[Today: Genesis 26]. Isaac Prospers in a Time of Famine. In chapter 26 of Genesis Isaac attempts to leave Canaan because of a devastating famine in the land. The angel of the Lord intercepts him and instructs that he should not go down to Egypt. As a result Isaac prospers against all odds as an example of the reward that is always found on the other side of obedience.
[Gen 26:1-35 KJV] 1 And there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar. 2 And the Lord appeared unto him, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of: 3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, 4 and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father; And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; 5 Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.
6 And Isaac dwelt in Gerar: 7 And the men of the place asked him of his wife; and he said, She is my sister: for he feared to say, She is my wife; lest, said he, the men of the place should kill me for Rebekah; because she was fair to look upon. 8 And it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out at a window, and saw, and, behold, Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife. 9 And Abimelech called Isaac, and said, Behold, of a surety she is thy wife: and how saidst thou, She is my sister? And Isaac said unto him, Because I said, Lest I die for her. 10 And Abimelech said, What is this thou hast done unto us? one of the people might lightly have lien with thy wife, and thou shouldest have brought guiltiness upon us. 11 And Abimelech charged all his people, saying, He that toucheth this man or his wife shall surely be put to death. 12 Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the Lord blessed him. 13 And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great: 14 For he had possession of flocks, and possession of herds, and great store of servants: and the Philistines envied him. 15 For all the wells which his father’s servants had digged in the days of Abraham his father, the Philistines had stopped them, and filled them with earth. 16 And Abimelech said unto Isaac, Go from us; for thou art much mightier than we.
17 And Isaac departed thence, and pitched his tent in the valley of Gerar, and dwelt there. 18 And Isaac digged again the wells of water, which they had digged in the days of Abraham his father; for the Philistines had stopped them after the death of Abraham: and he called their names after the names by which his father had called them. 19 And Isaac’s servants digged in the valley, and found there a well of springing water. 20 And the herdmen of Gerar did strive with Isaac’s herdmen, saying, The water is ours: and he called the name of the well Esek; because they strove with him. 21 And they digged another well, and strove for that also: and he called the name of it Sitnah. 22 And he removed from thence, and digged another well; and for that they strove not: and he called the name of it Rehoboth; and he said, For now the Lord hath made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land. 23 And he went up from thence to Beersheba. 24 And the Lord appeared unto him the same night, and said, I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham’s sake. 25 And he builded an altar there, and called upon the name of the Lord, and pitched his tent there: and there Isaac’s servants digged a well.
26 Then Abimelech went to him from Gerar, and Ahuzzath one of his friends, and Phichol the chief captain of his army. 27 And Isaac said unto them, Wherefore come ye to me, seeing ye hate me, and have sent me away from you? 28 And they said, We saw certainly that the Lord was with thee: and we said, Let there be now an oath betwixt us, even betwixt us and thee, and let us make a covenant with thee; 29 That thou wilt do us no hurt, as we have not touched thee, and as we have done unto thee nothing but good, and have sent thee away in peace: thou art now the blessed of the Lord. 30 And he made them a feast, and they did eat and drink. 31 And they rose up betimes in the morning, and sware one to another: and Isaac sent them away, and they departed from him in peace. 32 And it came to pass the same day, that Isaac’s servants came, and told him concerning the well which they had digged, and said unto him, We have found water. 33 And he called it Shebah: therefore the name of the city is Beersheba unto this day.
34 And Esau was forty years old when he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite: 35 Which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah.
After the death of Abraham another famine comes upon the land besides the famine that Abraham experienced years before. As a result of the first famine Abraham had taken refuge in Egypt leading to the situation where Sarah was taken into Pharaoh’s harem. As a result Hagar comes into the picture and Ishmael is forthcoming. The Father never told Abraham not to go into Egypt but now that his son Isaac is attempting to do the same thing he is intercepted with a warning not to go to Egypt as his father before him but to dwell in the land.
This is a difficult instruction for Isaac to follow. Famine is raging all around him. How will he survive doing what God is clearly telling him to do? No doubt that Isaac had many questions least of all would be how would they avoid starving to death if they did what God was instructing. There is no record of God giving Isaac any information beyond the simple instruction not to go to Egypt. Have you ever faced similar circumstances? You feel like you’ve heard from God but you don’t have all the answers? You know God had spoken but the prospects of obeying leave you with questions as to how are you going to make it through unless something changes? Be willing as Isaac was willing to take a simple instruction without demanding explanations or answers beyond what God has clearly instructed you.
God not only promises to take care of Isaac (v. 4-5) but goes further to promise that his seed will multiply as the stars of the heavens. Why would God do this? What is the basis of this promise? It is found in v. 5. God promises to care for Isaac and to bless him beyond all imagining not because of anything he has done to earn the Lord’s favor. God will bless Isaac “because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge…” This exactly how God blesses you and me.
Just as Isaac looked back in faith at the justifying actions of Abraham in his behalf even so we look back upon the obedience and sacrifice of Christ as the basis for our own blessings and favor. Isaac couldn’t claim God’s favor because of anything he had done or not done. God blessed Isaac because of Abraham’s faithfulness. Neither can we claim God’s favor on the basis of anything we have done or not done. God blesses us because of who Jesus is and what He did and not who we are or what we have done.
Isaac winds up dwelling in Gerar (v. 6) and unfortunately falters and gets over into fear of his life because of his wife Rebekah’s renowned beauty. This was the same error that Abraham fell into. Let us remember that when Abraham lied to Abimelech and to Pharaoh that Isaac would have known about this and been impacted by his father’s weakness. Let us bear that in mind regarding our own children. Little eyes are watching everything we do. Let us purpose to set a good example in the effort to spare our children after us the consequences of our own disobediences.
As it was with Abraham, the king finds out Isaac is lying and confronts both Isaac and his wife (v. 7-11). I want you to notice what happens next. In the aftermath of Isaac’s deception God does not reprove neither rebuke him. Rather v. 12 says that Isaac sowed in the land in a time of famine and received a hundred fold return as a result. This is exactly what happened to Abraham. After lying to Pharaoh there is no rebuke or reproof but rather an accounting of just how blessed Abraham was after being expelled from Egypt for his own deception:
[Gen 13:1-2 KJV] 1 And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south. 2 And Abram [was] very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold.
What are we to conclude because of this? Is it ok to lie and deceive? No. Both Abraham and Isaac were operating in fear when they took these actions and God has not given us a spirit of fear but of love, peace and a sound mind. What we need to learn from these examples is that God loves us with an unconditional love and doesn’t deal with us with a harsh hand even when we are falling short. This is not consistent with the teachings of Evangelical theology but we have to make a decision whether we will believe God’s word or not. Again this isn’t a license to sin or to disobey, rather an example of the unconditional love of God who continues to deal with us in lovingkindness as He molds us into His image.
In v. 14-22 we find Isaac contending for the wells of his father Abraham. He repairs a destroyed water sources and the Philistines come and contend with him over it. Isaac departs and digs another well in the valley and the herdsmen of Gerar come and contend for that well besides. Isaac moves again and the same thing happens all because he is digging again the wells of his father Abraham. Finally in v. 22 he removes again and digs another well in a place where Abraham had not established a well. For this the herdsmen of Gerar do not content and Isaac thanks the Lord for making room for him in the land.
What can we learn from this? Are you in a situation where you are striving and not able to get ahead? Perhaps you are contending over things relating to your upbringing and the answer is to go out and get your own testimony by your own efforts and not try to duplicate the works of those who have gone on before. Isaac followed Abraham’s example in regard to the lies told regarding his wife and it caused problems. Then the aftermath was in attempting to take advantage of what Abraham had established in the past more problems result. You have to get your own walk with God regardless of the strengths or weaknesses of those who have gone on before. There are no short cuts. You can’t cut corners or try to take the easy way out. Make it your determination to be faithful to what God called you to do without being misdirected by the unfruitful examples of your parents or those who went on before.
In v. 23-34 the king comes out to meet Isaac to make a pact of non-agression with him just as his father had done with Abraham. It is noteworthy that neither Isaac or Abraham ever warred against Abimelech or his son. They covenant the king wants to make is one that both kings had broken before it was ever established. You will see this many times in dealing with people. They will suspect you of doing exactly what they are doing with impunity. Neither Abraham nor Isaac called these kings into account for their hypocrisy but simply made the effort as we must to live in peace regardless of the unfaithfulness of others.
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