Thursday, August 9, 2012

Isaac's Life Of Exodus (part 3)

With this examination of Abraham and Isaac, let’s not use this as a reason to get too down on them.  They were, after all, human.  They were not demi-gods, though for some reason we tend to think of them in that way.  No, they were simply two of those that God chose so as to make manifest His will and to carry forward His purposes of human and cosmic redemption.  They were also men of faith.  In what was important in God’s eyes, which was trusting Him in going out to the lands and places that God had for them, they seemed to have attained.  The bottom line was that they trusted in the God of exodus, who would lead them to the places and the situations in which He could best demonstrate, through them and their blessed lives, His covenant faithfulness.  He could do this in spite of their shortcomings. 

Returning to the story of Isaac, we find that “After Isaac had been there a long time, Abimelech king of the Philistines happened to look out a window and observed Isaac caressing his wife Rebekah” (Genesis 26:8).  It seems that Isaac had gotten a little careless, perhaps forgetful of their ruse in that moment.  Abimelech was distressed at this situation, and with what appears to possibly be a knowledge of what happened to Pharaoh’s house when Abraham’s wife was taken in to his harem, said “What in the world have you done to us?  One of the men might easily have had an sexual relations with your wife, and you would have brought guilt on us!” (26:10b)  Here again we see a sense of honor, which is further demonstrated by Abimelech’s subsequent command that “Whoever touches this man or his wife will surely be put to death” (26:11b).  So contrary to Isaac’s “fear” that he would be killed so that the men of the land could get to Rebekah, we see the opposite established, in that anybody that so much as lifted a finger in the direction of Isaac and Rebekah would invite death upon themselves. 

There is an element here that causes use to hearken back to an earlier event in the life of Isaac, which was his near-sacrifice at the hands of his father.  In that event, Abraham expected to have to slaughter his son.  However, he had a promise that he would have countless descendants through that son.  The fact that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son in the face of that promise, along with his words to his servants that both he and the boy would return from the mountain of sacrifice, is an indication that Abraham expected his covenant God to raise his son up from the dead.  Abraham’s faith was vindicated.  As the author of Hebrews would come to write, Abraham “reasoned that God could even raise him from the dead, and in a sense he received him back from there” (11:19).  This event was looked upon in the history of Israel as something like a movement from death to resurrection.  It was conceived of as an instance of suffering to vindication.  This means that we can view it as a movement from exile to exodus. 

So likewise, Isaac’s fear of being killed by the Philistines (regardless of whether it was true fear or a strategic ploy by which to gain wealth), coupled with his “rescue” from death by Abimelech, can be viewed according to the same pattern, as it points not primarily to the actions of Isaac, but to the exodus-ing, vindicating God of Scripture.  With such thoughts in place, the same can then be said of Abraham, in that there is a recurring theme of death to resurrection (suffering to vindication, exile to exodus) in relation to the situations with he and his wife.  For Abraham, both of those situations resulted in his being tremendously blessed with material wealth by the very men that he had defrauded.  As we have said, it is possible that Isaac was hoping for the same outcome.  However, it did not happen in this way for Isaac.  Nobody took his wife from him, so he received no bride price (as did Abraham in Egypt).  Nobody took his wife from him, so he did not receive payments for his and his wife’s vindication (as did Abraham with Abimelech).  However, we do go on to find out that “When Isaac planted in that land, he reaped in the same year a hundred times what he had sown, because the Lord blessed him.  The man became wealthy.  His influence continued to grow until he became very prominent” (26:12-13).               

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