It is believed he was born sometime between 2,000 – 1,500 BC. He was the apple of his mother’s eye, but had to compete for his father’s favour with his older half-brother. He grew up with significant tensions in his home, sibling rivalries exacerbated by competition between the mothers of two sons. Add to this that when a young teenager, his father felt led by God to sacrifice him on an altar and we have all that is needed for making one very insecure and perhaps rebellious son.
As God so often did, in the Old Testament, and perhaps even today, He gave people what they asked for. However, it took time! Abram needed a son and heir. Sarah longed to bear his child. They were visited by the angel of the Lord who promised them the desire of their hearts. However, they still had to wait – another 25 years must have seemed interminable considering their age when the promise was first given. Belief faltered. Sarah laughed at the idea and so Abraham gave in to her suggestion that they practise the custom of the day, since it seemed God had made no way for them to share a child, since she was beyond child-bearing age.
And so, her maid-servant Hagar bore Abraham’s child. There is no indication that Ishmael was ever adopted by Sarah as originally intended. Eventually he was banned from the home where he had enjoyed being the son of a wealthy patriarch, sent to make his home and to find his way among desert nomads. His mother wept.
Isaac was the son of promise. God clearly told Abraham that Isaac would be born of Sarah for the purpose of His eternal covenant continuing down his ancestral line (Genesis 17:19). As a baby Isaac was circumcised, the sign of that covenant relationship (Genesis 21:4). God ordained his name (Genesis 17:19), to signify the laughter and joy his miraculous birth would bring.
Isaac never seemed to have much control over major events in his life. He was nearly 30 when his father’s servant went to find him a wife. Thankfully Eliezer was a man of prayer (Genesis 24:12-14). Isaac had grown up a witness to his father’s faith in God. When did that faith become his own? Was it when the voice of God thundered from the heavens at the moment of his pending sacrifice? Was it when his mother died and he needed to be comforted? We know that Isaac built an altar at one point in his life, where he called on the name of the Lord (Genesis 26:25).
Rebekah willingly returned with Eliezer to become Isaac’s wife. After many barren years Isaac prayed for a child and she bore twins, Jacob and Esau renowned as totally different characters. As his father had done before him, Isaac feared the king of the Philistines so lied, saying Rebekah was his sister, in case they would kill him to get her.
Still God blessed him as a successful farmer (Genesis 26:12-13), and with long life. Even after he blessed his sons, thinking he was dying, Isaac lived another 43 years (Genesis 27:2, 35:28). In his old age Isaac became blind. Instigated by a suggestion from his Mother, Jacob was able to use this blindness to trick Isaac into giving him the blessing that rightly belonged to his older twin Esau. Many years later they reconciled and together they buried their father at the age of 180.
To all intense and purposes, Isaac was a very ordinary man. He survived a tumultuous childhood. All along the way he was led by others, his mother, his father, his wife and sons. Even Abimelech directed where he lived. He prospered from the land which he faithfully cultivated. Perhaps his one claim to fame was that God entrusted the covenantal promises to him that linked him to Abraham and Jacob, in the development of the nation of Israel.
The tale of three women – Sarah, Hagar, Rebekah! What characteristic did they all share? Was their contribution to family life a positive or negative one? What impact did each have on their husbands and sons? How would you determine who truly believed in God? Compare yourself to each of these women – what can you learn? Is there a woman whose life of faith has made a difference to your spiritual journey?
by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)