Sermon from June 17th, 2018

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“The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful #4: Isaac - Father With a Challenge”

Genesis 26:1-6; Philippians 4:4-9; Matthew 8:5-13


By Pastor Ralph Boyer



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Sermon Text
Welcome to Christ Lutheran and welcome if you’re listening on the radio!  We continue our summer sermon series, “The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful”---a series of portraits from our Biblical family album. 

One of the things that impresses me about the Bible is the way it portrays the people involved, warts and all, the good and the bad.  It’s a testament to the Bible’s truthfulness, recording life as it is.

And while the Bible is truthful, we humans aren’t always so objective.  We often lean toward one extreme or the other.  Trying to paint people as near perfect--- covering over the flaws, usually when it’s us that’s the focus.  OR---Painting people with the broad brush as being one step away from worthless---usually when we’re describing others. 

But in reality, it’s much more complicated than that, with the people of the Bible AND with this crew of saints and sinners gathered here today.  And please know that you’re not one or the other.  Luther said we are all saints and sinners at the same time.

The old western movie was entitled “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”.  Ugly---it seems like that’s too often the way things lean today.  Especially when you’re talking about the media images that surround us.  Only it’s more like “the violent the bad and the ugly” whether it’s movies, TV, theater, art, books, newspapers, or the nightly news.
 
You may have read in the Daily Bread devotional about a woman who saw her preteen son watching news coverage of a violent event.
 
She quickly reached for the remote and changed the channel. “You don’t need to be watching that stuff,”---she told him. An argument followed, and eventually she shared that he needed to fill his mind with---

Philippians 4:8  “……whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely……”

After dinner, she and her husband were watching the news when suddenly their five-year-old daughter burst in and turned off the television. “You don’t need to be watching that stuff,” she declared in her best “mom” voice. “Now, think about those Bible things!”

Randy Kilgore writes---“As adults, we can better absorb and process the news than our children. Still, the couple’s daughter was both amusing and wise when she echoed her mother’s earlier instructions.  Even well-adjusted adults can be affected by a steady diet of the darker side of life.  Meditating on the kind of things Paul lists in Philippians 4:8 is a powerful antidote to the gloom that sometimes settles on us as we see the condition of our world.  What we let into our minds shapes the state of our souls.”

Which is why the Bible’s way of truthfulness is so important.  We know we’ve got the good and the bad, but then what?  Do we go the way of the world and end with ugly, or do we turn to the beautiful that God is always creating?

When it comes to movies, TV, theater, art, books, newspapers, or the nightly news, do we need more of the ugly OR of the beautiful?  I’m not saying we ignore the bad.  But too many who follow the spirits of this age, believe that the bad and the ugly have the final word.  If that was true, we would only be left with despair.  And those who believe that ugly lie, often do desperate things

The Good News of Christ is that the good and the beautiful always have the final say and the ultimate power.  And that leads us to hope and new life!  The good AND the bad---yes---but always the beautiful.

Today’s photo from the family album of the Bible is of Issac.

Isaac is referred to 135 times in the Bible, a lot of times, but still much less than his father Abraham or his son Jacob.  Isaac is not as famous, and yet God worked through Isaac in countless ways as he built his kingdom with the people of Israel.

Isaac was a person with good and bad episodes in his life.  He was a sinner and a saint, but he trusted in the Lord and worked to teach that to his family.

I entitled this message, “Isaac---Father with a Challenge” for several reasons, but one main one---he was the father of twins.  How many fathers or mothers of twins do we have here today?  You know exactly what I mean. 

If you want to know some of that challenge, ask Stephanie what 3-year old twins are capable of!

But the challenge also related to how he would lead his family in a way that would be faithful to the Lord---the Lord who had promised to bless the whole world through Isaac’s family.

Isaac of course was a miracle child, born to Abraham and Sarah when they were well past the age for starting a family.  Isaac’s birth was the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham to make his descendants a great nation.

Before that happened, 3 men who turned out to be heavenly messengers, visited Abraham and told him he would have a son. It seemed impossible because Sarah was 90 years old and Abraham was 100!  Sarah, laughed at the message, but God heard her.

Genesis 18:13-15  “Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’  Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.” Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.” But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”

You can’t hide things from God!

Of course, the prophecy came true. Abraham trusted God, and named the baby Isaac, which means "he laughs."

When Isaac was just a boy, God ordered Abraham to take this treasured son to a mountain and sacrifice him. Abraham dejectedly obeyed, but at the last moment, an angel stopped him, telling him not to harm the boy. It was a test of Abraham's faith, and he passed.  We don’t have many details about Isaac’s reaction to all of that, but Isaac learned trust of his father and of God, maybe from that event.

Later, Isaac married Rebekah, but they found that she couldn’t have children, just like Sarah.  As a trusting husband, and man of faith, Isaac prayed for his wife, and God answered. Rebekah gave birth to twins: Esau and Jacob.

The challenge of twins!  How do you acknowledge their differences, yet treat them with equal attention and love?  In Genesis 25 we read---

Genesis 25:27-28  “The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents. Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.”

The Bible tells us that Isaac favored Esau, a good hunter.  I guess Isaac loved Esau’s antelope jerky.  But Rebekah favored Jacob, the quieter of the two.  So there was a problem.  Isaac and Rebekah should have worked to love both boys equally.  That situation set up all kinds of crises to come.

And yet Isaac tried hard to follow the Lord’s guiding.  As we see in Genesis 26---

Genesis 26:1  “Now there was a famine in the land—besides the earlier famine of Abraham’s time—and Isaac went to Abimelech king of the Philistines in Gerar.”

Isaac thought that the best way to get food for his people was to go to Egypt.  But--

Genesis 26:2-3  “The LORD appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham.”

The Lord reminded Isaac that he was in the line of his father Abraham as God’s chosen people.

Genesis 26:4-6  “I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and my laws.” So Isaac stayed in Gerar.”

“So Isaac stayed in Gerar.”  He trusted the Lord’s promise.  And that trust was something he tried to teach his family.

But the mistakes Isaac and Rebekah made would create conflict.

Several weeks ago, Pastor John told us about Isaac’s older twin, Esau.  We heard about the trickery that Rebekah and Jacob used to steal father Isaac’s blessing from the older brother, Esau, who normally would have received it.

Isaac found out---knowing that his blessing was with deceitful Jacob.  Esau found out and hated his brother and plotted to kill him.  And Jacob fled the land of his inheritance, and as far as we know, never saw his mother again.

But before Jacob left, Isaac still tried to teach Jacob to trust in the Lord and his promises.  Isaac said to Jacob---

Genesis 28:4  “May he give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham, so that you may take possession of the land where you now live as an alien, the land God gave to Abraham.”

And through the rest of the Bible we see the importance of Isaac to the people of Israel.  There are numerous references to “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”  Isaac is an important part of our Biblical family album.

And his life contained---The good, the bad and the beautiful.

What was the Good?---Isaac was faithful to God. He never forgot how God saved him from death and provided a ram to be sacrificed in his place. He watched and learned from his father Abraham, one of the most faithful men of the Bible.  He trusted and taught trust in God to his people.  He was the father of a line of descendants that led directly to Jesus, the Messiah, the one God sent to fulfill his promises.

What was the Bad?---Isaac was not a perfect man or father.  Some of his decisions set up conflict in his family.  But then, the Bible doesn’t show us perfect heroes.  There is only one of those in all of history---Jesus.

What was the Beautiful?---God took a conflicted family and worked his grace and promise through them.  The Lord worked through Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Esau, failings and all, to build His kingdom.  And finally Jacob and Esau were reconciled.

The Lord is always at work to create beauty out of the mess we make of life.

And on this Father’s Day—what can we learn from Isaac?

Certainly we can learn from his failings and try our best to love our children with the same and equal love, even though they are gifted differently by God.  And when we fail, we can pray for Christ to work his forgiveness and healing.

And we can learn from what Isaac did well.  He could have resented his father for offering him as a sacrifice, yet Isaac was an obedient son.  From Abraham he learned the essential lesson of trusting God.  And Isaac taught that trust to his family.

Isaac was a father with a challenge.  And it didn’t always go well.  But he never gave up.  And the Lord blessed him and his family greatly---And you and me.

The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob came to us in Jesus Christ. 

A beatitude is a statement of blessing.  We call Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5, the Beatitudes
.
In Genesis 26 we heard God give a beatitude to Isaac.  Isaac passed that blessing on to Jacob.  And the Lord’s blessings are constantly showered on us. 

I recently saw a list of beatitudes for parents from an anonymous author.

Beatitudes for Parents

Blessed are the parents who make their peace with spilled milk and mud, for such is the kingdom of childhood.

Blessed is the parent who engages not in the comparison of his children with each other, for precious unto each is the rhythm of his own growth.

Blessed are the fathers and mothers who have learned laughter (remember the meaning of Isaac’s name), for laughter is the music of the child's world.

Blessed and wise are those parents who understand the goodness of time, for they make it not a sword that kills growth, but a shield to protect.  (In other words---Don’t make your children grow up too quickly)

Blessed and mature are the parents who without anger can say no, for comforting to the child is the security of firm decisions.

Blessed is the gift of consistency, for it is comforting in childhood.

Blessed are the teachable parents, for knowledge brings understanding, and understanding brings love.

Blessed are the men and women who, in the midst of this challenging world, give love, for they bestow the greatest of all gifts to each other, to their children, and in an ever widening circle, to their fellow children of God.

---Anonymous author

We owe a great debt of gratitude to Isaac and to all the fathers and mothers who teach love for, and trust in, our heavenly Father.  You are blessed and you are a blessing to your family.  Thank you!

Amen.


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