A name carries great authority. It sets you apart. It triggers memories. The sound of it calls you to attention anywhere.
Many Bible names accomplished even more. They were often descriptions of important facts about one’s past and hopes for the future. The choice of the name Isaac, “he laughs”, for Abraham and Sarah’s son must have created a variety of feelings in them each time it was spoken. At times it must have recalled their shocked laughter at God’s announcement that they would be parents in their old age. At other times, it must have brought back the joyful feelings of receiving their long-awaited answer to prayer for a child. Most important, it was a testimony to God’s power in making his promise a reality.
In a family of forceful initiators, Isaac was the quiet, “mind-my-own-business” type unless he was specifically called on to take action. He was the protected only child from the time Sarah got rid of Ishmael until Abraham arranged his marriage to Rebekah.
In his own family, Isaac had the patriarchal position, but Rebekah had the power. Rather than stand his ground, Isaac found it easier to compromise or lie to avoid confrontations.
In spite of these shortcomings, Isaac was part of God’s plan. The model his father gave him included a great gift of faith in the one true God. God’s promise to create a great nation through which he would bless the world was passed on by Isaac to his twin sons.
It is usually not hard to identify with Isaac in his weaknesses. But consider for a moment that God works through people in spite of their shortcomings and, often, through them. As you pray, put into words your desire to be available to God. You will discover that his willingness to use you is even greater than your desire to be used.
Strengths and accomplishments:
- He was the miracle child born to Sarah and Abraham when she was 90 years old and he was 100
- He was the first descendant in fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham
- He seems to have been a caring and consistent husband, at least until his sons were born
- He demonstrated great patience
Weaknesses and mistakes:
- Under pressure he tended to lie
- In conflict he sought to avoid confrontation
- He played favourites between his sons and alienated his wife
Lessons from his life:
- Patience often brings rewards
- Both God’s plans and his promises are larger than people
- God keeps his promises! He remains faithful though we are often faithless
- Playing favourites is sure to bring family conflict
- Where: The area called the Negev, in the southern part of Palestine, between Kadesh and Shur (Genesis 20:1)
- Occupation: Wealthy livestock owner
- Relatives: Parents: Abraham and Sarah. Half brother: Ishmael. Wife: Rebekah. Sons: Jacob and Esau
Key verse: “Then God said, ‘Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him’ “ (Genesis 17:19).
Isaac’s story is told in Genesis 17:15-35:29. He is also mentioned in Romans 9:7, 8; Hebrews 11:17-20; James 2:21-24.