I kind of hate to be praised. I mean, okay, of course I like it when people admire something I’m doing or tell me that I’m working hard and doing a good job. But I also feel the pressure go up just the tiniest notch when I get that little bit of adulation. What if right after someone notices my skill, I fail, all of a sudden? What if the person thinks that I’m completely untalented and that they were wrong about me the whole time? I think like this all the time because I know from experience that my own efforts do not always succeed.
Isaac had to learn this lesson the hard way in the first part of Genesis 26. A famine came to the place where Isaac lived with his wife Rebekah and his twin sons Esau and Jacob, so the whole family packed up and moved to Gerar, where our old friend King Abimelek (from Genesis 20) still reigns. God instructs Isaac to stay there, rather than keep going to Egypt. He also promises Isaac that he will bless him and his descendants. He promises to give them land and to make them numerous, just like the stars in the sky (verses 3-4).
Despite these promises, literally three verses later, Isaac decides to lie to Abimelek to save his life! He is afraid that he will get killed for his gorgeous wife and thus decides to lie and tell everyone that she is his sister. Like father, like son, right?
I love how quickly Abimelek gets wind of this and shuts it all the way down. He learned the last time this happened to him. After seeing Isaac caressing his wife, he lets him have it for lying to him and then makes extra double sure that no one in his kingdom touches Rebekah or Isaac (verse 11).
Despite this bump in the road, Isaac quickly gets as rich as his father did. He gets so rich that the Philistines in Abimelek’s kingdom get jealous and start sabotaging Isaac by stopping up his wells. Abimelek adds wound to injury by sending Isaac farther away from him.
Still Isaac prospers. He builds more wells and the people of Gerar keep fighting him for them. Finally, Isaac gets far enough away from his tormentors that he can have his own well. If I were him, I would be salty that I had to go through all of that just to get my own water and space, but Isaac doesn’t seem to be that way. When the very people who kicked him out and stole his wells come sniveling to him for a peace treaty to make sure Isaac doesn’t retaliate and even LIE and claim they were nice to him the whole time (verse 26 – 29), Isaac is gracious. He feeds them. He signs their treaty. He sends them away peacefully. He continues to prosper. He continues to be an example of what God can do in a person’s life.
Meanwhile, Esau gets married, and it looks like the sibling rivalry might be kicking up for another round…
The Treasures Within:
That’s Gonna Backfire
Isaac is no longer a boy. He’s a man with a family who has to manage and fend for himself. And in this chapter we see him go about that in two different ways. First he tries things his way. Even after God clearly told Isaac that He would be the one to bless and prosper him, Isaac decided to rely on his own wit and quick-thinking to save his life and preserve his inheritance. Why? Did he not believe what God had told him? Did he think God needed some help? Whatever the reason, Isaac simply failed to trust God completely. He thought he could get his coin all by himself, but things promptly fell apart.
The scolding Isaac took from Abimelek was probably not the only consequence Isaac suffered from telling that lie. Who knows, maybe the people who kept pestering Isaac over his wells wouldn’t have done it had he not lied to their faces! Maybe Abimelek wouldn’t have been so quick to kick Isaac out!
Whatever the circumstances, Isaac tried again. Pushed away and wronged by the people he had deceived, Isaac proceeded to take several hits when the Gerar herdsmen kept stealing his wells. But this time, Isaac did not get scared. He did not even fight back. He trusted in God and moved. And moved. And moved again before finally being free to reap the blessing His God had provided for him. When God speaks to Isaac again after all this, it feels almost like a reminder – it almost seems like he’s saying “Don’t doubt me the way you did with Abimelek earlier! I am with you. I’ve got you” (verse 24). Isaac thought he could handle things on his own, but it turned out he couldn’t. Thanks to his God, that wasn’t such a bad thing after all.
For His Glory
I find Isaac’s humility and forgiveness at the end of the chapter super striking. If it were me, I don’t know if I would have handled the situation so well. After continuously sabotaging Isaac, Abimelek & co. came to him and pretended that everything should have been just peachy! I would have let that man have a piece of my mind, the same way he did to Isaac in verses 9 and 10! But Isaac did not rehash grievances or start taking score or try to get revenge. He was kind and generous.
Just imagine the impact Isaac’s behavior had on the people of Gerar! They knew Isaac had lied before, so they probably came to him in verse 26 looking for a fight. But against all expectations, Isaac treated them with love. That must have made them curious! Why was this man willing to take all these knocks without any retaliation? This kind of behavior can only take place when someone is possessed by a God. What a witness!
God’s Message To Us:
“I did not create you to worry. I did not create you to fear. Trust in Me.” Like my favorite song by Anthony Brown says, we are not on this earth to stress ourselves out, worry, or be afraid. We are not here to show everyone how well we can handle stuff, how clever we are, or how nicely we’re keeping things together. We’re here to worship God by bringing glory to Him. When things go well, we must point to our God and not to ourselves. But in order to do this, we must trust in God, even when things go the opposite of well. We can’t do bad all by ourselves. We must lean on the God who promised never to leave us or forsake us.
What do you think? What else did you see in Isaac’s story in this chapter? What do you think God wanted you to learn from this chapter of His Word?