Developing the Theme of Family through the Torah Portions. Number Four.

Dr Clifford Denton.

Vayera: Genesis 18:1-27:24.

4th November 2023/Cheshvan20.

And Abraham said, my son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering (Genesis 22:8)

Picture by Helen McNeill

Herein is God’s profound commitment to the Covenant He made with Abraham. We see that at times, just as for us, there may have seemed to be a silence from God. The humanness of Abraham and Sarah were once more displayed in the interaction with Abimelech. God had made His commitment to the Covenant and the choice of Abraham and Sarah to give birth to Isaac at the appointed time but left them vulnerable. Yet it was through such incidents that faith matured in Abraham.

We only have the chief elements of the story and are left to imagine the years when Isaac grew as a child. He was taught by his father and mother, who would fulfil God’s call, that they would command their children and household after them, and that they would keep the way of the Lord to do righteousness and justice (Genesis 18:19).

It was much later in the history of God’s purposes that Moses instructed the Israelites more directly, how to teach all God’s commandments to children: And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)

Abraham’s walk with God was unique, preceding the greater clarity of God’s teaching through Moses. Surely God Himself would have overseen the interaction of Abraham and Sarah with Isaac. There was much for Isaac to learn about the history of the world from Creation to the Flood, and the Covenant with Noah, how good and evil had entered the world despite the call and opportunity to walk with God like Enoch. Abraham would have taught Isaac about the life of faith and how to grow in faith through the personal circumstances of life. Most of all he would have taught Isaac about God’s Covenant and special call on both him and Isaac, and his descendants after him. Isaac would have grown up as a most treasured child learning these things: like a prince in a royal family.

But then came the journey to Mount Moriah when, after all the preparation and the promise, Isaac was to become a sacrifice. Abraham’s faith had matured to be able to accept God’s command to sacrifice his only son, in trust for the outcome, whatever it was. The Covenant that God made those years before, when a smoking oven and a burning torch passed between the sacrifices on that awesome night (Genesis15), was now affirmed in terms of the New Covenant which was to come. This Covenant was assured at that time, but yet to be completed through the sacrifice of Yeshua HaMashiach on that same mountain range of Moriah, many years later. The ram that replaced Isaac looked forward prophetically to the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. Isaac and also his offspring lived in anticipation of this. Jacob and the entire nation of Israel were given life because of the substitute ram.

We cannot, nor is there a need to, repeat this step in the covenant purposes of God, yet there is an element of manifestation of these same principles in the life of every family that walks with God according to the faith of Abraham.

The life of Abraham and specific call of Isaac is unrepeatable, but it is entirely relevant to us in our own walk of faith and our own pattern of bringing up our children. Let us consider this, even how there is a sacrificial element in our family’s journey of faith together, as one generation prepares the next to serve the purposes of God.

The covenant purposes of God go on from generation to generation, each generation teaching the next one how to walk with Him. This teaching is predominantly the responsibility of the parents of every believing family. Our own children are as precious to us as Isaac was to Abraham and Sarah: Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. (Psalm 127:3) There are great Bible teachings concerning this and wonderful pictures of families living together in God’s blessings: Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house, your children like olive plants all around your table. (Psalm 128:3)

But what can we learn from Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah? Abraham and Sarah had prepared Isaac so that covenant responsibility could be passed on to him, and from him to the next generation. There was an appointed time for Abraham to give his son to God. The challenge for him was immense, that Isaac was to be a sacrifice. The sacrificial knife in fact was not necessary – the moment that it was raised in faith. Abraham, in his heart, had given his son to God.

We too must know how to bring our children up in the ways of God so that at the right time they will have gradually learned how to walk with God for themselves. We too must know how to give them to God. At that time responsibility passes so that our precious children are entrusted to their own walk with God. This is where the Jewish custom of Bar Mitzvah came from, that a child is taught God’s ways in obedience to their parents but also preparation is made for children taking their own responsibility before God. In Jewish custom the aiming point is the beginning of teenage years. Yeshua Himself was prepared in this way as we glean from the account when his parents found that he had stayed behind at the Temple in Jerusalem (Luke 2). The transition had taken place in His life for him to take responsibility before His heavenly Father for His own ministry, according to the custom. Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business? (Luke 2:49) was His loaded question to His parents who had in fact brought Him up for this moment. Yeshua’s ministry on earth was indeed completed through sacrifice – His own willing unrepeatable sacrifice to which the ram in the thicket had pointed.

In our case, we have a sacrificial task to accomplish in our own families and with our own children, putting aside the attractions of the world for the vitally important ministry we are given to bring up our children in the ways of God. This reflects what Paul taught in Romans 12:1-2. Because of the great things God has done for us through Yeshua, Paul said, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

If we apply this teaching to our responsibility in our families, we, sacrificially, must teach our children the ways of God according to all the Scriptures so that they, in their turn, become willing living sacrifices for God’s purposes in their lives. Teaching a child in the way that they should go (Proverbs 22:6) is a most holy and sensitive calling so that children grow into direct obedience to God. Our study of Abraham and Isaac, and their high call of faith on Mount Moriah, can be our personal prompt to prayer for believing families in our day.