Does the blessing of God’s kingdom depend upon your faithfulness?
Genesis 26 finds Isaac moving because of famine, living among the Philistines, repeating Abraham’s sin, prospering despite opposition, and making a covenant with Abimelech.
vv. 1–5 - One of Abraham’s first trials, back in Genesis 12, was a famine. Now Isaac faces a similar trial, only he probably has much more livestock and is burdened by many more servants to take care of. It would seem like he makes for Egypt, just like Abraham, only God intervenes to tell him to “sojourn” i.e. temporarily stay in Gerar and reassures him of His covenant promises.
vv. 6–11 - After being reminded by God of Abraham’s obedience, Isaac, instead of replicating all his father did right, repeats what he got wrong! He displays the same cowardice, being concerned that the men of the region may be prepared to go to battle over Rebekah. That does not transpire, but one day Abimelech (who is likely a descendant of the man Abraham dealt with) sees Isaac interact with Rebekah in a way that looks like they are married. This grieves Abimelech, he confronts Isaac, and then issues a public warning of capital punishment if anyone touches Isaac or Rebekah.
vv. 12–16 - despite the famine going on elsewhere, God prospers Isaac “an hundredfold” and all the wealth he inherited from Abraham is increased greatly. So much so that the Philistines envy him and spitefully block his wells. Given how crucial water is to survival, this may have had an immediate and devastating impact upon Isaac’s business. Abimelech then encourages Isaac to move away.
vv. 17–25 - Isaac moves some distance to the valley of Gerar and sets up camp. He knew his father had dug wells there, and even though they had been filled in by the Philistines, Isaac re-digs them. The men of Gerar argue over the ownership of another well dug by Isaac. Rather than fight them for something that belonged to his father, he moves on, digs another well, and the same thing happens. Both wells were given names indicating contention and hostility. He moves for a third time, digs another well, and this time is left alone. He then goes to Beersheba, where Abraham had planted a grove (Gen. 21:33) and sought God. It is there that God meets with Isaac, tells him not to fear, and reminds him of His covenant intentions.
vv. 26–33 - Abimelech seeks out Isaac with two other important men in his community. Perhaps thinking about the increasing prosperity of Isaac and the rough manner of their treatment of him in sending him away, they reconsider their approach and decide it is best to be at peace with Isaac.
vv. 34–35 - but while so much was going right for Isaac and Rebekah, they now live with the constant grief that their son Esau, has married two of the daughters of Heth, who were Canaanites.
There are places God does not want His people to go. God specifically commands Isaac not to go to Egypt. Later he is going to lead the entire household of Jacob into Egypt. The only way you can know that you are where you are meant to be, is by seeking the face of God, maintaining daily fellowship with God, and trusting Him to open doors, hedge your way, and give you an awareness of His will.
Parental sins often get perpetuated. Even if he knew his life was in danger, the lie Isaac told concerning his wife was unwarranted, selfish, and sinful. Children, Isaac had a good father, but not a perfect father. The same is true of you. But do not follow them in their sins, follow their God.
Christian marriages should be loving, playful and fun. Isaac and Rebekah are spotted “sporting” with one another. The word is an intensified form of Isaac’s name, meaning laugh. Isaac is, in a manner that was not unbecoming, rejoicing with the wife of his youth (Prov. 5:18). May I speak to both husbands and wives? Do not normalize neglect of one another. Do not allow weeks to go by without connecting and sharing meaningful, and physical time together. There are way too many divorces among professing Christian couples who disconnected from one another years before they part ways.
Unbelievers watch the lives of believers. Isaac did not know Abimelech was watching him with Rebekah, and that is often the case. The world watches you, Christian. They watch you through their windows. They see you going to work, going to church, interacting with your family, etc. Whether they are intentionally looking for inconsistencies in your life or not, they are going to pick up on them. Walk circumspectly.
God’s people do not need to fight every injustice against them. Like the Lord Jesus, “Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1 Pet. 2:23), Isaac does not fight over the wells. This is an act of faith. God had promised to prosper him, and he did not need to make it happen. When God has promised you something, you don’t have to manipulate the outcome. Stop justifying fights that reveal your unbelief, and “fret not thyself because of evildoers” (Ps. 37:1).
God’s people should expect conflict even in the midst of blessing. Isaac experiences the extremes of tremendous prosperity, as well as much conflict and hostility in this season of life. Even despite denying Rebekah, God blesses him a hundredfold. It reminds me of when the disciples forsook Jesus, and Peter denied Him. And yet, after repentance, God prospers the Church with thousands of conversions amidst much outward conflict. God blesses because of His covenant, and does so, not by removing conflict, but by overcoming conflict. Because of Christ and His faithfulness, the Lord will always make room in this world for His elect people. Indeed, Isaac foreshadows Christ, to whom kings will come and seek to make peace.
“If there have been any difficulties between any of you, I would hope that, before I really get into my subject, while with my finger I point you out, and say to each one of you, “Thou art now the blessed of the Lord,” you will immediately say, “As surely as that is true, I do from my very heart forgive all who have offended me, whether Philistines, or Israelites, or Gentiles. How can I do otherwise who myself have received such grace while so unworthy?”” — Charles Spurgeon (remarking on Gen. 26:29)