They were not perfect men. Abraham twice called Sarah his sister rather than rely on God for protection. He married Hagar rather than wait for God’s promise through Sarah. Isaac proved his fallibility by turning a blind eye to the wickedness of Esau. Jacob is remembered for his cunning and trickery. The consistent story of Scripture is not one of exceptional men, but an exceptional God. The Torah tells us their stories so honestly that we are convinced. We feel we know these men personally. We learn that even the greatest men of faith were human. We may take comfort in that, but we must not forget the unique, spiritual greatness of the Fathers.
Consider the greatness of the Fathers. When is the last time God appeared to you? Yet he appeared to the Fathers again and again. They were prophets, great prophets. He spoke to them. They heard his voice.
God said to Abraham “Go ye forth,” and Abraham went forth. He said, “Sacrifice for me,” and he sacrificed. He said to Isaac “Stay,” and Isaac stayed. He said to Jacob, “Go back,” and he went back. Whatever He told them to do, they did. For example, when God told Abraham to sacrifice his son, not only did Abraham consent, but Isaac too consented to be sacrificed. Why? Because God willed it.
So precious are the fathers, that God named Himself after them. He is called the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. He is never called the God of Joseph. He is never called the God of Moses. He is not referred to as the God of David. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The God of our Fathers.
How beloved are our Fathers! When Israel sinned by making the Golden Calf, God was angry enough with them to destroy them, but Moses stayed His hand by invoking the memory of the LORD’s covenant with the Fathers. Moses prayed, “Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel.” God relented on their behalf.
Paul explained it to us in Romans. He was explaining to the increasingly Gentile, Roman congregations how it was that the Jewish people remained God’s chosen people even though they had not accepted the gospel. He said, “From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:28-29).
The Jewish people are loved on account of the fathers. How great are your Fathers, O Israel!