Summary: Discover the laughter of God in Isaac
This morning we return to study another Bible character. We find him recorded in Genesis 21 through 28. His name is Isaac. He is the son promised by God to Abraham.
Connie emailed me with enthusiasm, “I’m looking forward to Isaac’s story. Usually, Isaac is presented as the son of a famous father and the father of a famous son. … that Isaac was probably a below average guy, just the kind God is looking for to display His greatness.”
In Genesis 15, God told Abraham He would give Abraham a son and promised that Abraham’s offspring will be as numerous as the stars in heaven. About 10 years later, Sarah, Abraham’s wife, still did not conceive. So Sarah decided to help God out by setting up her husband to conceive a child with their housemaid, Hagar. As a result, Ishmael was born.
This act of impatience and self-reliance created heartaches for Sarah, Abraham, Hagar, and Ishmael. Impatience and self-reliance continue to create heartaches for people today. We know God wants to bless us, but we don’t want to wait on His timing. So we take things into our own hands, leaving in our path broken relationships, unfulfilled commitments and unnecessary burdens.
But God is gracious. He keeps His promise despite Abraham, Sarah and us. When Abraham turned 99 years old and Sarah was past the age of childbearing, God told them He would do the impossible, “Sarah will have a son next year.”
When Sarah heard the news, she laughed with disbelief and cynicism. But sure enough, Sarah gave birth to Isaac exactly one year from the date God said she would. The name Isaac is a play on the Hebrew word, “laughter.” More than the laughter of disbelief, Isaac became the demonstration of God’s laughter: The hearty laughter of victory.
Isaac really was an average guy. No victory in battle. Not even a battle; rather he was a pushover. No great steps of faith. Even the wealth he had was inherited upon the death of his father, Abraham. Some people make things happen; others have things happen to them. Isaac was the latter.
So why is Isaac known as one of the three great patriarchs of God’s chosen people? Why is his name associated with the God of the Jewish people? Why does God commit almost 1/6 of the book of Genesis to record the life of Isaac?
Isaac was an easily frightened person.
Some might suggest that his fear came from the traumatic childhood experience of almost being slain by his own father as a sacrifice to God. I disagree. I believe what Isaac learned from that episode in Genesis 22 is obedience to God and the provision of God. He did not leave with the idea that God was some kind of monster who delighted in human sacrifice. He left with the knowledge that what God demands, He supplied.
Nevertheless, Isaac is a fearful person. We read in Genesis 26 Isaac’s dealing with Abimelech, the king of the Philistines. Like his father, Isaac, lied to Abimelech, saying that Rebekah was his sister rather than his wife. When Abimelech found out that Rebekah was Isaac’s wife, he was furious. He asked Isaac, “Why did you lie to me?”
Isaac replied, “Because I thought I might lose my life on account of her.”
How would you like to be Isaac’s wife?
Isaac wasn’t just afraid of the Abimelech. He didn’t like confrontations at all. He was easily bullied. Time and again, the Philistines moved him and his family out of the land they had settled.
Isaac was not a fighting man like his Dad. Isaac was a farmer blessed by God. Everything he touched reaped 100 fold. And the Philistines became jealous. Thinking the land was blessed instead of the person, the Philistines took over Isaac’s farm each time he resettled and replanted.
Isaac was not one of the three great patriarchs because of his courage. He was not associated with the God of the Jewish people because of his courage. His life was recorded in Genesis not because of his courage.
Isaac was also a fairly feeble person.
In his late 30s, Isaac’s Mom died and his Dad was very old. Isaac became depressed and troubled. His Mom was not longer there to defend him, and his Dad was about to die. In order to comfort Isaac, his Dad sent a servant to get a wife for him. Rebekah was her name, and she was a comfort to Isaac.
We see Isaac growing even feebler as he aged. He lost his eyesight. His own wife and younger son, Jacob, plotted and succeeded in deceiving him. Isaac intended to bless Esau, the older son, but he ended up passing the blessing onto Jacob instead.
Finally, Isaac was a rather finite person.