Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” (Gen 22:1-2)
Here talks about the greatest test that God had given to Abraham — a test that would measure the faith which had been steadily growing up to this point in Abraham’s life, faith that would later define him as the “father of faith”. This chapter has been the focus of countless sermons and articles. I’m sure Abraham is a well-known patriarch whom we have all heard and read about. It is from this chapter that he is frequently brought to the foreground as one of the greatest examples of complete obedience to God.
But what of his son, Isaac?
In fact, the interactions that Isaac had with Abraham can actually teach us a few important lessons with our relationship with our parents as children. We find that Isaac accompanied his father, helping out by carrying the wood that was needed for the offering. Whilst each person had their share of things to carry, the father and son went together up the mountain (v6).
1. BE OBSERVANT TO THE NEEDS OF OUR PARENTS
When we come to (v7) we find that Isaac was a very observant child. Whilst he was walking with his father, he noticed that his father lacked the lamb necessary to make a burnt offering to God. Today, many of us still live together with our parents. This is especially true for those who are younger, most of us (if not all) will spend the first twenty odd years of our life living with our parents.
Whilst we are walking this path with them, do we ever think about their needs?
Whenever we are asked such a question, we often talk about the various things that we can do for them — make them cups of tea, help them out with the house chores, give them money, etc. Whilst many of these suggestions are able to help our parents physically or materialistically, however have we ever considered what would be beneficial to their faith and their spirituality? Have we ever thought of ways to help improve their relationship with God or help them change their character for the better?
I’m not saying that as children we can become counsellors or spiritual coaches to our parents, nor does it mean that we have the right to disobey our parents because they are not “perfect” Christians. In fact, there are many ways that we can help support our parents with their spirituality.
From the example of Isaac, he was able to quickly identify what his father needed. Similarly if we see that our parents don’t spend enough time in prayer, we can encourage them by wanting to pray with them. If we see that they lack a lot of Bible knowledge, then we can encourage them by wanting to have Bible reading or Bible study together. If we know that they have a nasty and short temper, we should do our best to do things that would not cause them to become angry unnecessarily. But for us to be able to identify their needs we must FIRST be observant.
Sometimes we fail to see what our parents really need. Why? Perhaps we are too focused on the things that we want to do or on the things that are happening with us right now. Of course as we grow older, become more mature and more independent, it is only natural we want to focus on our own things. Isaac too must have had his own interests and plans as a youth, but he never forgot his father and continued to help him.
2. LEARN ABOUT THE FAITH
When Isaac asked his father about the missing lamb for the offering, we can see from Abraham’s response in (v8) that Isaac must have learnt about his father’s faith as he grew up. If Isaac knew nothing about what his father did, when he offered and about the God that he believed in, then he would not have realised that a lamb was needed to make a burnt offering. So whilst he was growing up, he must have been quite inquisitive and asked many questions regarding the faith and his father’s God.
Likewise, for many of us we have been blessed being born into a family that is within the true church. Whilst we are still young and as we grow up, we should be inquisitive about the faith just like Isaac. We might be surprised at the testimonies that our parents have to share about how God has guided, protected and comforted them.
They may even have testimonies to share about when you were young that even you may not even know about! It is from such testimonies that must have educated and strengthened Isaac’s own faith and understanding of that faith. If we have questions about our faith, we shouldn’t be afraid to ask our parents, teachers or our extended family in church. It is important that we ask questions so that we are able to come to a better understanding of what and who we actually believe in.
The more we ask, the more understanding we will have of the faith. The more understanding we have of the faith allows us to better act out that faith. It is this thirst to learn about the faith that can help encourage our parents to think more about their own faith and realise how much they actually understand right now.
For Abraham, his understanding of God and his own faith had taught him that “God will provide for Himself” (v8) and this not only taught Isaac an important lesson, but also gave Abraham himself a reminder just before he carried out God’s instruction to him. So as our parents draw from their own experiences and understandings of God to answer our questions, it will strengthen both our faith and the faith of our parents.
3. OBEDIENCE WITH FAITH
When they finally reached the place where God had shown to them, Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood (v9). In (v10) we see that Abraham stretches out his hand with the knife to slay his only son.
Now if we were in Isaac’s place, what would be our response to these turn of events?
I’m sure many of us would be struggling with all our might to free ourselves from this seemingly unacceptable situation. But we can see here that the Bible does not record any sort of struggle from Isaac. In fact, we do NOT find that he was resentful towards his father for choosing God over him. Instead, we will find that his reaction to the situation seems to be quite SUBMISSIVE to his father’s actions. And why is that?
“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense” (Heb 11:17-19).
The book of Hebrews actually reveals the degree of faith that Abraham had when he was about to sacrifice his only begotten son. This understanding that he had of his God led to the unwavering belief — that God would fulfil His promise to Abraham through his son whom God had personally named (Gen 17:19). As a result, we can see that Abraham was able to offer his son wholeheartedly to God.
When Isaac was finally bound and placed on the wood, Abraham must have spoken and shared this same understanding and unwavering belief in his God to him. He knew deep in his heart, throughout all his life that God ALWAYS fulfilled His promises. It is these promises that were the foundation of Abraham’s faith, and these same promises must have also been laid as the foundations of Isaac’s faith.
To Isaac, who was about to be sacrificed, came to realise and understand that this was the God whom his father had placed his complete and full faith in. He must have seen and was even touched by how important God was to his father. So instead of causing him to become resentful towards his father, it actually led Isaac into being obedient to his father. Isaac was willing to be submissive to his father because he placed his own personal faith in the same God that his father so strongly believed in. It was from this pinnacle moment in his father’s faith that led to the growth and strengthening of Isaac’s own personal faith in God.
Today, we may not encounter such an extreme situation as Isaac and Abraham. But there will be times when we will inevitably encounter unreasonable situations with our parents. Like Isaac, we may find that what we want and what our parents want may differ from time to time. What they want us to do may seem so unreasonable, so unfair or at times even hypocritical.
It is because of these differences that cause us to be rebellious or disobedient towards our parents. But when we look at the situation that Isaac had to endure, even though he had every reason to disobey his father’s instruction — he was STILL obedient. Why? Because he was obedient with faith — meaning that he was willing to be obedient because he had faith in God to fulfil His promises to him.
Likewise, when we encounter seemly unreasonable, unfair or even hypocritical situations — what our parents instruct us to do may still be ACCORDING to the words of God. If we truly place our faith in God and believe that He will indeed fulfil His promises to us, then we will naturally be more submissive and obedient. If our parents tell us to pray even though we want to do our own things, or instruct us to look after our younger siblings when they go off to do their own things, we should be obedient with faith.
Regardless of what others may do, complete obedience largely comes down to an individual’s choice. Whether someone else is able to be fully obedient to God or not, should not prevent us from focusing on what we ourselves need to do to be obedient in the sight of God.
So what was the result of Isaac’s actions?
From (v11-12) we find that God actually spared Isaac’s life and he did not have to suffer the pain and death from the hand of his own father. Similarly God also spared his father Abraham from having to experience slaying his own son with his own hand. Instead, God actually provided a replacement for Isaac to offer in the form of a ram that was caught in a thicket by its horn (v13). Then in (v15-18) God actually blesses Abraham and his seed (which also includes Isaac).
We know that ultimately it was Abraham’s obedience to God that resulted in him receiving this blessing. But when we look at it from the perspective of Isaac, the son of promise — we can learn that it was also in addition to the obedience of Isaac that also help contribute to the completeness of his father’s obedience.
If Isaac had struggled or grew to resent, even hate his father, he would have made his father’s task very difficult. No parent would willingly want to make their own children suffer because of them. It was already a very difficult task because we know that Abraham loved Isaac so much (v2a). As Isaac was able to exercise obedience with faith, he was able to submit under the hand of his father and supported him during his greatest test in faith. And as a result both parent AND child was blessed by God.
So today whilst our parents are still living, let us do what we can for our parents. If we are able to follow the example of Isaac we will be able to spare not only ourselves but our parents from unnecessary pain and suffering. God will also provide us with all that we will need to draw closer to Him and to grow as a family.
Regardless of the differences that children and parents may have, we will find that we can still live harmoniously together with them. Just like the relationship that Abraham and Isaac had — because each of their faith was strengthened after this encounter, they must have become closer as father and son. It is these similarly difficult and hard situations which will also grant us the same opportunity to strengthen our relationship with God and consequently deepen the relationship we have with our parents.
In addition to this, we and our families will be blessed just as Abraham and his seed (Isaac) was blessed. We know that in Galatians 3:6-9 it teaches us that those who of the same faith in God are blessed along with Abraham. To share the same faith as Abraham ACTUALLY makes us the spiritual sons and daughters of Abraham, thus fulfilling God’s promise and blessings to Abraham that in him “all nations shall be blessed” (Gen 12:1-3). We know that Jesus (who descended from Abraham) was the one who brought this blessing into fruition — so that we, as Gentiles (originally having no relation to Abraham and his seed) are able to share in the same blessings as the “father of faith”.
So as partakers of the same blessings as Abraham — let us remain obedient to our parents, so that as a family we may be able to do according to the word of God. Let us submit under their hand with faith in God who ALWAYS fulfils His promises. Being reassured that it is through our obedience that we can also support and help our parents in their obedience to God and ultimately add to the faith of our whole family.
May all glory be unto God. Hallelujah. Amen.