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By Faith Isaac

The Bible’s Great Faith Hall of Fame in Hebrews chapter 11 honours Abel, Enoch, Noah and Abraham as outstanding examples of faith and identifies the acts which qualified them for this prestigious list.

Then we read, “By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future” (Hebrews 11:20).

Merely speaking a blessing?! How does this act rate alongside Noah’s building the ark or Abraham’s leaving his country?

“And thereby,” believes the author, “hangs a tale.”

The first half of the book, By Faith Isaac, explores Abraham’s faith journey and listens in to conversations between Abraham and Isaac as Abraham carefully passes on the faith lessons he has learned.

When Abraham faces his greatest faith test, the sacrifice of his son, Isaac embarks on his own faith journey. After marrying Rebekah, Isaac has to learn a new lesson of faith – one which his forefathers had not had to deal with.

Excerpts of the Book

Abram Hears God’s Voice

“Tell me, please, Father,” Isaac pleaded, “tell me again about hearing the voice of Yahweh. When was the first time you heard his voice?”

Thirteen-year-old Isaac had heard the story many times before, but he never tired of hearing it, and Abraham never tired of telling it.

“I was living in Ur in the province of Chaldea. My brother Haran had died, my father was planning to go to Canaan so I thought I would never see him again, and the physician had just confirmed that my wife was barren. I was grieving and depressed when something amazing happened to me.”

“What happened?” asked Isaac as if he was hearing the story for the first time.

“The God of glory appeared to me.”

“What do you mean, ‘the God of glory’?”

“I don’t know how else to describe him,” Abraham said. “I knew it was Yahweh, the one my forefathers had told me about. Yahweh had walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Later he had walked with Enoch and talked with Noah. It couldn’t be the moon god of Ur. He never walked or talked with anybody. He never did anything.

“Then one evening I was sitting alone on the roof of my house watching the sun set and the darkness close in and thinking about Yahweh. Suddenly I was aware of a bright light. At first I thought I had fallen asleep and it was morning. But I was still facing west, not the rising sun.

“As I watched, the light began to move, and I became aware of a presence inside the light. I watched in wonder at the beauty of the sight. Instinctively I was aware of Yahweh’s rank, high above all the nations he had made. My heart welled up with praise, and I began to whisper his name in awe.

“Then he spoke.”

“What did he sound like?” Isaac asked.

“His voice was rich and powerful – more compelling than any voice I had ever heard.”

“And you knew it was Yahweh.”

“Yes. It had to be. It had to be the voice Noah had heard.”

Abram Rescues Lot (Abram talking to his son Isaac)

“My immediate response (to Melchizedek king of Salem after Abram rescued Lot) was to give to Yahweh what belonged to him. All that had been retrieved from the Babylonian armies was legally mine, because I had retrieved it. I asked the people to pass in front of Melchizedek with their possessions, and I carefully counted out one in ten of everything and gave it to him.”

“That’s like paying taxes to him!” Isaac exclaimed. “Doesn’t paying tax signify subjection to a government’s authority? Wasn’t this whole war about taxes? Lot started it by rebelling against paying taxes to Babylon on top of paying taxes to Egypt. You never paid taxes to Egypt or Babylon, yet you paid taxes to Melchizedek without him even asking! Why?”

“Earthly kingdoms aren’t the only governments needing taxes, Son,” Abraham replied. “Earthly kingdoms have to pay for roads and defense and salaries of civil servants. But God also needs taxes to run his Kingdom here on earth. Egypt and Babylon tried to tax outside their legitimate jurisdiction. But Yahweh’s jurisdiction extends to the ends of the earth – and farther.

“I felt that Melchizedek would spend wisely for God’s Kingdom, so I gave him my tenth. You can think of it as a tax if you want to. I also resolved to send him a tenth of everything I had back home.”

“Wasn’t that overdoing it?” Isaac asked.

“God has chosen to put his creation into our hands, Son. He asked Adam and Eve to rule over it – to use it wisely. We can never give too much to God. He wants us to freely give back to him what is already his. We limit what God can do here on earth when we are stingy toward him.

“Melchizedek received my gifts graciously, then proceeded to distribute bread and wine to the troops and the former captives.”

“He fed everybody?”

“He didn’t exactly feed them,” Abraham replied. “It was a toast. Melchizedek and his servants gave each person a piece of bread and a sip of wine, saying to each one, ‘Shalom. To Salem. To peace.’

“Apparently this was a tradition with Melchizedek whenever people came to his city. Having just come back from battle, we felt it was especially appropriate. I had the strangest sensation of being in another time and another place. A future time and a place far away. A heavenly place. In my imagination Yahweh, King of kings, was welcoming me to the heavenly City of Peace.

“Bera king of Sodom shattered my reverie by approaching. He had been standing in the background impatiently waiting while Melchizedek welcomed everybody. He didn’t dare to interrupt Melchizedek. Though Melchizedek was not surrounded by soldiers and his servants carried no weapons, he projected a sense of power. I could not imagine anyone waging war with him. I sensed that Bera was not on good terms with the king of Salem but didn’t dare to oppose him.

“‘Give me the people,’ Bera said to me, ‘and keep the goods for yourself.’

“Something about Bera bothered me. I had just freely given my tithe to Melchizedek, and now the king of Sodom was offering me wealth – all the goods that had been retrieved from Kedorlaomer. The timing was wrong. The contrast was unmistakable. For some strange reason my thoughts flashed to the story of the serpent tempting Eve in the Garden of Eden. In my imagination Bera seemed to slither and hiss.

“Something inside me snapped. I drew myself up to my full height and spoke to the king of Sodom in an officious voice.

“‘I have raised my hand to Yahweh, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, “I made Abram rich.” I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me – to Aner, Eshcol and Mamre. Let them have their share.’

“Bera looked as if he had been slapped in the face. He turned without a word and distributed to Mamre and his brothers their fair share of the spoils. Then he ushered his people away without a backward glance.

“‘What was that all about?’ Mamre asked me.

“‘I’m not sure that I can explain,’ I replied. ‘I didn’t mean to be rude. I just couldn’t help myself.’

“I never saw the king of Sodom again. But Melchizedek and I remained friends. He always welcomed me whenever I passed through Salem.”

Jacob Buys the Birthright

As the twins approached their thirtieth birthday, Jacob became more and more obsessed with the thought of buying the birthright from his brother Esau. He didn’t discuss it with his father because he knew Isaac would disapprove. He didn’t discuss it with Esau for fear that if Esau knew how much he wanted the birthright, he might raise the price beyond Jacob’s reach.

Only occasionally did Jacob raise the issue with his mother. He was never sure who might overhear their conversation and report it to either his father or his brother. Jacob’s main concern in such conversations was to learn how to make a transaction that would be binding. He had already been told that if he bought the birthright while he was under age, his father could overrule the sale.

The purchase of a birthright, like the purchase of a piece of land, had to be done in the presence of at least ten witnesses. Jacob had heard many times the story of his grandfather Abraham’s purchase of the burial site for Sarah. He had gone to Kiriath Arba to negotiate the purchase and have it properly witnessed. Just outside the main gate of every city was a raised platform and throne on which the king sat, a stone bench long enough for ten elders to sit and a canopy over the throne and elders’ bench to protect them from sun or rain. Land transactions were routinely done at the city gate with a scribe to record the duly witnessed purchases.

Isaac excused both Esau and Jacob from working with the flocks and herds on their thirtieth birthday, but they didn’t spend the day together. Esau wanted to indulge his favorite pastime, hunting, so he went off into the open country with a few friends.

Jacob was happy to spend the day close to home. He built a fire and filled a big pot with his favorite recipe for lentil stew. As it simmered, he wandered in and out among the tents of his people, chatting with friends and neighbors, watching the women busy with their chores, listening to the happy laughter of children at play, and enjoying the peace and tranquility of it all. At regular intervals he came back to stir the pot, taste the stew and make sure it was seasoned to perfection with tomatoes and red peppers. When the stew was almost done, he baked a batch of flat bread over the open fire.

Late in the afternoon, as Jacob was about to sit down for his meal, he heard a commotion in the camp. Esau was returning from his day in the open country. He and his friends looked dejected. They hadn’t caught a thing – not even a rabbit!

Esau was more than hungry after a long day. He was famished! Then he caught a whiff of Jacob’s stew.

“How about sharing some of your stew, brother,” Esau said to Jacob. “Quick! Let me have some! I’m famished!”

Now would be a good time to negotiate with Esau, Jacob thought. Esau is distracted by his hunger. This is the perfect opportunity to buy the birthright at a price I can afford!

In his wildest dreams Jacob hadn’t dared to think he could negotiate a price so soon. With his heart pounding, he broached the subject.

“First sell me your birthright.”

It came out more forcefully than Jacob had planned. He was surprised by his own boldness.

“Look, I’m about to die,” Esau said impatiently. “What good is the birthright to me?”

Jacob couldn’t believe his ears. Was Esau going to let him name his price? He knew how impulsive Esau could be, but this was truly rash. Jacob was about to make an opening offer, when another thought struck him. If he treated the matter lightly, Esau might give him a good deal.

Jacob ladled out a bowlful of stew and waved it under Esau’s nose, taunting him.

“I’ll sell you some stew for the birthright!” Jacob said playfully.

Esau took a deep breath, savoring the mouth-watering aroma. Jacob held his breath for the answer. He didn’t expect it to be this easy.

Elsa Henderson’s Second Book

Wise Men Seek Him, A Christmas Story

The ancient Chinese acknowledged a supreme God, ShangDi, phonetically similar to El Shaddai, for whom they had no image or idol. Some Chinese characters have an uncanny way of telling stories in Genesis. How did that come about? What did the Chinese know about Genesis and the one true God? Fact: Many Chinese Christians believe that one of the wise men who visited Jesus in Bethlehem was an astrologer named Liu Shang from China. Liu was the surname of the emperors in the Han Dynasty, during which Jesus lived. Fact: The only Old Testament reference to a star is in Numbers 24:17 — words spoken by a sorcerer named Balaam. Fact: The Bible does not tell us the names or the number of magi or what countries they were from, only that they were from the east and brought three very expensive gifts. Fact: Magi followed a star to Jerusalem and then to Bethlehem to worship the newborn king of the Jews and bring Him royal gifts. How did they know what the star signified? Can all these facts be reconciled? Can these questions be answered? Here’s how it might have happened.

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Where faith grows, hope blossoms. Journey with me as we unveil the faith that Isaac has inspired in us.

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