The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. That’s a bit of a joke we tell whenever someone’s kids do something that reminds us of our parents. Typically this is more along the lines of some idiosyncratic behavior if mentioned out loud, but it is a phrase also used under one’s breath when a particular vice seems to have been passed down from the parents.
However, if we consider the fullness of this horticultural (yes, I just used that word) metaphor, we can find ourselves tremendously challenged by it. Every piece of fruit is an extension of it’s parent. It may blossom into it’s own one day, but all of it’s life-giving genetic code was provided by its parent. This goes beyond genes though, doesn’t it? If we are to draw any human conclusions from this analogy, we need to recognize that the circumstances surrounding the apple’s upbringing greatly affect it as well. What kind of weather was common at the time? Did it get enough water? Did it’s parent struggle through hard times (like drought)? Was it barren for one or more seasons as a result? In the end, was the apple tree able to provide the kind of nourishment that an apple needs to flourish on it’s own?
That rather long-winded introduction was simply to setup the following: Isaac was a product of his father’s upbringing. He apparently learned a lot from dear old dad. He learned how to cultivate the ground. He learned how to dig for water in an otherwise desert land. He learned commerce. He learned how to coexist with others in the same land. He learned how to put down roots and make a place a home. He learned how to love a woman. He learned how to fear God.
Of course, we don’t just pass on good things to our children. One only needs to listen to “Cats in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin to be reminded of the negative impact we can have on our kids when our priorities are in the wrong place. In Abraham’s life, he made a few mistakes of his own and Isaac didn’t exactly learn from them. Rather, he fell into the same kinds of traps.
In today’s modern world, a person who grew up in an abusive home is far more likely to abuse their spouse. Alcoholism is almost assuredly generational, and we tend to go the same churches and vote for the same political parties as our parents did. For guys especially (though much of the same is true for women), we will find that our children will speak to our wives the way that we do. They will speak to their children the way that we speak to them. Our conduct in the home has lasting, generational results.
Isaac found himself in the same land, under the same king, with the same circumstances as his father. As he settled in Gehar where King Abimelech still reigned, he felt he could be in jeopardy because of the beauty of his wife. Never mind that it was God who told him to stay put; Isaac, like so many of us, after hearing from God and following his direction then grabs the reigns at the first sign of trouble. He, like his father before him, had an achilles heel when it came to trusting God with his safety in a foreign land.
“When the men of the place asked him about his wife, he said, ‘She is my sister,’ for he feared to say, ‘My wife,’ thinking, ‘lest the men of the place should kill me because of Rebekah,’ because she was attractive in appearance.” – Genesis 26:7
Where do you think he learned this trick anyway? Of course from his father. What we are not told is whether or not Abraham introduced the concept to him as a viable tactic. Abraham should have learned from his mistake after making it the last time, but in the midst of chaos, we all tend to run back toward what we feel is most comfortable and not what is right.
No, we can’t say what Abraham taught his son about this issue, and certainly Isaac made up his own mind in absence of his father. What we can rejoice in however is that in spite of it all, Isaac’s life was not defined by this incident. This would not be a referendum on Abraham’s parenthood. On the contrary, Isaac shows much integrity after being asked to leave by the king. He digs a well that belonged to his father, but the people say he does not own the rights to it. Wanting to be above reproach, he digs again and gets the same response. He moves on again and this time, there are no objections. He showed incredible patience in waiting on the Lord through this ordeal and as a result, his riches flourished. The king eventually comes to make a pact with Isaac. The same pact he made with his father, Abraham.
Apparently the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, so let’s determine that if this saying is ever used of us, it will be for our children’s victories and not their defeats. Let’s take that as a challenge and not cower away and stop trying just because we’ve made some mistakes. Our kids lives are bigger than a couple of bad decisions. Let’s grow, tall and mighty in spite of our circumstances. Don’t use them as an excuse. Let’s be branches that are attached to the true vine so that we can provide the kind of nourishment that our kids need to develop strong character, moral values and a love for God.