I’ve been thinking a lot about fatherhood lately and my responsibilities as a father. My boys are growing up fast, and with every new stage I am stunned by the simple truth that they will grow up and be adults one day. Will they be ready? What principles of God-centered manhood do I emphasize? Are these even evident in my own life? I’ve also been a foster dad for the last 3 years. Have these kids seen God reflected in my words and actions? On this Father’s Day, I’ve been reflecting on a passage that has gained new meaning for me since becoming a father – the sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis 22. I want to point out 7 Qualities of a Faithful Father from this text.
22:1-2 | Faithful fathers will be tested
After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham! ” “Here I am,” he answered. “Take your son,” he said, “your only son Isaac, whom you love, go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”
No softballs here. Your life as a father is not marked by ease and peace. And if everything is going well like it was for Abraham, you better expect some testing. The milestones in your life will be the tests of faith that come your way. God wants to use these to show your God mirroring character to the world around you. Testing keeps us humble and it tempers and refines us for greater responsibility in the kingdom of God. God promises that we can bear it if we maintain strength in our love for him as our heavenly father.
Dt 8:2 | Remember that the Lord your God led you on the entire journey these 40 years in the wilderness, so that he might humble you and test you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.
1 Cor 10:13 | No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide a way out so that you may be able to bear it.
Js 1:12 | Blessed is the one who endures trials, because when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
1 Pt 1:6-7 | You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith – more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire – may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
22:3-6 | Faithful fathers are quick to obey
So Abraham got up early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took with him two of his young men and his son Isaac. He split wood for a burnt offering and set out to go to the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go over there to worship; then we’ll come back to you.” Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac. In his hand he took the fire and the knife, and the two of them walked on together.
Abraham did not take a few days to think about it. He didn’t consult his circle of friends. He might not have even talked to his wife! The Lord’s command was clear and he did not hesitate to obey. There are so many spectators and commentators in the church today. People like to comment on the quality of the work being done, the kind of work that needs to be done, the number of people working, where we should be working, why it isn’t working here or there. But we need more people to get up and get on the field. If God calls your number, you get in the game. If God is calling out an area of disobedience in your life, shut it down and cut it off. Cast aside every weight to run the race with endurance.
22:7-8 | Faithful fathers listen and answer tough questions
Then Isaac spoke to his father Abraham and said, “My father.” And he replied, “Here I am, my son.” Isaac said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” Then the two of them walked on together.
Fathers, pay attention to your kids! Get the screens out of your face and give your kids full attention. The way you spend your time teaches them what’s important. From about age 2-6 my father was going back to school to get his college degree and after that my mom did as well. This instilled a love of books and learning. We had several bookcases full of textbooks on biology, astronomy, and history. I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to read the big books like dad.
Use any opportunity they give you to answer the questions that they have. Shepherd their hearts with the truth of God and his word. Abraham’s declaration that the Lord would provide the offering was the answer to Isaac’s question, but when the Lord really did provide, it must have grown little Isaac’s trust in God.
22:9-10 | Faithful fathers believe in God even unto death
When they arrived at the place that God had told him about, Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood. He bound his son Isaac and placed him on the altar on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son.
Here we come to the heart of the story. The deep faith of Abraham. Faith that challenges me. The methodical nature of the narrative comes to a climax here. What was Abraham thinking in this moment? Thankfully we have scripture to illuminate the situation…
Js 2:20-24 | Senseless person! Are you willing to learn that faith without works is useless? Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works in offering Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was made complete, and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
Hb 11:17-19 | By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac. He received the promises and yet he was offering his one and only son, the one to whom it had been said, Your offspring will be called through Isaac. He considered God to be able even to raise someone from the dead; therefore, he received him back, figuratively speaking.
22:11-12 | Faithful fathers listen to the Lord
But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” He replied, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not lay a hand on the boy or do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your only son from me.”
This is the second time that Abraham was quick to listen to the Lord. He was listening for his name to be called, and he recognizes the voice of the Lord. His response of “Here I am” is not just a “What do you want?” response. His words show the posture of his heart. He is ready and waiting to hear the commands of the Lord. This is the heart of a man in relationship with God. Put this in contrast with Genesis 3:8-9 when God comes to call on Adam and he is hiding.
22:13-14 | Faithful fathers gratefully worship
Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught in the thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it as a burnt offering in place of his son. And Abraham named that place The Lord Will Provide, so today it is said: “It will be provided on the Lord’s mountain.”
Fathers, picture your child as Isaac on that altar. Feel the relief and emotions that must have flooded Abraham when another sacrifice was provided in place of his son. That is the gospel message. Jesus has taken our place as the atoning sacrifice. Every day we now live in worship of this once and for all sacrifice given on our behalf. The gratitude and love from our redemption must be visible to our children. Model grateful worship in your life.
22:15-19 | Faithful fathers impact the nations
Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn,” this is the Lord’s declaration: “Because you have done this thing and have not withheld your only son, I will indeed bless you and make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your offspring will possess the city gates of their enemies. And all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring because you have obeyed my command.” Abraham went back to his young men, and they got up and went together to Beer-sheba. And Abraham settled in Beer-sheba.
When we walk in willing obedience with the Lord, he will give us significance in our fatherhood. God used Abraham’s faith to bless the nations. Follow God’s lead in faithful fatherhood and let him use you to bless the nations.
Now go back through the passage and look at the ways that God is Abraham and Jesus is Isaac. Think about the steps you need to take to be a faithful father like Abraham. How can we better parent in light of our faithful Heavenly Father?