Light from the Sidra


Genesis 25:19 - 28:9; Malachi 1:1-2:7

Isaac is a man who often gets overlooked. Comments on Sidra Toldot usually spend a lot of energy arguing the rights and wrongs of Jacob’s behaviour and poor old Isaac gets missed out, and as he never gets to appear again in any significant way in the Scripture account it seems to me that he is done a disservice. I want to try and set things to right and take a good look at Isaac.

The first thing which stands out about him, as Abimelech the king of the Philistines recognised, is that he is “the blessed of the LORD”, which means he was the heir to the promises made to Abraham. God announced this to him when he was tempted to go to Egypt because of a famine, assuring Isaac that the land was his and that he would bless him there. In fact this became so obvious to everyone that Abimelech wanted to make a covenant with him in order that they would not harm each other! The Gentiles came to God’s man for blessing. What a picture of God’s plan for Israel, especially in the days of the Messiah!

Do you see yourself as an inheritor of the LORD’s promises, one who could be called “blessed of the LORD”? The test of whether that is true for you is whether others can see it, as they saw it in Isaac, and come to make peace with you. Do they come to your synagogue to share your blessing? If they do not then the Haftarah reading from Malachi offers an explanation. The people were criticised by the prophet for offering second best to God, for always wanting a reward for their efforts and for being bored with religious services. Does that ring true today? The consequence of their half-hearted service in Malachi’s day was that God would not accept their religious activities.

Isaac had strengths and weaknesses. One of his strengths was that he was a man of prayer. Rebekah was barren, so he prayed. He was afraid of the Philistines, so he called on the LORD. Like his father Abraham, he offered a sacrifice when he called on the name of the LORD, showing that same humble dependence on God. There is no evidence here of set, written prayers, but only a cry from the heart. That is what real prayer is.

Another strength in Isaac was that he loved God’s ways and hated the lifestyle of the pagans around him. He was grieved by the ways of Esau’s pagan wives. No doubt they were pleasant enough people, just as Esau appears to have been an open and warm-hearted man. But they did not think or act in the ways that pleased God. Here is a mark of godliness, to be grieved by sin, not attracted to it. How do you fare in comparison to Isaac? Are you secretly attracted to things you know are wrong and are you regularly giving way to them?

But we must be honest and admit that Isaac had weaknesses too. A general fault I see in Isaac was his tendency to be too passive. In the disputes over wells with the Philistines I think he gave way too easily. And then he seems to have given up on life rather early, calling his sons for his final blessing many years before he actually died. But these are not serious faults.

It seems to me that his greatest fault was that he loved this world too much. This is seen in the way he loved Esau best because of the food he cooked. Isaac knew that his younger son, Jacob, was to inherit the blessing and he knew that Jacob had a desire for God’s blessing and covenant but that Esau did not. Yet he still planned to give the first blessing to Esau. That was a serious fault but God overruled it.

How do you compare? A good test is to ask yourself what matters most to you, serving God and learning about Him and His ways ? or food. Which would you put first? There is an interesting event in the life of Yeshua (Jesus) when he was tired and hungry and waiting by a well for his disciples to return with food. A Gentile woman came along to draw water but he drew her into a conversation in which he told her of God’s ways for her life. By the time he had finished talking she was convicted of her sinful life and his hunger had gone. Later, he explained to his disciples “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to finish His work.”

Yeshua was a Jew who was concerned for the spiritual welfare of Gentiles. In the Haftarah, Malachi showed this same concern when he predicted, “From the rising of the sun, even to its going down, my name shall be great among the nations; in every place incense shall be offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name shall be great among the nations.” Sadly, Isaac, for all his good qualities, seemed to lack this concern, for when he blessed Jacob he omitted to mention the blessing of the whole world through the seed of promise. What is your attitude to Gentiles?

Has that prophecy of Malachi been fulfilled yet? Many will answer with a clear “No! Just look at the world!” But Malachi does not say everyone in the world will worship the LORD, or that the world will be perfect, but that the LORD’s name will be seen as great in every place. It has not happened yet, but things are rapidly moving that way as some from almost every nation in the world glorify the God of Israel. And how does this come about in their lives? When they confess their sins and put their trust in God’s Messiah, Yeshua. Have you joined them yet?

For further information about the Messiah click here.

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