God quickly begins fulfilling His promises to Abraham. He and his family move to the land of Canaan. In their old age, Abraham and his wife, Sarah, give birth to a son, Isaac. These illustrate a truth about God's character: He is always faithful to His promises. If God promises, it will come to pass. A few chapters later we read of Isaac having two sons, Esau and Jacob. And thus, the family line of Abraham begins to grow. As it does, the passing of blessing from one generation to the next is an important feature of the story. Abraham's blessing is passed to Isaac, then Isaac's to Jacob, the younger of his two sons. It is Jacob who is renamed "Israel," giving the Israelite people their name. "Israel" means, "wrestles with God." Jacob's literal wrestling with God is a prominent event in his life. The Israelites wrestling to remain faithful to God is a recurring theme throughout the Old Testament.
This week's reading also displays a truth we'll see throughout scripture: God uses broken, sinful people to advance His will for His glory. Abraham's family line is riddled with dysfunction and sin. Despite being the "fathers" of the Israelite people and the Jewish faith, Abraham and his family struggle to live righteous lives before the Lord. Their sin makes doing so impossible. Sin makes it impossible for any human to live a perfectly righteous life before the Lord. Nonetheless, God continues to use Abraham's family to advance His plan. We will see this not only in the lives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but throughout history as told all through the Bible and lived out in the world around us.
FOR THIS WEEK'S SERMON ON GENESIS 22, LISTEN BELOW:
FAMILY INGREDIENT: MODELING
God keeps His promises. Isaac is born to Abraham and Sarah! In the midst of their joy, God tests Abraham: who does Abraham love more -- Isaac or God? The Lord commands Abraham to take Isaac and offer him as a sacrifice. Will Abraham trust and obey, believing God to be able to keep His promise regarding Isaac? Without Isaac, how can God's promise be fulfilled? Furthermore, how can Abraham kill his only son? Why would God want him to do this? Just as Abraham is ready to make the sacrifice, God calls out, "Stop!" Instead, God provides a ram for the sacrifice. Abraham learns that he can trust and obey the Lord, even when things seem too difficult. The ram foreshadows God offering His only Son, Jesus, as a sacrifice to pay the price for our sins. Abraham modeled to Isaac, in a very vivid way, what it means to obey God. As parents, we, too, must remember that we are constantly adding to our Modeling ingredient, whether for good or bad. We are to model faithful obedience so our children can see Christ in us and learn how to walk in faithful devotion with Him.
If we have to wait for something we want, it is very special to us when we finally receive that gift. Why was Isaac so important to Abraham and Sarah?
God gave Abraham a very difficult command. What was it?
Why did God test Abraham in this way? For a clue, look at Gen. 22:12.
Does God ask us to do hard things? Discuss.
Who is smarter, God or us? While we don't always understand, we can always trust Him to know and help us to obey.
Family Modeling Activity: Each person needs a partner (or it can be done in a group of 3, but 2 works best). One child is the leader, the other pretends to be his/her mirror reflection. Facing each other, the leader slowly moves his/her body -- lifting an arm, moving a leg, turning his/her head, or even making silly faces while the child who is the mirror copies. Move slowly so the mirror child can keep up. Switch roles. Parents may need to first model how to play. Older kids challenge: Go faster and faster. Discuss some behaviors you see family members model that are good behaviors to copy. Who are some people outside your family who are good examples to follow?
- Is there a promise in which to trust or rest? -- Consider the length of time God made Abraham and Sarah wait for a child. Imagine how difficult it would have been to hear from the Lord that you are to now sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering.
- What does the story of Abraham and Isaac show us about God? What does this story show us about Abraham's faith and obedience?
- Which is easier for you, believing in God's promises or obeying His commands?
- In this week’s reading, we see two ends of a spectrum: Abraham's faith, trust, and obedience, and Jacob's wrestling with the Lord, leading to his renewed faith. There are multiple blessings in wrestling with God. So when He calls you to wrestle with Him in prayer, it is an invitation to receive His blessing. Stay with Him and don’t give up. All of our struggling with God in faith leads to peace. As you read the account of Jacob, is there an example to follow in how to wrestle with God?