Throughout the Scriptures, the Lord our God is referred to - and refers to Himself - frequently as "the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." For Israel, this was a reminder that He was the God of their fathers for many generations, a family treasure passed down from one man to his son to his son to his sons across all time.
But as I read this phrase last night for the hundred thousandth time, a new understanding of it struck me that expands the notion of the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob into something new for those of us who are not biological sons of Israel.
Abraham was the original patriarch, the first man to form the kind of faith-full relationship with God that would build a whole people. In the New Testament, Hebrews tells us much about Abraham, but focuses on the fact that it was his faith that was counted his righteousness. In other words, he was righteous in God's sight because of the way that he wholeheartedly believed and acted and lived upon that faith.
Isaac was the son that Abraham was set to sacrifice on the top of the mountain, at God's direction. He is the one who walked with his father, carrying unbeknownst the firewood that would burn under his own body, asking innocently along the way what was going to happen once they got there. It's a heartbreaking story, really, even though we know that it ends well for both of them. But we should not let it get past us that Isaac is the one who is saved at the sacrifice of the son, even though he himself is the son.
Jacob is the favored second son of Isaac, who steals his first-born brother's blessing and becomes a great nation in exile even before he becomes a father himself. He wrestles with God on the banks of the Jabbok River and is renamed Israel, the nearest patriarch of the chosen people of God. For the rest of the history of the people of God, Israel plays a pivotal role in all that He does, by nature of their special chosenness.
These are the men that God routinely identifies Himself as the God of, and to Israel, they were the true fathers of the faith.
But they are our fathers, too. (And it is Hebrews, I believe, that also says this, at least about Abraham.)
Abraham is the father of all those who live by faith, who are accounted on their righteousness because of the way that they wholeheartedly believe, and how they live and act on that faith.
Isaac is the father of all those who are saved at the sacrifice of the Son. As Jesus hung on the Cross, He imparted to us this saving grace, and we all, by this act, become sons of Isaac.
Jacob is the father of all those who wrestle with God and are chosen by Him, those who have special favor in the Lord's sight by His calling of them by name.
We may not be Israelites by biology, may not be descendants by blood of these great fathers, but they are our fathers, indeed, and we, their children - the children of God.
The children of the very God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.