Consider the greatness of the forefathers. God appeared to them regularly. They were 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.
The LORD associated His own name with them. He calls Himself the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. He never calls Himself the God of Joseph or the God of Moses or the God of David. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers. The apostles speak reverently of the three patriarchs and declare, “God is not ashamed to be called their God” (Hebrews 11:16).
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 to the increasingly Gentile congregations in Rome 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). God loves the Jewish people on account of the fathers. Moses says, “Because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them” (Deuteronomy 4:37). How great are your Fathers, O Israel! The daily prayer declares that “For the sake of His devotion to the Fathers, He brings us a redeemer,” the ultimate Son of the ultimate Father.
Traditional Jewish teaching explains that the stories and deeds of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob foreshadow the destiny of the nation of Israel. Rabbinic literature expresses this concept with the often-repeated maxim, “The deeds of the forefathers are portents for the sons.” The fathers prepared the way. They pioneered the trails that their children followed, both spiritually and geographically. They blazed the trail to the Promised Land. They went down into Egypt and out again. They went into exile and returned. They blazed the trail of faith.
Both Jewish and Gentile believers are spiritual descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We are capable of the things the forefathers accomplished because we are their spiritual sons and daughters. The deeds of the fathers serve as portents for their children—all who believe, the Jewish people first, but also the Gentile—all those who follow in the steps of the faith of our fathers.