Introduction: To some critics, Genesis 26 is a repeat of earlier stories in the book of Genesis. Both Abraham and Isaac faced similar tests of drought. Both also faced similar tests when confronted by two rulers who shared the title of Abimelech. Both also faced similar conflicts with Abimelech’s men over desert wells. Both also reached similar covenants of peace with Abimelech. Both also received God’s covenant blessings. Both were also His leaders as Israel’s first two patriarchs. Yet, these stories are not redundant. God sometimes conveys messages through repetition. Isaac passed some (but not all) of his father’s tests because he learned from many of his father’s successes and failures. Just as Isaac had an opportunity to learn what was on his tests by studying his father’s life, you also have the opportunity to learn what is on your tests by studying the Bible. God wants every believer to be a leader for Him. From Isaac’s testing here, He reveals seven principles for being a godly leader. These include: (1) obedience; (2) trust; (3) faithfulness; (4) submission; (5) gratitude; (6) forgiveness; and (7) family ministry.
First, as He did with Abraham, God tested Isaac to see if he would flee from the Promised Land after experiencing a drought. He stayed, and God blessed him. From this, God reveals that a godly leader is blessed when his or her faith leads to obedience. Second, like Abraham, Isaac failed a test of faith by lying about his relationship with his wife to protect himself from a Philistinian ruler called Abimelech. From this, God reveals that a godly leader places his or her trust in Him and does not fear his or her enemies. Third, Like Abraham, God’s blessings upon Isaac included, but were not limited to, financial blessings. From this, God reveals that a godly leader should respond to His faithfulness by being faithful. Fourth, the Philistines tried to drive Isaac out of their land by burying his valuable wells. Rather than resisting, Isaac submitted to the Philistines by leaving and digging three wells in new locations. From this, God reveals that a godly leader submits to his enemies to avoid unnecessary conflict. Fifth, like Abraham, Isaac’s growing faith caused him to build an altar of repentance and gratitude. From this, God reveals that a godly leader shows gratitude for His forgiveness, provision, and blessings. Sixth, Abimelech saw that God’s blessings on Isaac could not be stopped. He then sought a covenant of peace with Isaac. Even though Abimelech failed to repent, Isaac forgave him. From this, God reveals that a godly leader forgives his or her enemies and pursues peace when possible. Finally, although Isaac and Rebekah were walking with God, their son Esau was not. He married two Canaanite women. From this, God reveals that a godly leader does not neglect his or her first ministry to his or her family. A godly leader must raise his or her children in the Lord.
Isaac passes God’s test by remaining in the Promised Land. Like Abraham, God tested Isaac with a drought to see if he would stay in the Promised Land. Having learned from his father’s mistakes, Isaac showed that his faith was alive through his obedience. God in turn blessed Isaac by speaking to him for the first time and by confirming Abraham’s blessings upon him: “1 Now there was a famine in the land, besides the previous famine that had occurred in the days of Abraham. So Isaac went to Gerar, to Abimelech king of the Philistines. 2 The Lord appeared to him and said, ‘Do not go down to Egypt; stay in the land of which I shall tell you. 3 Sojourn in this land and I will be with you and bless you, for to you and to your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath which I swore to your father Abraham. 4 I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; 5 because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws.” (Gen. 26:1-5). God frequently used droughts to test the hearts of His people. He wanted to see if they would stay faithful to Him or flee from the Promised Land for what the world offered. He tested Abraham with a drought. Abraham responded by fleeing for Egypt (Gen. 12:10). He also tested Jacob’s family with a drought (Gen. 43:1). They also fled for Egypt. He also tested Elimelech and Naomi with a drought (Ruth 1:1-2). They fled for Moab in Southern Jordan. Isaac showed his faith was strong through his obedience. He was the only patriarch never to flee the Promised Land.
God’s confirmations of the blessings of Abraham upon Isaac. On seven occasions, God blessed Abraham by promising to make him the father of a great nation ((1) Gen. 12:3(b); (2) 13:16; (3) 15:5; (4) 16:10; (5) 17:4-5; (6) 18:18; (7) 22:18.) He also blessed his descendants with an eternal Promised Land (Gen. 13:15). He previously confirmed to Abraham that Isaac was the child of the promise (Gen. 21:9-12). Yet, this was the first time that He spoke with Isaac and confirmed these blessings on Isaac and his descendants.
Lean not on your own understanding. Unlike Abraham, Isaac trusted God and did not lean upon his own instincts to flee the Promised Land at the first sign of a drought. Believers are also urged to trust God and not to flee from the protections that He offers: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5). “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered.” (Prov. 28:26). When you experience a drought at work, do you pray for the Spirit to guide you?
Abraham and Isaac both showed that their faith was alive through their actions. If Abraham was Isaac’s role model, his role model was a sinner like any other person. Abraham failed many of God’s tests of faith and trust. Yet, God forgave his many sins and commended Abraham because his faith was evidenced by the fruit of obedience (Gen. 26:5). Unlike many believers, Abraham lived out his faith. He left his homeland to travel to the Promised Land. He fought four massive armies with only 318 servants and some local allies. He also was ready to sacrifice his only son Isaac. God rewarded Isaac because his faith also led to obedience. As role models, the Apostle James observes: “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” (Ja. 2:17, 20, 26). But the Apostle Paul cautions that your faith must be manifested with love toward those around you: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.” (Gal. 5:6). Is your living faith manifested through acts of love and charity towards others in need?
God’s blessings to Abraham and Isaac can extend to you through faith in Christ. The Apostle Paul advised that many of the blessings that God extended to Abraham and Isaac can extend to you: “Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed in you.’ So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.” (Gal. 3:7-9). “May you be blessed of the LORD, maker of heaven and earth.” (Ps. 115:15). This includes the blessing of your eternal salvation: “Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets.” (Lk. 6:23). “And men will say, ‘Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on earth!”’ (Ps. 58:11). You also receive the blessings of the Holy Spirit as a pledge for your salvation (Eph. 1:14). When done without a motivation of a reward, He will also reward your works of love and charity: “But you, be strong and do not lose courage, for there is reward for your work.” (2 Chr. 15:7). Are you staying faithful so that God may bless you?
Show that your faith is alive through your obedience. Obedience is a reoccurring theme of the Old Testament (e.g., Dt. 13:4; 6:3-4; 9:1; 20:3; Josh. 1:7). It is an important theme in the New Testament as well. It is true that Christians are no longer “under the Law” in the sense that they must comply with it to be saved (Gal. 5:18; Ro. 7:6; 8:3). By “fulfilling” the Law, Christ freed you from the impossible task of trying to obtain salvation through the Law (Matt. 5:17). Yet, Jesus also says that, if you love Him, you will keep His Commandments: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jo. 14:15, 21; 15:10; 1 Jo. 5:3; 2 Jo. 1:6). Jesus was the “I AM” who gave Moses the Ten Commandments (Ex. 3:14; Jo. 8:58). When God commended Abraham, He pointed out that Abraham kept “My commandments, My statutes and My laws.” (Gen. 26:5). Moses, the author of the Torah, carefully used these three terms to refer to the Ten Commandments, the interpretive statutes in the Torah and interpretive laws prepared by the rabbis. Christ fulfilled all of these things. Yet, He still wants you to observe His Ten Commandments out of love. Thus, the “Commandments” that Jesus in the New Testament referred to were the Ten Commandments. His “disciples” were the “disciplined ones” in keeping His Commandments. As bondservants or freed slaves, they were obedient out of love, not obligation. Whether you follow the Law out of love instead of obligation is also a test for whether you really know Him: “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” (1 Jo. 2:3). Do you follow Jesus’ Commandments and the direction of the Spirit out of love and not obligation?
Isaac’s failure to learn from his father’s sins in lying about his wife to Abimelech’s men. Like Abraham, Isaac’s acts of faith were sadly followed by great failures of the faith. Like Abraham, Isaac failed the same test of faith by lying about his relationship with his wife to protect himself: “6 So Isaac lived in Gerar. 7 When the men of the place asked about his wife, he said, ‘She is my sister,’ for he was afraid to say, ‘my wife,’ thinking, ‘the men of the place might kill me on account of Rebekah, for she is beautiful.’ 8 It came about, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out through a window, and saw, and behold, Isaac was caressing his wife Rebekah. 9 Then Abimelech called Isaac and said, ‘Behold, certainly she is your wife! How then did you say, ‘She is my sister’?’ And Isaac said to him, ‘Because I said, ‘I might die on account of her.’’ 10 Abimelech said, ‘What is this you have done to us? One of the people might easily have lain with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.’ 11 So Abimelech charged all the people, saying, ‘He who touches this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.’” (Gen. 26:6-11). Gerar was a Philistine territory in southern Canaan where, like Egypt, the murder of men to take their wives was common. It was sadly common at that time for foreign women to be abducted. The Jews also married women that they captured in warfare (Dt. 21:10-14). Both Abraham and Isaac had real reasons to fear that they might be killed. But they both placed their fear of their enemies over their trust in God to protect them.
Isaac lied to Abimelech by calling Rebekah his sister1
Isaac’s breach of Abraham’s vow to deal fairly with Abimelech and his descendants. Abimelech saw God’s blessings in Abraham’s life and feared God. Thus, out of fear that God might inflict another plague on him or his descendants, he pleaded with Abraham to deal fairly with both him and his offspring (Gen. 21:23-24). Unfortunately, Isaac did not keep Abraham’s promise to deal fairly with Abimelech and his offspring. Like Abraham and Isaac, you and your family must show both integrity and holiness as God’s witness to a fallen world. Like Abraham and Isaac, you are called upon to be holy in your dealings with others (Lev. 11:44; 19:2; Ex. 22:31; 1 Pet. 1:16). Isaiah also warned about those “Who swear by the name of the Lord . . .” and call upon “His name,” “But not in truth nor in righteousness.” (Is. 48:1-2). You are an “ambassador” for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). As His ambassador, you “profane” His holy name when you fail to keep your word. Moses warned not to “swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God.” (Lev. 19:12). This also violates the Third Commandment (Dt. 5:11; Ex. 20:7). Jesus is the light of the world today (Jo. 8:12). His light burns inside you as a beacon for those around you (Matt. 5:14). In turn, you are commanded to share the hope that lies within you (1 Pet. 3:15; Matt. 28:19-20). In your conduct with others, are you a holy witness to the light of Jesus?
The failure of Abraham’s faith and trust in God when tested in Gerar and Egypt. Like Isaac, Abraham also lied about his wife when he was in Gerar (Gen. 20:1-2). Abraham also committed the same sin by previously lying to a Pharaoh about his marriage to Sarah (Gen. 12:10-15). During these journeys, the faith of Abraham and Isaac failed them. They failed to ask for God’s guidance, and they failed to trust in His promises. They also placed at risk God’s plan to have the promised line leading to Jesus run through both of them.
Be vigilant to avoid Satan’s strongholds where your flesh is weak. Both Abraham and Isaac clearly feared for their lives in places like the Philistine lands where men were murdered for their wives. This was one of Satan’s strongholds. It was also a place where both Abraham and Isaac were weak in their flesh. Thus, Isaac should have learned from Abraham’s prior failures not to stay in the Philistine’s land of Gerar. God later was forced to use the oppression of the Philistine men to drive Isaac to a better place that God had prepared for him. Although God has given you a mind to overcome temptation, you are not to reason with something that tempts you. Instead, you must flee any temptation that might cause you to sin: “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” (1 Cor. 10:14). “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.” (1 Cor. 6:8; 2 Tim. 2:22). You must also be vigilant at all times of things that might cause you to sin: “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Pet. 5:8). “so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.” (2 Cor. 2:11). If you resist the devil, he will flee from you: “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (Jam. 4:7). Are you avoiding Satan’s strongholds in your life where your flesh is weak?
Don’t travel to places where you might place your marriage at risk. By staying in the Philistine land of Gerar, both Abraham and Isaac not only put themselves in a place where their flesh was weak, they also placed themselves in an area where they put their marriages at risk. Without God’s intervention, Abimelech might have raped either Sarah or Rebekah and made either or both part of their harem. Believers today may not face the same peril. But you can place your marriage in peril by being in the wrong place or by hanging out with members of the opposite sex. Are you doing things that place your marriage at risk?
Don’t put your own needs above your spouse. Both Isaac and Abraham lied and put their wives at risk because they feared for their lives more than they feared for their wives’ purity (Gen. 20:11; 26:7). Each spouse in a marriage is called upon to trust God by putting their own needs second to the needs of his or her spouse. Christ loved the Church (His future bride) so much that He gave up His own life for it: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,” (Eph. 5:25). Thus, a husband should submit his needs to the needs of his wife: “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;” (Eph. 5:28). Likewise, a wife should submit her needs to her husband (Eph. 5:24). Are you placing the needs of your spouse before your own needs? Or, do you act selfishly?
Abraham’s failure to teach Isaac from his mistakes. Abraham compounded his sin by failing to teach his son Isaac from his mistakes. Abraham should have taught Isaac to avoid those places where his flesh was weak. Or, Isaac failed to learn from Abraham’s mistakes. Are you teaching your children from your mistakes? Are you also seeking to learn from your parents' mistakes to avoid repeating them and to pass on their wisdom to others?
God tests you to show you where your faith is lacking or where your heart is evil. When God tests you, rejoice that He does so to build up your faith instead of ripping you down: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,” (Jam. 1:2). God cannot tempt you (Ja. 1:13-14). He does, however, test you: “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.” (Jer. 17:10; 20:12). While Satan’s temptations are meant to cause you to sin, God’s tests are meant to build your faith. He also tests you to show you where your heart is evil (Jer. 17:9). David committed adultery and then tried to cover it up with murder. Yet, he later invited God to expose his hidden sins (Ps. 139:23). His openness to learning from his sins is what made him a man after God’s heart (Acts 13:22). Are you allowing God to show you your hidden sins? When He does, do you repent of them?
God molds your faith with similar trials. Just as He molded Abraham and Isaac through trials in the world, God also molds your faith through trials in the world: “But the LORD has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, from Egypt, to be a people for His own possession, as today.” (Dt. 4:20). “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” (Is. 48:10). Are you letting God mold you?
Never fear evil people. Like Abraham and Isaac, believers will do foolish things when they let their fear of other people control their actions: “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.” (Prov. 29:25). “I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do.” (Lk. 12:4). The only person that you are to fear is God (Prov. 1:7). And the fear of the Lord is hating evil (Prov. 8:12). “The fear of man brings a snare. But he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” (Prov. 29:25). “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5). “casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Pet. 5:7). The last time you felt fear, had you taken your eyes off Jesus?
God’s Word – the antidote to fear and lacking faith. If your faith is lacking, God calls upon you to build it up reading the Word: “[F]aith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Ro. 10:17). The next time you fear, recite His promises: “Do not fear for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand . . . Do not fear, I will help you.” (Is. 41:10, 13). “For I know the plans I have for you . . . plans for welfare and not calamity to give you a future and a hope.” (Jer. 29:11). “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” (2 Tim. 1:7). Faith is like a muscle. It can atrophy if you don’t read the Word or pray. Are you reading the Word and praying to build up your faith?
Be honest with others so that you do not misrepresent Christ. Some nonbelievers will sadly reject Christ because of a believer’s sins. Thus, you must always conduct yourself as an ambassador for Christ: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. 5:20). This includes being honest with others: “These are the things which you should do: speak the truth to one another; judge with truth and judgment for peace in your gates.” (Zech. 8:16). “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” (Eph. 4:25). “He who speaks truth tells what is right, but a false witness, deceit.” (Prov. 12:17). “You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another.” (Lev. 19:11). ‘“They bend their tongue like their bow; lies and not truth prevail in the land; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know Me,’ declares the LORD.” (Jer. 9:3). Are your words both honest and a witness to Jesus’ light inside you? If you lie or act with deceit, what kind of an ambassador are you for Christ?
God’s fulfillment of His promise to bless Isaac. Like Abraham, God’s blessings upon Isaac included, but were not limited to, financial blessings. His “hundredfold” blessing was so great that the Philistines feared him: “12 Now Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. And the Lord blessed him, 13 and the man became rich, and continued to grow richer until he became very wealthy; 14 for he had possessions of flocks and herds and a great household, so that the Philistines envied him. 15 Now all the wells which his father’s servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father, the Philistines stopped up by filling them with earth. 16 Then Abimelech said to Isaac, ‘Go away from us, for you are too powerful for us.’ 17 And Isaac departed from there and camped in the valley of Gerar, and settled there.” (Gen. 26:12-17). He will also provide for you and protect you.
God is faithful, even when you are not. God showed that He is faithful even when His people are not. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13). He was faithful to protect Abraham and Isaac from the Philistine King Abimelech and, in Abraham’s case, Pharaoh: “He permitted no man to oppress them, and He reproved kings for their sakes:” (Ps. 105:14). “Do not touch My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm.” (1 Chr. 16:22). When you trust Him, He will also protect you. “The Lord shall cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you; they will come out against you one way and will flee before you seven ways.” (Dt. 28:7; Lev. 26:7-8; Ex. 23:22, Nu 10:9, 35; Isa. 54:17). Have you given thanks for His faithfulness?
God’s blessing of riches to Isaac. Like Isaac, God also blessed Abraham with riches. Influenced by the Holy Spirit, Pharaoh gave Abraham riches. (Gen. 12:16; 13:1-2). Even in his old age, God blessed Abraham: “Now Abraham was old, advanced in age; and the LORD had blessed Abraham in every way.” (Gen. 24:1). Although God does not promise to bless every believer in the same, a person who walks in faith will receive His blessings.
God can sometimes bless believers with wealth. Wealth is not by itself a sin. It is only a sin when the love of money leads to coveting (1 Tim. 6:10). Solomon only asked God for wisdom. Because he sought God’s wisdom first, God gave him riches that he did not ask for: “I have also given you what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you all your days.” (1 Kgs. 3:13). “The LORD highly exalted Solomon in the sight of all Israel, and bestowed on him royal majesty which had not been on any king before him in Israel.” (1 Chr. 29:25). If money alone were sinful, God would not have rewarded Job, Abraham, and Solomon with great wealth. God, however, may not bless you with great wealth if it could cause you to covet wealth. Yet, if it is part of His plan for you, He may also bless you financially: “It is the blessing of the LORD that makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it.” (Prov. 10:20). “But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, . . .” (Dt. 8:18). If He has blessed you with wealth, are you using that wealth to build His kingdom or your own?
God will always provide for you. If you seek first God’s kingdom (which includes tithing and giving to the poor), He promises to provide for you (Matt. 6:33). He will also give back more than what you tithe: “Honor the Lord from your wealth and from the first of all your produce; so your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine.” (Prov. 3:9-10). Are you willing to trust God and give to Him when times are tough?
God can also provide spiritual blessings. If you are not wealthy, you should not feel that you have missed out on His blessings. Money cannot buy happiness. When you believe in faith in Jesus, you receive the “free” gift of eternal life (Ro. 5:15). When you walk in faith, the fruit of the Spirit available to you includes: “ . . . love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23). Have you given thanks for the many blessings of the Spirit? If you are missing any of the fruit of the Spirit, are you seeking a closer walk with Jesus to find them?
The quarrel between Isaac’s men and the Philistines over wells in the desert. The Philistines tried to drive Isaac out of their land by burying his valuable wells. Rather than resisting, Isaac submitted to the Philistines by leaving and digging three wells in new locations. Each time he did so, God blessed him: “18 Then Isaac dug again the wells of water which had been dug in the days of his father Abraham, for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham; and he gave them the same names which his father had given them. 19 But when Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and found there a well of flowing water, 20 the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with the herdsmen of Isaac, saying, ‘The water is ours!’ So he named the well Esek, because they contended with him. 21 Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over it too, so he named it Sitnah. 22 He moved away from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it; so he named it Rehoboth, for he said, ‘At last the Lord has made room for us, and we will be fruitful in the land.’” (Gen. 26:18-22). A similar dispute arose between Abraham’s servants and Abimelech’s servants (Gen. 21:25). Both Abraham and Isaac sought to avoid conflict with the Philistines. Because they both pursued peace, God blessed them both. This was also God’s way of guiding Isaac out of a land where God did not want him to be. In the future, his descendants would claim that land.
Isaac dug new wells to avoid conflict with the Philistines2
Christ’s living waters cannot be quenched. Jesus twice met Hagar at a well (Gen. 16:7; 21:19). He also met the woman from Samaria at a well: “There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give Me a drink.’” (Jo. 4:7). He is the living water who quenches the thirst of those who are sorrowful. “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, from his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-39). Just like Abimelech, Satan is unable to quench the living waters of Christ that He makes available to you when you turn to Him. When you feel under attack, are you turning to the abundant living water that only Jesus can offer you?
Leave contention and hostility behind for the promises of Christ. The names of the three wells in Isaac’s struggle with the Philistines symbolize how believers are to deal with conflict in the world. “In a contest over water rights, Isaac dug three wells. He surrendered the first well to the Philistines. He named it Esek (‘Contention’). He named the second well Sitnah (‘Hostility’) and surrendered it to the Philistines also. The third well remained in his possession. He named it Rehoboth (‘Broad Places’). According to the allegorical interpretation of the rabbis, the three wells represented the three holy Temples of Jerusalem. King Solomon built the first Temple, but ‘contention’ with the Babylonians destroyed it. The Jewish people returning from Babylon built the second Temple, but ‘hostility’ from the Romans destroyed it. King Messiah will build the third Temple, and it will never be destroyed.” (First Fruits of Zion, Torah Club (2016) Vol. 2, Shadows of the Messiah, Toldot, p. 125). God also promises to bless you when you show meekness (strength under control) in the face of conflict. “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matt. 5:5 NKJV). “But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” (Ps. 37:11 NKJV). Submission obviously has its limits. The Jews, for example, did not need to submit to Hitler’s attempt to exterminate them. Yet, in normal life circumstances, a conflict over property does not need to result in conflict. Abraham, for example, pursued the same strategy as Isaac when Lot’s herdsman quarreled with his over-grazing of the land. Abraham had the right to drive away his nephew. Instead, he submitted to his nephew by giving him the first right to select lands (Gen. 13:5-13). As a result of Abraham’s submission, God blessed him and his descendants (Gen. 13:14-15).
Avoid strife and be at peace with others. Like Abraham and Isaac, God blesses those who pursue peace and unity with their brothers and sisters in faith: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” (Ps. 133:1(b)). “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so abandon the quarrel before it breaks out.” (Prov. 17:14). “Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, . . .” (Prov. 20:3). “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” (Ro. 12:18). “So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” (Ro. 14:19). He will also put your enemies at peace with you: “When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” (Prov. 16:7). When others hurt you or try to take things belonging to you, do you seek peace or retribution and conflict?
Put the needs of your brothers and sisters before your needs. Like Abraham and Isaac, you also walk in faith when you put the needs of others before yourself: “Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.” (1 Cor. 10:24). “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Phil. 2:3-4). “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;” (Phil 2:3). “If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also.” (Matt. 5:40). Christ put the needs of others before Himself. Do you put your own needs in front of others?
Isaac’s gratitude for God’s blessings. Like Abraham, Isaac’s growing faith caused him to see God’s grace in his undeserved blessings. Thus, he built an altar of sacrifice, repentance, and gratitude after God responded to Isaac’s sins with encouragement and by reconfirming his blessings: “23 Then he went up from there to Beersheba. 24 The Lord appeared to him the same night and said, ‘I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you, and multiply your descendants, for the sake of My servant Abraham.’ 25 So he built an altar there and called upon the name of the Lord, and pitched his tent there; and there Isaac’s servants dug a well.” (Gen. 26:23-25). Abraham also dug his well and formed his covenant of peace in Beersheba (Gen. 26:31-33). The Jews later referred to the Promised Land by the phrase from “Dan to Beersheba”, a distance of about 144 miles (Judg. 20:1; 1 Chr. 21:2; 2 Sam. 24:2). Here, God repeated the blessings of countless descendants on Isaac. Isaac’s response and his gratitude provides an example to all.
Noah and Abraham’s prior altars and prayers of gratitude. After God spared Noah and his family from the Flood, Noah built the first altar of gratitude (Gen. 8:20). Abraham built a second altar of gratitude after first being shown the Promised Land (Gen. 12:8). After God’s deliverance from his sins in Egypt, Abraham built a third altar for repentance (Gen. 13:3-4). Abraham then built a fourth altar of thanks (Gen. 13:18). Abraham later built a fifth altar for the sacrifice of first Isaac and then the substitute ram (Gen. 22:9). Isaac’s altar was therefore the sixth altar of gratitude to Yahweh (Gen. 26:25). Jacob later built a seventh altar of gratitude (Gen. 28:16-18). Believers follow in these examples as well.
The importance of praise and gratitude in avoiding sin. Having gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice for you on the cross is an important way to keep yourself free from sin. If you don’t care about His sacrifice or if you don’t internalize the price He paid for you, you are more likely to sin. One way to remain grateful is to constantly thank Christ for His sacrifice: “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” (Heb. 13:15). As an example to follow, David regularly thanked God through songs of praise (e.g., Ps. 18:49; 26:7; 30:4, 12; 50:14; 69:30; 75:1; 79:13; 92:1; 95:2; 97:12; 100:4; 106:1; 107:1, 8; 116:17; 118:1; 119:62; 140:13; 147:7). Another way to be thankful is to offer your life as a living sacrifice of gratitude: “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men” (1 Cor. 7:23). “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Ro. 12:1-2). Do you regularly sing songs of gratitude? Is your life a living sacrifice of gratitude?
Abimelech’s desire for a covenant of peace with Isaac. Abimelech saw God’s blessings upon Isaac could not be stopped through acts of aggression. Thus, he eventually sought a covenant of peace with Isaac. Even though Abimelech failed to repent of his actions, Isaac forgave him: “26 Then Abimelech came to him from Gerar with his adviser Ahuzzath and Phicol the commander of his army. 27 Isaac said to them, ‘Why have you come to me, since you hate me and have sent me away from you?’ 28 They said, ‘We see plainly that the Lord has been with you; so we said, ‘Let there now be an oath between us, even between you and us, and let us make a covenant with you, 29 that you will do us no harm, just as we have not touched you and have done to you nothing but good and have sent you away in peace. You are now the blessed of the Lord.’’ 30 Then he made them a feast, and they ate and drank. 31 In the morning they arose early and exchanged oaths; then Isaac sent them away and they departed from him in peace. 32 Now it came about on the same day, that Isaac’s servants came in and told him about the well which they had dug, and said to him, ‘We have found water.’ 33 So he called it Shibah; therefore the name of the city is Beersheba to this day.” (Gen. 26:26-33). The evidence of God’s blessings in Abraham’s life also caused an earlier Abimelech to seek a covenant with him in the same city of Beersheba (Gen. 21:27-32). Isaac and Abraham’s forgiveness and their method of conflict resolution provides lessons for all.
Be at peace with others. Like Isaac and Abraham, you are commanded to be at peace with others. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” (Ro. 12:18). “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” (Mark 9:50). If you stay at peace with others around you, Jesus promises to bless you: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matt. 5:9). Are you a peacemaker to those in conflict? If you quarrel, fight, or cause conflict, what kind of witness for Christ are you?
Use kindness to win over your enemies. Like Isaac and Abraham, you will win over your enemies with kindness: “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.” (Prov. 25:21-22; Ro. 12:20). “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Ro. 12:21). “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matt. 5:44). Do you pray for and show kindness to your enemies?
Forgive those who persecute you. Abimelech’s covenant contained a false allegation that they had allegedly “29 . . . not touched you and have done to you nothing but good and have sent you away in peace.” (Gen. 26:29). Although the proposed covenant was based upon false facts, Isaac again showed forgiveness and pursued peace over conflict: “A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.” (Prov. 19:11). “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:32). “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Matt. 6:14). “bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” (Col. 3:13). Have you forgiven those who have harmed you?
Esau’s double sin of polygamy and marrying worldly women. Finally, although Isaac and Rebekah were walking with God, their son Esau was not: “34 When Esau was forty years old he married Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite; 35 and they brought grief to Isaac and Rebekah.” (Gen. 26:34-35). Both Isaac and Esau married at age 40 (Gen. 25:20). Forty symbolizes trials and testing in the Bible. Isaac passed the test by waiting for the woman that God “appointed” for him (Gen. 24:14). In contrast, Esau followed the path of Lamech, the first polygamist and a murderer (Gen. 4:19). Isaac made the mistake of neglecting his son’s development while he focused on God.
God’s prohibition against marriage with nonbelievers. God prohibited the Jews from marrying the Canaanites (Dt. 7:3; Ex. 34:16; Josh. 23:12; Neh. 10:30). God knew that intermarriage with pagan nonbelievers would cause the Jews to fall off their walk with Him. For this reason, Isaac later instructed Jacob not to marry a wife from Canaan (Gen. 28:1). Although the wisest man ever to live, it was Solomon’s foreign wives that caused him to turn his heart away from God (1 Kgs. 11:4). God wants you to be pure and holy for His use. He wants us to be holy because He is holy (1 Peter 1:16; Lev. 11:44-5; 19:2; 20:7). Part of being pure and holy includes being separate from marriages to non-believers: “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14; Dt. 22:10). “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;” (1 Jo. 1:6). Are you entangling yourself in relationships with non-believers?
Don’t neglect your children’s spiritual development. Not every wayward child is the result of a neglectful parent. Even if Isaac had intervened in his life, Esau might have been a wild and worldly man. But there is evidence that Isaac overlooked Esau’s wayward development and favored him for reasons of the flesh: “28 Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.” (Gen. 25:28). Rebekah saw Esau’s evil. But Isaac would not listen. Like Isaac, some believers can be godly in their conduct and faith yet simultaneously neglect their children’s spiritual development. In reference to God’s leaders, the Bible warns : “He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?),” (1 Tim. 3:4-5). Isaac had failed to ensure that his son Esau followed God’s law in selecting a spouse. If Isaac had raised Esau with God’s law written in his heart, Esau was less likely to have sinned. “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6). “You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.” (Dt. 11:19). “Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons.” (Dt. 4:9). “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4). Are you raising your children with a strong foundation in Jesus?