rest of the Old Testament for the first time. It was pretty interesting to read about these people from so long ago - Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and then later on: Moses, David, Solomon and so on. And as I read, I could see that they were great heroes of the faith. And in the New Testament they are often mentioned as great heroes of the faith. But as I read I wasn’t just interested, but I was confused. Why? Because here were these great heroes, the epitome of God’s people, doing terrible things. I was used to heroes being perfect. Well, maybe not perfect, but pretty good. But as I read Genesis I read about heroes such as Abraham, who lied about his wife – saying she was his sister so he wouldn’t get killed over her. He was more interested in preserving his own life than protecting his wife. I read about Isaac, who showed favouritism and preferred one son over the other. I read about Jacob, who lied and deceived - who deceived his brother out of his birthright, who tricked his father, and then married two women, and had children by them and two extra women, and who treated one of his wives like dirt. This same Jacob had his name changed to Israel, which became the name of the Israelite nation who were descended from him. And Jacob’s favourite wife, Rachel, was an idolator. What a bunch of people! Not very perfect! Sure, they had their good points, but they also seemed to be quite sinful to me. Quite human, you could say. And this struck me and confused me, because I thought heroes were supposed to be better than that.
And maybe that has struck you too as you have been reading through Genesis. But you know what it also tells us? It tells us that God works with ordinary human beings. Real people, not idolised people that you find in fairy tales and action movies, but real people like us. People who makes mistakes and sin.
We’ve already seen God’s reaction to sin. How in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve lost paradise, lost immortality, because they disobeyed God. We’ve seen their descendents in the early chapters of Genesis, who spiralled out of control into sin, and as a result they incurred the judgement of God, and all except Noah and his family were destroyed in the flood. So we know the holiness of God. We know He is righteous. We know His standards are high, but now with these heroes of the faith, these patriarchs – fathers of the Jewish nation, we see God working through fallen, fallible, sinful people, and in that we see God’s grace. Remember last time we looked at the promises to Abraham in Genesis 12, and how that looks forward to Christ, the only way we as sinners can be reconciled to God. And it is through looking forward to Christ, in belieiving God’s promise about His descendents, that it says about Abraham in Genesis 15.6, And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. And so we see in the patriarchs that follow - Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, that though they were sinners, they believed God, and as Hebrew 11:9 says, they became heirs with Abraham of the same promise.
So let’s have a look at these people. And as we do so, we are going to note a couple of things. Firstly – they were sinners like us. But they trusted God, and therefore will share in the promises made to Abraham. And as with Abraham, we will look at some of the New Testament fulfilment of some of the events we cover today. And as in previous sermons, we won’t talk about everything in these chapters, but just cover some of the highlights.
So last time we finished with Abraham and the birth of his son Isaac in chapter 21. Remember Isaac was the son of promise. God had promised numerous descendents through Abraham. But not just from Abraham, but from Abraham and his wife Sarah. And Isaac becomes the son of promise, through whom the promises given to Abraham of descendents, of nations, and of the ultimate descendent – Jesus Christ - it is through Isaac that this promise is to be fulfilled.
And then we see in chapter 22, that God asks Abraham to sacrifice Isaac - to sacrifice the very one that the promise was to come through. And Abraham was willing to do that. No doubt it was difficlt for him, no doubt the most difficult thing in his life, to offer up his only son. But Abraham believed. He believed God. And as you know, just before Abraham is about to sacrifice Isaac, God stops him from going through with the sacrifice. But the point is, Abraham was willing to put God first even when it came to the most precious thing that Abraham had. That’s what real faith is. When we are willing to give all in obedience to God.