Teacher: Chancellor Roger J. Magnuson
Topic: In examining the life of Isaac describe the significance of his name. In doing so, discuss the Hebrew concept of a name and its spiritual significance, with examples pulled from the Old Testament describe with particularly, the choice of Isaac’s name and destiny and describe what it reflects, if anything, of God’s sense of humor. In addition, identify each instance when Isaac’s life imitated his father’s, only in a paler shade, and give six instances from the Old Testament or from ancient history of a similar pattern.
Title: Bud Lite: What’s In A Name?
The son of a company owner named Bud was called “Bud Lite.” We might call Isaac, “Abraham Lite,” for he was the shadow of his father: he knew how to lie about who his wife was, he knew how to go to Egypt, etc. People who have had dominant fathers sometimes are compared for their entire lives to their fathers and the result is that they have that name, “Bud Lite.” Understanding the relationship of Abraham and Isaac opens up some important keys and clues that we use again and again as we study the history of redemption. Samuel Johnson said, “If you don’t like London, you don’t like the world, because all the world is in London.” In the same way, if you don’t like Abraham’s story, you don’t like God’s whole story of redemption, for it is all pictured in Abraham’s life.
- Methodology—God is a methodical God; He is not whimsical or capricious; everything He does is premeditated, orderly, and perfectly calibrated. You can set your clock by the solar movements, because God enjoys the rigors of orderliness. This is true not only of the scientific world, but also of redemptive history. God has a system of redemption.
- Covenant—God works His redemptive and mysterious purposes through the idea of covenant. We will later see specific aspects of covenant revealed in Genesis 15, 17 and 22. God organizes Act I (Old Testament) and Act II (New Testament) of the Drama of Redemption with the concept of covenant. What is a covenant? A sanction sealed commitment by which God gathers out of the world a special people for Himself. God is in the role of the great Suzerain king, with Abraham in the role of the Vassal, or lesser, king. God enters into a covenant relationship with man as one of the great kings. (In NATO, the “big dog,” the USA, would join into a similar treaty relationship with a “small| dog” like the Philippines, offering to protect and help as long as the “small dog” would remain faithful to the “big dog” rather than turning to a “bully” like China.) Thus did God with Abraham, being the great king asking for the faith of the lesser king rather than the lesser king giving faith to another lord. For there are two superpowers in the world, God and Satan, both battling for human souls.
“Kerath Berith:” God was “cutting a covenant” with Abraham. He agreed to bless all nations through Abraham, while Abraham agreed to be faithful to God. God’s obligation was to provide, protect and work His purposes through Abraham, while Abraham’s responsibility was to obey God. But how was Abraham to know that God meant it? God proved it by making this a “sanction-sealed” covenant. Traditionally, there have been several ways of enforcing promises: in Medieval times, you could write down a promise and put a seal on it; in the Ancient Near East, you would do a self-deprecating oath where you agreed that you would be cursed for not keeping your part of the covenant. A vassal king and suzerain king would take an animal to the top of a hill, kill the animal, and would sometimes cut the reproductive organ to indicate that this covenant affected all the generations to come. When God made the promises, He sent down a furnace lamp of fire to pass between divided animals and birds. God was saying, “If I can‘t do or deliver, may I be cut upon as those animals.” He was serious about His agreement: to insure the validity of His promise, He took upon Himself the punishment of not keeping it. This was the Old Testament Golgotha. This responsibility is the difference between a contract and a covenant.
- Construct—Throughout His redemptive history, God has used the construct of the redemptive triad. There is a burst of divine activity, then there is the apparent collapse or shadow that falls over that promise, and then there is the glorious and supernatural fulfillment of that promise. That is the way that God methodically works throughout all of His redemptive history.
- Abraham’s Lineage—The construct is seen through Abraham’s lineage. Abraham has a promise of many offspring, not much happens with Isaac, and then the fulfillment comes with Jacob who has many sons.
- Abraham—The construct is seen in Abraham’s own life. He has the promise that he is going to be the father of many nations, but he comes head to head with his own inability to produce a child, he tries in his own strength to fulfill the promise, but, finally, there it is—the great fulfillment supernaturally, of the promise as Isaac is given.
- Moses—Moses has a dream of leading his people (40 years of promise), spends forty years in desert obscurity, then spends forty years as a great leader where God fulfills many promises.
- Joseph—Joseph dreams of being a leader in family and nation, is sold as a slave and imprisoned, and ultimately is raised up by God as the second in command of the whole land of Egypt.
- Christ—People thought He was the Redeemer, then He died and all hope seemed lost; but then He rose to newness of life.
- Baptism—We are alive, but then we are buried in the water, only to rise to a new life of hope in Jesus Christ.
- Everything—There will someday be a total consummation of each of God’s promises. He will bring to pass each thing He originally said. What He promised, though it experienced a temporary death, will be fulfilled by His power. That is simply a part of God’s methodology. This triangle of promise, death and fulfillment can be seen in every area of life.
- Concept—Importance of the name. God attaches a great significance to names. Names are not empty words; they are empty vessels that are meant to be filled with destiny, promise and meaning. Names represent the essence of who people really are: God names “Adam” because he comes from the dust, “Eve” because she is the mother of all living; “Jacob” for he is a supplanter, and then later “Israel” when his destiny was changed. Jesus would change a person’s name to reflect that person’s individual purpose as a disciple. God named “Noah” as grace spelled backward; He named “Shem” meaning, “name,” because Shem’s people would make a name for themselves. “Japheth” means “expand,” for it was his descendants who did many of the cultural expansions in the world. But we have here the Problem of Universals, which has been called the “central problem of philosophy.” The Problem of Universals is, “Why can you speak universally of things? Why do you speak of ‘cars,’ when there is such a multiplicity of cars? Why can you speak of dogs, cats or human beings? Is it because they have some essence in common, or is it just a matter of convenience?” There are three positions to the problem of universals:
- Idealism—The most important thing is the ideal. Plato was an idealist. These folks believe that the ideal is ante rem, before the thing. Before there was ever a thing, there was an idea. God had an idea in his mind of what a man should be before ever a man existed. God had ideas of family, marriage, man, woman, lion—they were not made up by man.
- Nominalism—From nomen, Latin word for name. Nominalism was well-represented by an “obscure” philosopher named William of Okham: he said that names were merely a passing of air through the lips. There is no essence or ideal of a chair; if something looks like a chair, it helps us know what to do when someone says, “Stack up the chairs.” There’s no connection between the chair and anything essential (any ideal). Names are just used to organize things. Post rem, after the thing. The universals only apply to something after it exists: you define things however you want. Nominalism is very convenient for today: you can define the family as any conglomeration of people, or things, that you want to. You define it and then put a name on it. You can define what morality is: it can be homosexual lovers having one lover at a time.
- Realism—The realist says,
- Ante Rem—It is true that there is in the mind of God an ante rem. Before we were here, God had an idea of what we would be.
- In Rem—There is an aspect of a tulip that makes it a tulip: it has an entelechy that causes it work in a certain way. A human being will develop in certain ways because it was created for a certain purpose. If you abuse relationships, body and other things in a way they were not designed for, things will be bent out of shape.
- Post Rem—A reality exists after you. You have a name that is assigned to you that has a recognition of who you are essentially. God is not a nominalist; God is a realist in the problem of universals, because your essence is reflected in your name. God gives you a name, and uses that name to summon you to fulfill the essential destiny that you have as a human being. We see that often through Scripture: Jacob the supplanter became Israel who prevailed. The name is significant. God chose a special name for Isaac: Abraham and Sarah laughed when they heard that they were to have a son, and their son was called “Isaac,” laughter. In Abraham and Isaac, we understand three of the fundamental ways that God works with people: the ideas of covenant, construct and concept.
- Mission—The mission of God is to develop in us an idea of what it takes to be successful in ministry, what it takes to understand the ways of God, and what our theology ought to be (theology meaning, “Thinking God’s thoughts after Him.”)
- Authority—Here we have established the principle of authority. Real authority is in a name. The devil wants there to be authority in works, but real authority is in the name. If you take a check to the bank, and the teller sees that no name is on it, there is no power in it. A check is only as good as someone’s name. If I say, “Stop!” you may or may not heed my authority. But if a police officer says, “Stop in the name of the law!” though he is just a human being, he invokes a powerful name, and you had better stop, for authority lies in his name. By the authority vested in a pastor through his name, he can pronounce two people “man and wife.” It is through the name of Jesus Christ that we are saved. “There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” All authority is in the name of Jesus Christ for salvation and therefore it is in that mighty name that salvation occurs. We offer our prayers in His name, because it has no power as our own little wish, but only when it calls “in Jesus’ name.” At the end of the age, every pagan priest, every atheist, will bow at the name of Jesus Christ and involuntarily proclaim Him Lord. At the Garden, Jesus said, “Ego eimi,” and because He was asserting His authority through His name, the soldiers fell to the ground.
- Attribute—Faith. The construct of the redemptive triad demands faith. God understands that a world that tests people is better than a predetermined world where people simply act robotic parts. You can’t understand history without understanding freedom, without understanding that real choices are made, and that there are real ordeals to go through that demand faith. Some people will seek and strive to enter the kingdom and won’t be able, and this is part of the redemptive program. Adam and Eve had the possibility of sinning, and they sinned. So too, when promises are given us, if they were immediately fulfilled, there would not be an importance for faith. And “without faith it is impossible to please God; for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” The time between the promise and the fulfillment of that promise is the time when God calls us to exercise faith. The redemptive triad illustrates how important to God is the concept of faith: when we have a dream from God that seems to die, we must rely on faith to carry us through until God miraculously fulfills His promise. God builds faith in Him into our lives by this redemptive triad.
- Acquiescence—He teaches us acquiescence by the principle of the covenant: the covenant idea is all about relationships. The way we please God is not by doing some particular work, but by entering into a covenant relationship with Him. The organizing principle of a relationship with God is not Gnostic knowledge; it is the sanction-sealed commitment and covenant that has been sealed by the blood of God. Because it comes through the blood and name of Jesus Christ, it is completely reliable.
- Message—God’s message in this is basically, “Preach it and live it.” First, be highly attuned to the importance of God’s covenant and a relationship with Him; second, understand the construct—that God is going to take us through the great redemptive triad just as He did Abraham, and finally, understand that the power of our evangelism and testimony is not in our words, but in the name of Jesus Christ.