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Samuel Kuo
April 13, 2020
This entry is part 5 of 24 in the series 156 Pictures of Christ in the Old Testament
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Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.

Fact About Christ from page 5: Christ, like Isaac, is the sole chosen One, the receiver of all God’s promises and inheritance.

Today, we come to the first of two pictures of Christ we will cover found in the life of Isaac, the son of Abraham. Taking verses spanning from Genesis chapter 12 to chapter 25, we will focus on Isaac as the promised heir to all of what God has given and promised to Abraham. 

Abraham’s Search For an Heir

Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

– Genesis 12:7

(Note: Abram is renamed Abraham in Genesis 17:5)

Throughout Abraham’s life, he has many romantic experiences with God. He receives a call from God to leave his country and father’s house to follow Him, walks with God through many different experiences, and even receives promises and blessings from God. Among these promises is that his offspring would possess the land he sojourned in. He will have an heir! Yet as years pass and no child comes, he becomes anxious about the fulfillment of that promise. What was God waiting for? So Abraham keeps trying to put different people into that position: Eliezer, then Ishmael. God keeps telling him that they aren’t it, but Abraham doesn’t believe God! 

Is it Eliezer?

But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 

And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.”

– Genesis 15:2-4
Is it Ishmael?

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife….

And Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.

– Genesis 16:1-3, 15-16

And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” 

God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.

Genesis 17:18-19

There is much that can be said about the birth of Ishmael, but here we will only focus on Abraham’s statement, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” Abraham really has hopes for that child. He finally has a son! He wishes that Ishmael could be the one to live before God as the inheritor of all the promises. To Abraham, Ishmael seems to fit God’s requirement stated in Genesis 15:4 — “Your very own son shall be your heir.” Yet to God, Ishmael was a child born through the efforts of flesh, and not the heir He had promised, who would come through Sarah.

So with Ishmael, just as with Eliezer, God says “No!”

A box with two arrows labeled Eliezar and Ishmael pointing to it. God is above all and saying "NO!"
God refuses to let Abram place others into Isaac’s spot

God’s Response – It is Isaac! 

And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” 

Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”

Genesis 17:15-17

They said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?”

And he said, “She is in the tent.”

The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.”

And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?”

Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.”

But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.”

Genesis 18:9-15

What is the reaction of Abraham and Sarah upon hearing God’s plan? Abraham falls on his face and laughs. Sarah laughs to herself. A son by Sarah! Impossible! Abraham is a hundred years old! And Sarah ninety, long past menopause, shall she indeed bear a child? 

Only Isaac

But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, laughing. So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.”

Genesis 21:9-10

Abraham gave all he had to Isaac. But to the sons of his concubines Abraham gave gifts, and while he was still living he sent them away from his son Isaac, eastward to the east country.

Genesis 25:5-6

Lastly, we see how Isaac isn’t just an heir, he is the only heir. Ishmael is blessed by God, but he is cast out so that there can be no confusion about who is the true heir. The sons of Keturah received gifts but were also sent away. The other sons of Abraham can have blessings and gifts, but Isaac is unique. The whole inheritance belongs to him.  

What does the New Testament say about it?

Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ.

Galatians 3:16

Jesus Christ… the son of Abraham. 

Matthew 1:1

The first verse in the New Testament deliberately indicates that Jesus is the son of Abraham. In addition, Galatians is very clear that the promises made to Abraham’s one offspring are actually to Christ. He is the true child of promise, the true child of the Spirit of whom Isaac is a picture. 

So what does this picture say about Christ? 

God is looking for a vessel, one particular person He will give everything to. He did not want to give His promises to just any of Abraham’s offspring, but He was very concerned about having the right person to fill that position of promised heir. Someone to give His inheritance to. Someone to give His covenant to. When we look at Isaac in this way, we realize how much God values Christ. Christ is utterly unique. He is the only one who can inherit. God only honors Christ. 

What does this mean for me as a Christian? 

In our life, there is just one. Christ. Why are we partaking in any of the inheritance of God? Actually, not because he gave anything to us, but only because we as believers are incorporated in Christ. In Christ. This is a vital phrase that is often overlooked in the Bible. How amazing is it that we are in Christ? 

From Abraham’s experience, we see two ways of falling short. The first is to place someone else in Isaac’s position. The second is to have Isaac and Ishmael.

Thus, in your life, in your service, what are you aiming for? A gift? A blessing? Or the One to whom God has given everything? Christ and Christ alone. God blesses a lot of things, but that’s not Christ. Ishmael received a blessing and the sons of Keturah received gifts, but Isaac received everything. Isaac teaches us that in our Christian lives it is only, only, only Christ. That is where the promise is. With Christ and only Christ.

When you have this kind of aim, it may be that others will mock you, question you, or dissuade you. Take courage—even God was laughed at! May this be our prayer: Dear Father! Your heart is set upon Your beloved Son! All Your promises and Your inheritance lie in Him! It is so easy for us to set our hopes on things other than Christ, but give us hearts that value Him just as You value Him. Oh, have mercy on Your children. Purify us Lord!

Have any inspirations or questions about the content of the article? Or do you just want to say hello and introduce yourself? We’d love to hear from all our readers! Leave a comment or send an email to editors@asweetsavor.org with the title of this post in the subject line. If you are burning to engage with us, but don’t know what to say, here are some questions that could be a help: 

  1. When God revealed His plan to Abraham and Sarah, they laughed at Him. Yet in the end, Isaac became a source of laughter and joy for Sarah. Has God’s way of doing things in your life ever made you laugh in wonder or amazement?
  2. Abraham learned over many years how God valued Isaac as the proper heir of all His promises. In our daily life, how can we be taught to value Jesus as God values Him?
  3. In Christian service, it is common to see the blessing of God as a sign of alignment with the will of God. While this may be true, has there been a time in your experience where seeking the blessing of God has caused you to miss out on having more of Christ? 
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