The Isaacs: Ministry in Story & Song

isaacs musicThe Isaacs, a Christian bluegrass band, performed a free concert at a former Baptist church on a hot Friday night, two years ago. They write and produce most of their music, with styles ranging from bluegrass, rhythm and blues, folk, and country to Southern Gospel. That the Isaacs tour the world as a Christian band at all is a testament to God’s grace and faithfulness.

Lily Isaacs, now a grandmother of six, was born in 1947 in a German refugee camp for Holocaust survivors. Her Polish Jewish parents were liberated by the Americans at concentration camps in 1945. The mother told her story in the Gaither music video Live from Norway (2008). Lily grew up in the Bronx, New York. She met the bluegrass musician Joe Isaacs at a nightclub in Greenwich Village and they married in 1970. One year later, Lily prayed in a church after a family tragedy and found Jesus. Then she and her husband started the Isaacs. Lily reared her children Ben, Sonya, and Becky (Rebecca Isaacs Bowman) in a Christian home. These four, plus Becky and Sonya’s husbands, make up the Isaacs today.

While singing treasures new and old (Matthew 13:52), the Isaacs enriched the concert with stories of God’s healing power. Lily received medical treatment after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1983. She is now a 30-year breast cancer survivor. Lily’s autobiography You Don’t Cry Out Loud (2014) can be purchased online and at Christian stores.

blindness jesus john 9Becky was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease thirteen years ago, taking twenty drugs each day to stay alive. So she decided to enter an expensive alternative treatment program. Becky has now been drug- and pain-free for three years. To illustrate her journey, she told the story of the blind man in John 9 who walked a half-mile to the pool of Siloam to receive his sight. Then Becky sang “Waiting in the Water.”[1]

Every step I take
Is a step of faith
When I can’t see what’s in front of me
I’ll walk on and just believe
He hears my prayer
And when I get there
The miracle promised by my Father
Is waiting in the water

Finally, Sonya explained the importance of forgiveness – letting go of the hurtful things others have done to us so that we can freely live for God. Then she sang “Why Can’t We.”[2]

If He can love someone and find the good within
In spite of what they’ve done, no matter where they’ve been
If He can let it go and set the debtor free
If He can keep forgiving you and me
Why can’t we

Through the Isaacs, I also experienced God’s faithfulness and healing. I first heard them sing “It Is Well (Elisha’s Song),”[3] the story of the Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4), on the Gaither music video Let Freedom Ring (2002).

It is well, it is well
There is peace in my despair
Knowing God will hear my prayer
And I will cling
To the promise that he brings
Even death will have no sting
No power in hell
In his presence I will dwell
Where it is well

A few years ago, a friend had a massive stroke and was not expected to live. I prayed for her recovery and her soul because I did not know if she was truly saved. Soon after my friend died, I read 2 Kings 4. Then I remembered the song “It Is Well.” It became a healing balm as God comforted me over my friend’s final resting place.

The Isaacs did not sing “It Is Well” at the concert. Nor did they sing favorites like “Healing Stream”[4] from Majesty (2011), “Umbrella”[5] from South African Homecoming (2007), or “Hallelujah”[6] from Israel Homecoming (2005). In the end, it did not matter. The Isaacs still ministered to their captive audience through testimonies of faith. As freely they have received, they freely give (Matthew 10:8). May God bless the faithful ministry of the Isaacs.


[1] On the album Why Can’t We (2011)
[2] On the album Why Can’t We (2011)
[3] On the album Eye of the Storm (2002)
[4] On the album Naturally (2009)
[5] On the album Big Sky (2007)
[6] On the album Naturally (2009)

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