Month 3:4, Week 1:3 (Shleshi/Bikkurim), Year 5935:060 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Sunday 5 June 2011
The Patriarch Isaac
A Character Study
The Patriarch Isaac or Yitshak in Hebrew, is remembered by believers for a number of reasons. First, he finds himself in the 'Illustrious Three' - with Abraham his father and Jacob his son - to whom Yahweh personally revealed Himself. One by one their names were added to demonstrate Yahweh's favour on these three men: "The Elohim (God) of Abraham" (Gen.31:53, NKJV), then "[the] Elohim (God) of...Abraham and Elohim (God) of...Isaac" (Gen.32:9, NKJV) and finally "the Elohim (God) of Abraham, the Elohim (God) of Isaac, and the Elohim (God) of Jacob" (Ex.3:6,15,16; 4:5; etc. NKJV). This is the triple witness, a trinity of testimony.
"Moreover Elohim (God) said to Moses, 'Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: 'Yahweh-Elohim of your fathers, the Elohim (God) of Abraham, the Elohim (God) of Isaac, and the Elohim (God) of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My Name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations''" (Ex.3:15, NKJV).
And yet Isaac was very different to his pioneer father and colourful son. He was pampered as an only son and only had two of his own - Abraham had an unknown number, but certainly many, Jacob twelve. He was content with only one wife and had a peaceful but colourless marriage - Abraham had five or more and Jacob four, and both had turbulent but colourful marriages. He was passive in his temperament - Abraham and Jacob adventurous and outgoing. He was pacific in nature - Abraham active and Jacob dynamic. He was placid to the point of almost indifference - Abraham thrusting and Jacob daring. Like his father and his son, he was prosperous, though, and seemed to settle down to a premature senility. Nearly blind and pleasure-bent on roast venison, he almost commited the grave error of bestowing the covenant blessing on the wrong son, the profane Esau, a man who had not a spark of spirituality in him.
The great miracle of Isaac was not what he did but what Yahweh did for Abraham in bringing him forth in his father's and mother's great age. His childhood is one of surviving a bitter rival in Ishmael and his mother, of threats to the promised seed. Great care is taken by his father in selecting a wife by divine providence - we remember him partly in the way that Rebekah was selected and her willing compliance. Their relationship is one of love developing as a result of his considerateness and courtesy (Gen.24). The promised seed is not quick in the coming, the couple having to wait 20 years to illustrate once again the necessity of patience and emunah (faith) in those who claim to be the spiritual offspring of Abraham, proving the addage that "all things come to he who waits". Those who are precipitous and in a hurry demonstrate that they are not of this divine spiritual seed until, if they choose, they have learned patience.
Sharing his father's weakness, Isaac lies to Abimelech of Gerar to save the life of his wife and his own. His spiritual laxity in the matter of the firstborn blessing leads his wife into presumptuous and sinful action which both weakens their own relationship as well as forcing their son into exile to wrestle with, and finally overcome, his own carnal tendencies as a deceiver through the trickery of his father-in-law.
What, then, is due to Isaac? He did at least pass on the torch of witness, in spite of his weakness, to Jacob, the son that Yahweh had elected to inherit the birthright covenant. Though his comparative inactivity, colourlessness, passivity and carelessness might lead one to question his place in the 'set-apart three', he is important and provides a link, a bridge of continuity, demonstrating that Yahweh uses whom He will and that we are not to judge His choices. Such bridges are a necessary part of Yahweh's witness and Yahweh's family life, and should not be looked down upon or scorned. Yahweh has exalted this man, for all his faults, for reasons which may yet be invisible to us, so we must be careful in our judgment both of him and of the diverse souls that make up the Messianic Community in these end times. In the end it is our emunah - our trusting - that sees us through, the emunah or trusting of these three great patriarchs.