Genesis 26. Like Father- Like Son.
This is the only chapter that is devoted to Isaac. It comes at some time after the sons are grown for we will read of the marriage of Esau in the end of the chapter. Also there is no mention of Esau and Jacob accompanying their parents on their move to Gerar.
In verse 1 we read there is a famine in the land. A famine is one of those providential tests of the Lord. A faith that cannot be tested cannot be trusted. Each generation faces their own tests as Isaac does here in this part of his story.
A test always carries with it a temptation. The temptation is to scheme and manipulate to either avoid the test- run away from it or somehow lessen the severity of it. As far as the tests God would have us go through- you can run- but you cannot hide. God will see to it that you learn the lesson He would have you learn from the test He has allowed or shaped for you to face.
God tests us to bring out the best in us; while Satan tempts us to bring out the worst in us. In one form or another, each new generation of believers must experience the same tests as previous generations. The enemy does not change his mode of operation, human nature does not improve and God is the same today, as yesterday as He will be forever.
Now we have a promise from God that He will never allow us to be tested above that which you are able to bear,but when tempted He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. ( I Cor. 10:13). As Matthew Henry writes- He(God) proportions His peoples trials according to their strengths.
Isaac faces a famine- a severe time of need when supplies dwindle and his faith in Jehovah Jireh, his Provider is tested. The place we want run to is not a geographic location where we think a better supply is- no; the place we want to run to is the will of God. The will of God will never lead you to a place where His grace cannot provide for us.
But like his father, Abraham, and like us- Isaacs faith is not perfect. It never is,is it? Our faith is always a mixture of belief and unbelief. Like the father of the boy with violent seizures who when being told by the Lord that all things are possible for him who believes- replied: I believe help my unbelief.
Want to know if unbelief is your problem when you face a trial a time of testing? Here it is: Unbelief asks: how can I get out of this? Belief asks: What can I get out of this?
Isaac went to Gerar to King Abimelech, probably the son of the king Abraham had dealt with.
In verse 2, the Lord appeared to Isaac and told him not to go down to Egypt but live in the land for a while.
In verses 3- 6- God repeats the promises of the covenant He made with Abraham to Isaac. These are Gods promises to Isaac now. Each generation must lay claim to the promises of God for themselves.
What we see in Gods promises to Isaac is how important it is in times of trials, tests and temptations to be occupied with the Word of God and the God of the Word.
In our journey through this world, we will all face times of famine, crisis, tests and temptations- we must learn as every generation of believers must learn- to not take matters into our own hands but to be guided by the Word of God.
In verses 7-11 we see Isaac resort to lies rather than truth. We are all natural born liars- you do not have to teach a child to lie- they will lie as soon as they can talk. It comes naturally to our old nature, the flesh, whose father is the devil, the father of lies. Rather than trusting the Lord with all his heart- Isaac leans to his own understanding and trusts his abilities rather than Gods Word.
We soon learn though, it is almost impossible to tell just one lie, for we soon have to tell another one to support the first one. Soon, Isaac found himself living a lie. His whole life had to be constructed about this lie. Oh what a web we weave, when first we set out others to deceive.. A web that will trap us sooner or later.
Isaac is caught in his deception by the King . It is a humiliating experience for Isaac as the king is rightfully angry . The king also reveals to us the other side of the lie- as the king shows how those lied to and deceived can be potentially harmed if the lie is not revealed and the deception is not uncovered.
Now the next section of scripture at first reading takes us by surprise. If you are like me you were not expecting God to bless Isaac after this charade he had been living was exposed.
But here it is: Verses 12-13 tell us: Isaac planted crops in that land the same year and reaped a hundredfold, because the Lord blessed him. The sowing of seed and reaping 100 fold reminds us of the parable the Lord told of the sower and the seed. The seed represented the Word of God and the casting or sowing of the seed represented witnessing to the lost. Could it be Isaac was to begin a ministry? Had his experience of being caught in a lie humbled him? Isaac was forced to get honest wasnt he? He had to confess he had been living a lie. The carnal life is always a lie for the believer. Now having confessed his sin and repented God can restore and bless him. Thus we read Isaac became rich and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy.
How could God bless a deceiver like Isaac? Because God is faithful to His covenant and keeps His promises even when we are faithless- even when we are not behaving like His children . Arent you glad our Heavenly Father is like that? You see, the Lord made a promise to Isaac. He told Isaac not to go down to Egypt and I will bless you. His only condition was not to go down to Egypt, which Isaac did not- so therefore God kept His word and blessed Isaac. Isaac was also a recipient of Gods blessings because of Abrahams obedience and faith. Sometimes God blesses a child for the sake of the father, just as He blesses us for the sake of His Son, the Lord Jesus.
It is not as if Isaac did not suffer consequences for his sin for as we will see the next period of his life is filled with strife, adversity and outright hatred and jealousy by his neighbors.
The more prosperous Isaac grew, the more jealous,envious and resentful the people around him grew. We are told the Philistines envied him so they filled up his wells. Water in an arid land like they occupied was extremely important. Wells were a matter of life and death and survival. Envy is a destructive emotion. It resents what another has and not only wants what they have, but wants them to have nothing. In this case it resulted in malice which is the desire to cause pain and suffering in another. It causes one to take foolish actions that in this case resulted in the loss of a water supply they all benefitted from. Such foolish, wasteful behavior.
As the story of this chapter in Isaacs life continues we see him reopening his father Abrahams wells; digging new wells; building an altar and pitching his tent.
These are significant spiritual truths as we will examine each of these with the names of the wells helping us understand the significance.
Isaac was the son of a great man, Abraham. He was the father of a son, Jacob, who would become famous as the father of the nation of Israel.
He seemed to be searching for his identity didnt he?
He was looking for the ministry that God would have for him. If the nations were to be blessed through his actions- what would those actions be?
It was right there before him. What could he do that would bless others? Reopen the wells his father had dug and dig new wells. We will see the spiritual significance of this- but do not under estimate the practical value and blessing these wells provided. This was a parched and arid land where water was a precious commodity. To provide fresh cool water in an arid land was a blessing in itself that would bless people for centuries to come. You see Isaac started the ministry the Lord had for him. You might call it the cold water ministry.
Water is the most common substance on the earth. 70% of the earths surface is water. 97% of all water is in the oceans and seas. Availability to water is necessary for life. A person can only survive a 5-7 days without water. Water is one of the greatest needs to sustaining life.
Wells of flowing water, artesian wells, in an arid place like Palestine would be priceless. Water was often the sole reason and purpose for wars, fighting and strife. Those wells would be a source of life and refreshment.
Wells in the Bible are often a type of work of the Holy Spirit in a believers life. Listen to what Jesus said on two occasions in the gospel of John,
The first incident is at the well near a town in Samaria called Sychar. The well was referred to as Jacobs Well. Which tells us this artesian well had been a supply of water and life for centuries. In John 4: 14 (NIV) : Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of living water welling up to eternal life.
And again in John 7, we read: If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him. By this he meant the Spirit whom those who believed in Him would later receive.
Just as wells of water were essential to sustaining physical life in that dry and parched land, the work of the Holy Spirit is essential to sustaining our spiritual life. If one lacks water they will die physically, if you do not experience the work of the Holy Spirit you will die spiritually.
One must drink of Heavens well from the water that Jesus provides. It is for this reason why every generation of believers must experience the work of the Holy Spirit fresh and new in their lives. Like Isaac, we must dig wells for ourselves.
Because of their envy and jealousy of Isaac, the Philistines stopped up his fathers wells. Spiritually the enemy of our Heavenly Father has been trying to stop up the well of living water ever since the Garden of Eden. King Abimelech tells Isaac he must move away for he had become too powerful, too wealthy.
But God used their evil intentions and their harmful actions for good- for in this adversity- Isaac discovered his ministry. (* Take note of this principle for what we see all through the Scriptures is prosperity which we seek brings more temptations- while adversity which we want to avoid is really our friend and teacher sent to strengthen us.) Isaacs ministry may not sound very exciting but it was a great blessing to many for years to come- his ministry he discovered was – well digging. Isaac began to reopen the wells his father, Abraham, had dug that had been stopped up by the Philistines. We will notice the significance of the names of these wells.
What we are seeing the life of Isaac is he has discovered his ministry. I believe Isaac found great joy in rediscovering the wells his father had dug, just as we can discover for ourselves the truth concerning the Lord Jesus Christ enjoyed by our parents and grandparents and great grandparents, etc. Many had been stopped up by the enemy, neglect or our own disbelief.
His ministry was two fold- reopening the closed wells of his father and digging new wells. Isaac fought no battles, he built no cities, erected no monuments, but in his own quiet way he dug wells which means Isaac left behind him a legacy of blessings for years to come.
Isaacs three wells are significant because of their names. Their names are significant because they symbolize the response and attitude we can expect from the enemies of our Heavenly Father. For not only did we inherit every spiritual blessing from our Loving Heavenly Father- we also inherited His enemies.
The first well was called Esek.This name, Esek, means contention or strife, arguing, confrontation. One thing we believe we know about Isaac, he did not like confrontation. He was a peace-loving man who hated strife. Yet he endured and dug wells in spite of the strife.
Spiritually what we see is the Holy Spirit who teaches us and guides us in truth is met by the enemy who says the truth is mine. Just as the Philistines wanted to claim the wells as theirs. The truth belongs to us- says the intellectual atheist and agnostic- they want to stop up our wells of truth. Look around you today- the Muslim says we have the truth and you do not and many want to stop us. Other sects and groups claim their way is the truth. But we believe Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and no man comes to the Father except by the Son.
The next well Isaac and his servants dug was called Sitnah. A word that is interpreted as contempt or hatred. The name Satan comes from the same root word. The enemy of our Heavenly Father and His Son who holds in contempt every thing that comes from God and whose bitter envy and jealousy leads him to attack us and rage against anything that Christ has to offer the thirsty soul. If we dig wells in the enemies territory we can expect opposition.
Then we see the next well that Isaac digs and no one quarreled over it. Isaac called the well- Rehoboth, saying the Lord has given us room and we will flourish. Rehoboth which mean enlargement is place where we can grow and flourish. But did you notice when this well was found? It was only found after the difficulties, the adversity the conflicts at the previous two wells. It is through difficulties God enlarges us for the larger places. God grows our faith in times of trouble. Perhaps this is the truth James learned when he said count it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trial of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops patience and patience must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete lacking nothing. No pain- no gain.
From Rehoboth, Isaac went up to Beersheba, where the Lord appeared to Isaac. The Lord assures Isaac and encourages him by telling to fear not for He is with him and will bless him and increase him.
Isaacs response is to build an altar to worship the Lord.
He pitches his tent which serves as a reminder he is a pilgrim looking for a city whose builder and architect is God. He also digs another well. Well of Gods Oath.
So like Isaac, we must reopen the old wells of spiritual truths dug by our spiritual forefathers.
They have been closed, stopped up by the enemies of God who arise in each generation to stop up the wells of truth with their false teachings, intellectual poppycock, indifference and sin. Talk to our missionaries, like the Bufords, and they will tell you how common it is to see the false teachings of a religion be what has stopped up the well of Gods truth. Reopening those wells is a labor of love but it always invites the striving of the enemy against those who reopen the wells of Gods truth.
But also like Isaac, the believer today, the church in the 21st century must start by reopening the old wells of spiritual truths that are eternal. We do not need to modernize the gospel, we do not need to try and make the Bible more relative to todays society and thus compromise its integrity.
Digging new wells did not mean discovering new truths- but by using the same truths of our forefathers we stake out new territory for the generations that follow so they can with the same truths of old keep the truth flowing in generations to come.
As I stated earlier- quit drinking water and within seven days you will die. Your body will send signals you are desperately low on fluid and dehydration begins to occur with some obvious signs and symptoms.
Dehydrated souls will also send warning signals- you are low on fluids. Know what they are? Worry, anxiety, fear, tempersall are signs of a dehydrated soul. As you began to look in your own life and then in our society- you see we are living in a spiritual desert.
First drink deep of it yourself. What H2O is to the dehydrated body, Jesus is to the dehydrated soul.
Max Lucado in his book- Come Thirsty gives us an acronym for the WELL.
Drink deep of these eternal truths:
W = receive Christs Work on the Cross.-the power of the Cross
E = live in the Energy of the Spirit- for apart from Him we can do nothing.
L = recognize His Lordship over your life. Trust and obey.
L = His unending, unfailing, unconditional Love
But do not stop with just yourself
Jesus welcomed into His Kingdom those who gave water to the thirsty. For He said when you did it to the least of these brothers of mine, you did it also for me.