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Isaac: Good Start, Poor Finish

"Isaac Blessing Jacob" by Govert Flink
"Isaac Blessing Jacob" by Govert Flink (Wikipedia)

In my devotional reading this morning, I was going over the stories of Isaac’s life, from Genesis 24-26.  This period covers what happened to this patriarch between the death of Sarah and the marriages of Esau.

Now, going into my devotional reading, I was less than expectant.  I have read Genesis dozens and dozens of times, and it was the first book I preached through as a pastor.  In every case, Isaac has been the lull in the action, the dip in the road, the “why is this here?” for me.  And I say that self-critically.  But why is Isaac here?

Within Jewish tradition, Isaac has always been a bit of a low point.  He was there when Abraham’s knife was restrained, and he fathered Jacob and Esau.  But otherwise, he’s practically a no-show.  Waltke* notes that at the mid-point of his life (Genesis 27:1-2), he is blind, ignorant of the Lord’s will (to bless Jacob), and focused on his own pleasure (he states that he “loves” delicious food, using a Hebrew word commonly reserved for the love between people).  Some commentators have proposed that he was blind as a result of weight-related diabetes.  In any case, the last half of his life is not remarkable.  Moses instead places his focus on Jacob, and from the time of his stolen blessing on, we hear nothing of Isaac until he dies (Gen 35:27-29).

Today, the three things that jumped out at me–things I had generally passed by without a thought before–all involved Isaac’s early relationship to the Lord:

  1. In Genesis 24:63, Isaac spends the early evening in silent meditation. This is understood in the Targums as a time of prayer.
  2. In Genesis 25:21, Isaac devotes time to prayer for his wife, who is barren.  “And the Lord granted his prayer,” with twins!
  3. In Genesis 26:2-5 and Genesis 26:24-25, Isaac is spoken to directly by the Lord, and he responds with worship.

What we see here, I think, is that Isaac had instilled some patterns of worship within his life.  He had received the blessing of God through direct revelation.  And at some point, he turned decidedly from the worship of God to spiritual blindness and a love for food.

So, my earlier question: Why is Isaac here?  I think that besides the obvious, his biography has been carefully crafted by Moses as a warning to all who find themselves treading the path away from the worship of God and towards the worship of pleasure.  When our days are spent searching out new ways to satisfy our flesh, and our hunger is for “tasty game” or “delicious food,” rather than for the living Word of God, we are turning the way of Isaac.  When our delight in a dinner exceeds our delight in persecution for His name’s sake, we are turning the way of Isaac.  When we can’t hear the voice of God over the rumbling of our bellies, we are turning the way of Isaac.  Let us turn back to the living God and pray for eyes re-opened to His will.

Grace & Peace,
Dan J.

* Bruce K. Waltke and Cathi J. Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary
(Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2001), 376-377.

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5 Comments

  1. Dan,
    Incredibly, this is what I needed to hear today. In my current state of being jobless, I just want to eat. As if I don’t eat enough when I AM employed… I certainly struggle with finding this balance honorably.

    David

  2. Dan, I needed to read that today. I’m glad your mom and dad posted the website address on facebook! I’ll try to turn my “Isaac-ness” around.
    Boy am I glad to see you writing online! YAY
    Love you,
    Aunt Becky

  3. Oh My Gosh David – we both said the same thing and I hadn’t read your comment yet. KEWL
    love
    from Aunt Becky

  4. Dan

    Hi Becky! Thanks for dropping by–feel free to subscribe by e-mail or RSS (links for both on the right) to keep getting the updates. Hope you and Jim are well.

  5. Paul

    Thank you for your post.

    I think Isaac’s big fault was turning from the prophecy that the older would serve the younger. That’s why, when he realized Jacob actually stole the blessing, his heart turned violently and he repented and accepted the Lord’s line of blessing through the younger. Thus the “Yes, he will be blessed”. It’s a great image of true repentance (as opposed to Esau’s worldly sorrow), and an image of God’s incredible grace shown to the least likely recipient – Jacob, not Esau. The food was a custom of their time.

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