We have heard a lot about the faith of Abraham who is acclaimed as the father of the faithful. He left his country to venture into the unknown trusting God. He also trusted God who asked him to offer his only son Isaac (Genesis 22). He trusted God that “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering” when his son asked, “where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (Genesis 22:7-8). He was not lying nor trying to hide the harsh reality that God had told him to sacrifice Isaac. And it happened just as he believed! When he was swinging the knife at his only son bound to the altar, the angel showed him the ram caught up in the thicket.
While extolling the faith of Abraham we often sidestep the faith of Isaac. This story that highlights the faith of Abraham is also a story of Isaac’s faith. Isaac was not an infant when the incident happened. He was an adult old enough to endure three days of journey with his father, climb up the mountain and ask rational questions about the details for the sacrifice. According to some Jewish traditions he was at least 37 years of age when this incident happened.
Though he could question his dad and was strong enough to resist when he was bound, he did not resist but surrendered himself willingly. He believed what his father told him that God will provide a lamb. He believed it even when he was tied and placed on the altar; he believed it even when he saw the knife just a few inches away from his throat. He still believed that God would provide the lamb for the sacrifice, and he will walk away from the altar to prepare the lamb though that was nowhere in sight then.
Isaac shared his father’s faith that “God will provide.” He might have grown up with that faith from his childhood. His mother might have told him of the long years of her barrenness. But even though she crossed the age of child-bearing God provided him to them. Now, that faith was further strengthened as his father dropped the knife, ran to the thicket, and came back with a ram. When Abraham untied him, he watched the lamb going up in the flames. The flames that would have licked his life out of him is devouring the body of the ram. That strengthened his faith, “God will provide.”
Isaac carried that faith to the most parts of his life. When the shepherds of Gerar disputed with him over the wells he dug, he chose to suffer loss and moved to another place to dig wells believing that God will provide (Genesis 26:18-22). And God did provide. Wherever he dug he hit the water.
He had to exercise the same faith when his father’s servant hit the long, dusty road to find a wife for him. He did not go with the servant to make sure that the person he would choose will be the right choice. He just trusted that God would provide the right person to be his wife. While he spent his time devoid of anxiety, meditating in the open fields (Genesis 24:63). Through a miraculous turn of events, God did provide for him the right person.
However, we are not sure if Isaac, like us sometimes, was able to keep that faith throughout his life. His appetite for wild games that his son Esau fed him made him love him more than the other son. Though he trusted God for his wife, it seems that they could not keep that intimacy to the end of their marriage. They took sides, his wife duped him by dressing up her favorite son Jacob as Esau and feeding him a lamb stew. Faith waxes and wanes. However, it is important to have faith, faith that Isaac had, “God will provide.”