The Patriarchs: Abraham, Somebody, and Jacob

There are many stories about Abraham, and Jacob's ventures are well documented. But discussion about Isaac's life seems brief (by comparison).

Who was that middle guy? Abraham… hmmmm… then Jacob. Oh, yeah, it was Isaac, the promised child. As I’ve been reading through Genesis, it’s interesting that the phrase “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” is repeated, but Isaac’s role is minimal. The story of these three begins with a long story of Abraham’s journeys, faith, and failures. There are quite a few stories emphasizing Jacob’s ventures, treatment of his sons, and failures. But for Isaac, discussion of his life is brief (by comparison).

Isaac’s stories begin after the first story of Jacob (where Esau sells his birthright; side note: this wasn’t a con, the Bible blames Esau’s worldliness for this incident, but I digress). Following the Jacob/Esau meal deal, Isaac’s story serves more to recount and reflect the failures of Abraham: they encounter the same people groups, have the same difficulties, commit the same mistakes. It’s as if Isaac’s more a continuation of Abraham than his own man with his own life. Interesting.

What does this mean theologically? At first glance, it’s as if the phrase should be “God of Abraham, Abraham’s son, and Jacob.” But a further look shows that there is a reason Isaac’s used to reflect Abraham’s failures. Two things are revealed in Isaac’s stories. First, despite the short generational time (one generation), God’s people fail God. Mankind is not perfect; because of our sin nature mankind quickly and sinfully disregards God. For Isaac, no sooner did God assure him that he will be protected and prosperous than Isaac forsook that promise and sought to protect his own life (Gen 26:1-11). Isaac, like his father, was a sinner, a failure in many ways. But he was still God’s chosen one, thus leading us to the second thing we learn in Isaac’s stories.

God loved Abraham and Isaac. He made a promise to create a nation, and that through Abraham’s seed, individuals from every people group would be blessed. The second thing Isaac’s life shows us is that God is faithful despite our failures. As the Christian group Tourniquet once sang, “Men fail me, but the Son of God saves!” God was going to keep his promises, the promises he made to Abraham, the promises that God himself sealed. God was faithful. And interestingly, although Isaac tried to seek his own protection, God is the one who provided it! God is faithful, even when we are not. God will keep his word!

But what did God promise Abraham? Two things: a nation would come from him, and that people all over the world would be saved (i.e., blessed) through Abraham’s seed. This seed came through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The nation of Israel was born, just as God promised. Salvation was purchased for individuals all over the world from every people group through Christ Jesus, Abraham’s descendant. God keeps his promises.

While we look at the Patriarchs, and remember that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we must always remember that he is God. God is God. God is faithful. God is holy. God is righteous. God is graceful. God is our standard, not Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob. How faithful are we to God? How faithful to God’s Word have you been this week? How about today? What about in the last hour? Have you been faithful or have you failed? If you failed, repent and ask forgiveness. If faithful, pray and ask for the ability to work at maintaining that faithfulness. It’s easy to forget and forsake God, but God never promised a smooth ride in this world. Trust always the one who is always faithful — trust God today!

About John L. Rothra
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