Monday, June 5, 2017

Isaac Part 1 (Genesis 24)

The way Genesis is structured you never really get an “Isaac’s Story.” Abraham’s ends and we pick up with Jacob. Isaac is a character in their stories, as son and then father. He is largely a passive character. In all the stories about him—birth, near sacrifice, marriage, well trouble, stolen blessing—things happen to him, and he reacts at most. Unlike his father and his son, he never leaves his home and his name is never changed.

That being the case, Isaac’s story is easily overlooked. The sacrifice is more about Abraham. The blessing is more about Jacob. Even the marriage story is about Rebekah more than it is about Isaac. Some writers try to tie the Isaac and Rebekah story into an allegory about the church as the bride of Christ. However, that is a clear case of reading into the text. The New Testament never extends the allegorical reading of Isaac that far.

So why do we have such an extensive account of the betrothal of Rebekah? I think it is to show us a balancing contrast to the stories where God has his people leave home and culture…

We frequently see God commanding his people—or orchestrating events in his people’s lives—so that they must leave their childhood home and culture. Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses, just to name a few major characters, all go through this. They all encounter God away from the community of their upbringing, even though they all came out of homes that believed in God. Faith is strongest, perhaps, when it is instilled early but tested in isolation—out in the world.

It is a blessing to be raised in a community of faith. It is great starting out life on the right foot, worldview-wise. However, sometimes the way faith develops in such a community is less real and more formalized; less relationship and more religion. It isn’t about knowing God, but more about knowing the tradition and the history of the community. We do not trust and depend on God, but more on our own positions and ideas. We begin to think that we are better than others. This was a problem the people of God dealt with over and over again. It is probably why God wanted Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses to have to go out on their own. John the Baptist, Paul and others go through similar circumstances.

But, even though God refines faith out in the world away from formalized expressions of it, we see here that Abraham wants his son to be bound to a spouse who shares his same belief and worldview. There is value in getting away from a community of faith to firmly establish and grow said faith, but there is also a need to build one’s own family with people who share that faith. That is why Abraham was so intent on getting a daughter-in-law from back home.

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