John Bradshaw - Isaac
This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me. Carlo was born in March of 1883 in the town of Lugo in the north of Italy. He was 21 years old when he arrived in the United States, and after trying his hand at various jobs and enterprises, he finally hit upon an idea that he was sure would make him a fortune. Investors poured millions of dollars into his company. Some mortgaged their homes and invested their life savings with Carlo. Within months he was bringing in a million dollars a day in revenue, in 1920. But it was soon discovered that Carlo's company wasn't generating any profits at all. Carlo had been using the money from new investors to provide dividends to longer-term investors. When greater numbers of his clients began demanding their money, Carlo, or Charles Ponzi's scheme, was revealed to be a massive fraud. And many people lost everything.
And it wouldn't be the last time. In 2008 the late Bernie Madoff was charged with securities fraud for running a massive Ponzi scheme that resulted in actual losses to investors of about $18 billion. It was thought to be the biggest fraud in the history of Wall Street. Even though 14 and 1/2 billion was returned to investors, Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison. People trusted Madoff, and Charles Ponzi decades before, to do the right thing with money they invested. But that trust was misplaced. We live in a world that is based on trust. You mail a letter, and you trust that if you put it in that box or through that slot, it's going to make it to where it's meant to go. The mechanic tells you that your car needs this done, and you trust the mechanic. Your doctor tells you that you need this certain medication or maybe surgery. Most of the time you have no idea, but you trust the physician, and things work out.
You trust the person who cuts your hair. Mostly it goes to plan. Sometimes it does not. I got my hair cut once at the airport in Toronto, Canada. Oh man, it was so bad I remember it all these years later. The person who I went to to have the mess fixed up said that the woman who cut my hair in the first place committed malpractice. I can laugh about it now. Truth is, we laughed about it then. Of course, not everyone can be trusted. In fact, there are times you'd be unwise to trust. That phone call when someone tells you they're gonna send you a large sum of money, but first you need to send money to them? No, don't trust that. Those are scams. But someone who can always be trusted is God.
And we see that today. We're continuing our series "Great Characters of the Bible," and as we look at the life of Isaac, we see a life demonstrating trust in God. Isaac was born because of trust. He was the child of promise born to Abraham and Sarah. Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born. Sarah was 90. When she heard she was going to have a child so late in her life, Sarah laughed. In fact, she and Abraham did not trust God to begin with. In Genesis 12, God said to Abram, "I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing". But time passed by, and no child was born. When Abraham brought this up to God in Genesis 15, God "brought him outside and said, 'Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.' And He said to him, 'So shall your descendants be.'"
The Bible says Abraham "believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness". But that belief went only so far. Sarah was getting older, and she wasn't getting pregnant. "So Sarai said to Abram, 'See now, the Lord has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.' And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai". Which wasn't a great move for any number of reasons. The lack of faith in God created friction, which is still being experienced today. Now, let's say this. They're an elderly couple, and they doubted that Sarah would become pregnant. That's fair enough, isn't it? I mean, who would have thought that Sarah would conceive at that very advanced age? But that's where faith comes into it. It was God who promised a child would be born, and so therefore it's up to God to work that out, even if it seems unlikely from a human standpoint.
Our faith in God needs to stretch way further than the limits of our human understanding. If your faith in God only goes as far as your faith in yourself, "I could never do a job like that"; "I just don't know how we could ever afford to support that missionary family"; "I can't see how grandma could possibly recover", then that's evidence that you don't have faith in God. God is the God of the impossible. It's not easy to explain exactly how God created the world. But Hebrews 11 tells us that "by faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible".
Hebrews 11, verse 3. We understand by faith. Come on, friend, how's your faith? Is God big or small? Is God able, or is He not able? A God in which you can have faith can raise the dead. He can turn water into wine. He can feed the five thousand, open up the Red Sea, bring water out of a rock, and see to it that a 90-year-old woman can have a baby. Speaking of Abraham, Paul wrote, "And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb: he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform". That's Romans 4, verses 19 through 21. Now, did you see that? Abraham simply believed that God could do what God said He could do. And that's faith; that's trust. So that's how Isaac came into the world: faith, trust in God, belief that God could do what God said He could do. And before long, young Isaac was going to have to exercise faith of his own. I'll be right back.
Thanks for joining me today on It Is Written. Before I go any further in talking about faith and trust, let me say this. There are scams everywhere today. In the 1920s, a man named Victor Lustig sold the Eiffel Tower twice. He fooled people, deceived people, and he made a lot of money. And you wonder how someone could fall for such a crazy scheme. Well, people do. There's no shortage of unscrupulous people who will stop at nothing to separate you from your hard-earned money. Watch out for phishing scams, that's phishing, P-H-I-S-H-I-N-G. If you get an email making an unbelievable offer or asking for personal information, be very careful. Don't reveal any financial details. No genuine organization is going to ask for those in an email. Don't open attachments or click on links, unless you're 100 percent sure they're genuine, as they might then infect your computer with a virus. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. And if you're really unsure about something that arrives in your inbox, ask someone that you trust to look into it for you.
Now, back to Isaac. Isaac came into the world because his parents trusted God. They had faith in God. And as a result, Isaac was born. But when Isaac was a young man, trust in God took on a whole new dimension for him. The story is usually told from Abraham's perspective, but let's see if we can consider another angle here. Genesis 22 begins like this: "Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, 'Abraham!' And he said, 'Here I am.' Then He said, 'Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.'" Imagine how Abraham must have felt. There'd have been a progression of emotions. "Take your son". "Ah, my son"! How proud he must have been. "Your only son", God was saying, "Take your legitimate heir; take the child of faith". "Hmm, my son, the one God promised me and gave me. Yes, my son". "Take now your son, your only son... and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering".
Well, now Abraham's pride turned to horror. Now, what's remarkable is that the Bible says, "Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him". Genesis 22, verse 3. It was a three-day journey, and it had to have been brutal, walking with his son, who now is about 20 years of age, and God was asking him to offer that young man as a sacrifice. I wonder if there were long pauses. I wonder if Isaac ever said, "Dad, you're not your normal happy self". Those had to be three dark days for Abraham as they journeyed to what today is Jerusalem. "And Abraham said to his young men, 'Stay here with the donkey; the lad [or young man] and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.'"
Now, notice that: "We will come back to you". It says in the book of Hebrews that Abraham concluded "that God was able to raise him", or Isaac, "up, even from the dead". That's Hebrews 11:19. But that didn't change the fact that he was being asked to do something excruciatingly difficult. "So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, 'My father!... Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?' And Abraham said, 'My son, God will provide...Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.' So the two of them went together".
That beautiful verse points forward to the death of Jesus for the sins of the world. And notice how Isaac was a type of Christ in that he carried the wood himself just like Jesus carried His cross. God would provide Himself a Lamb. Divinity itself would be the Lamb slain for the sins of the world. Jesus would die. But here at Mount Moriah, Isaac was going to die. Genesis 22:9 says, "Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood". We talk about the faith of Abraham, but what about the faith of Isaac? He could easily have overpowered his father.
You know, I had a good dad, I loved my dad, but if my father had said, "Son, I'm going to sacrifice you to God," I don't think I'd have hung around. But this young man's faith was strong. He laid down on the altar. In fact, it's hard to imagine a 120-year-old man picking up his grown son and placing him on the altar. You'd have to think Isaac climbed up onto the altar himself. He might have said, "Dad, do you want me here? Or, or should I move over here a little bit"? Additionally, this story suggests that Abraham was the kind of man in whom Isaac could have faith.
Now, let me challenge you a little bit. If you want someone to have faith in God, a friend, a child, a colleague, then live in such a way that if they were basing their opinion of God on you, they'd be attracted to God. Isaac knew that Abraham his father loved God. Isaac was convinced that Abraham loved him. And so then he could trust Abraham. This was faith. His own father was going to take his life, and Isaac said, "Go right ahead. I trust God, and I trust you". He could trust his father because he knew his father; he was acquainted with his father. This story is in the Bible to prompt you to emulate the faith of both Abraham and Isaac. And while God definitely does not want anyone sacrificing their children, He does want us to be obedient to Him.
Sometimes life challenges you. Sometimes life is difficult. Sometimes your faith is shaken. Sometimes you want to give up. But faith enables you to hang in, remembering that life, and a life of faith, isn't a sprint, but it's a marathon. In 2021, golfer Bryson DeChambeau got back to the clubhouse after the second round of a tournament in Charlotte, North Carolina, and decided he would go home. He was sure that he wasn't going to make the cut. He was in 90th place, and only 65 golfers would go on to play in the third round. He was on his way home to Texas when he found out that a number of other players had dropped down the leaderboard, and he actually had made the cut.
So he got back on a plane in the early hours of the morning, made his way back to the golf course, and on just a couple of hours' sleep, played in the third round. He ended up finishing the tournament tied for ninth and earning around $228,000. Not a bad weekend's work. You see? It wasn't over even when it looked like it was over. And that's how it is in your walk with God: faith. Hang in there with God. Let God do His work in your life. Believe that God is able because He is able. Abraham was about to take his son's life when an Angel intervened. "Abraham"! the Angel exclaimed. Abraham responded. The Angel then said, "Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me". And today that story stands as one of the great stories of faith in the Bible, the faith of Abraham, and the faith of Isaac. He trusted his dad. He trusted God. And you can trust God, too. I'll be right back.
So how is faith seen later in Isaac's experience? One of the biggest decisions of Isaac's life was guided by faith in God. Where would Isaac find a wife? Now, that's a big decision. And we see here that it's a decision that should be guided by God. You know, if more people brought God into that decision, there'd be a whole lot less heartache in the world. Is God able to find the right someone, the right life partner? Abraham didn't want his son to fall in love with a woman who didn't serve the only true God. Remember, Abraham was promised that the Son of God, the Messiah, would be born through his lineage, through Isaac. It was essential Isaac marry a believer. Abraham would send a servant to his home country, and he commissioned that servant to bring back a suitable wife for Isaac. And Isaac, about 40 years old now, went along with his father's plan.
Back in Bible times, parents usually had a say in whom their children married. Looking at how marriages routinely fail today, it's hard to say that that wouldn't be a good idea now. And we remember God's counsel is found in 2 Corinthians 6 in verse 14, where it is written, "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness"? Abraham knew that an ungodly woman could totally change the family tree. It was imperative that Isaac marry a believer. He also knew that if Isaac traveled far away to marry, the family of the bride would try to persuade him to remain there, and God had specifically told Abraham that Canaan was the land that he and his descendants would inherit.
Abraham would send his most trusted servant, Eliezer, to search for a wife for Isaac. And Eliezer prayed. He prayed a very specific prayer, and God answered Eliezer's prayer exactly. When he met Rebekah, he had no doubt she was the answer to his prayer. He gave her gifts and found out who she was. The Bible says, "The man bowed down his head and worshiped the Lord". And then Eliezer gave God the glory. He said, "Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His mercy and His truth toward my master". This was a major answer to prayer. This had consequences for the kingdom of heaven. And notice: Abraham and Isaac took this seriously. Where would they find the woman who would become one of Jesus' own ancestors? She was a prayer away. They chose to do things God's way, to pray and ask God to lead the entire process, and God answered their prayers in a dramatic way. And God hasn't changed.
What are the big decisions you are facing? What school to go to? Whether to buy or sell a house? What career to pursue? Who to marry? Life is a constant stream of decisions. And which human being is capable of always making the right decisions? So when you're facing a major decision, turn to God. Consult God and allow God to lead the way. God will answer your prayers in the same way He answered the prayers of Abraham and Isaac and Eliezer. We have been promised as much. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you". Matthew 7, verse 7. This is trust in God. Isaac's life came to be as the result of faith. His later life was characterized by faith. Later, God visited Isaac and said, "I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for my servant Abraham's sake".
And Isaac did exactly what his father would have done. "He built an altar there and called on the name of the Lord". You'll notice that in earth's last days, the experience of God's people is characterized by trust or faith. Revelation 14:12 speaks about God's people saved in the end of time, and it says, "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus". Which shows us, among other things, that obedience to God is predicated upon faith in God. Faith leads to submission to the will of God.
Years ago, I got myself in a tangle that taught me something about faith. I was invited to participate in a circus act. When a circus came to town, they advertised on the radio station where I worked, and they wanted one of the radio station personalities to participate in a circus act for publicity. I was volunteered by the rest of the radio station staff. I thought I'd have a great time. Maybe I'd dress up as a clown; maybe I'd put my head in a lion's mouth. I got a shock when I arrived at the circus on the big night and was introduced to "The Great Luigi," I think his name was. He was a knife thrower.
I was going to have to stand in front of a board while the Great Luigi threw knives near me, past me, hopefully not at me. It's one of those, one of those "wow" events, kind of dangerous, kind of a daredevil thing to do, and I, I was terrified. What if he missed? He stood much further back than I wished, which I thought may well jeopardize my existence. My heart was pounding in my chest. I thought of how I wasn't gonna be able to say goodbye to my mother. Luigi saw that I was terrified, so he came up to me and he said to me, "You'll be okay if you do two things". I said, "What are those two things? I'll do them". He said, "Listen to what I tell you, and do anything I say".
No doubt that helped. There was a drumroll, a cymbal clash, a knife was thrown, and it hit... the board behind me. That was good, but I looked at Luigi, and he had five knives left. And they all came, one after another after another after another, one of them so close to my head that I felt the breeze as it flew by. But you know what I did? I did exactly what he told me, and I listened to what he said. Faith in God is just like that. Faith is listening to God and trusting God to do the right thing in your life. Faith is believing God and expecting God's Word to do what it says it will do. Isaac's life was a life of faith. Let your life be a life of faith. You can trust God, and as you do, expect Him to do great things in you.
Our Father in heaven, we thank You today for the example given us by both Abraham and Isaac. We thank You for Isaac's life brought about by faith and then lived by faith. He demonstrated faith as he turned to You in life's big decisions. Would You give us grace to do that same thing? Right now there's somebody struggling with an illness, with financial challenges, with interpersonal issues. And I pray for that person at this moment, asking You to move into her life, his life, and bring Your peace and Your presence. And right now there's somebody struggling with an even bigger decision: Should I trust God with my life? Should I surrender my life to Him?
Friend, if that's you, would you lift up your heart to God? If you're able to, lift up your hand to God right now. Reach out to God and say, "Lord, I believe. I want to believe. Let Jesus live His life in me. I accept Him as my Lord and Savior".
We thank You, Father in heaven, for forgiveness of sin. We thank You for a new life. We thank You for the privilege of being able to call ourselves the children of God Most High. And, Father, keep us in the hollow of Your hand, not just now but forever. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.