GOD BLESSES ISAAC’S FAMILY
Key Verse: 26:3a
“Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you.
Out of 50 chapters of Genesis, Abraham’s story is written in 12 chapters and Jacob’s 9 chapters while Isaac’s story only 3 chapters. Actually chapter 26 is the only chapter that focuses on Isaac. Compared to Abraham and Jacob Isaac seemed to live a quiet life without much excitement. But we will see that Isaac lived a very challenging life with famine, persecution and other struggles to survive. Even in the midst of these struggles of life, Isaac was so much blessed and his faith grew. And he served an important role in God’s redemptive history. Today, let’s learn Isaac’s life of faith and about God who blessed him.
I. STAY IN THIS LAND (1-14)
Look at verse 1. “Now there was a famine in the land besides the earlier famine of Abraham’s time and Isaac went to Abimelech king of the Philistines in Gerar.” Back in Genesis 12 we learned that there had been a severe famine in the land of Canaan and that Abraham went down to Egypt to avoid the famine. Now there was another famine during Isaac’s time. Famines would happen in Israel when the rains did not come during the traditionally rainy months from October to April. When the food ran out, people’s very lives were at stake. Isaac had a big family. He had a wife and two sons and many servants and flocks to take care of. It became a challenge to survive.
When Isaac faced a famine he went to Gerar. Gerar was a Philistine territory and where his father Abraham had been earlier. Look at verse 2.3a “The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land for a while.” We see that evidently Isaac planned to go down to Egypt. This was a very common thing for the people of Canaan to do during a famine. They went down to Egypt because there was always food and the land was affected less by famine because they had the Nile river. At that time the Egyptian economy was strong and there were many job opportunities there. It was common sense to go down to Egypt and avoid the famine. Why not? But God gave Isaac a different direction. God told him not to go down to Egypt but stay where God told him to live. The place God told Isaac to live was Gerar where Isaac was then staying. Gerar was in Philistine territory but it was a part of the land of Canaan that God had promised to give to Abraham and his descendants.
God’s command always comes with his promises of blessings. What blessings did God promise to Isaac if he obeyed?
First God promised that he would be with him and bless him. God’s being with us is one of the best blessings we can have. God’s being with us does not mean that we will have a trouble free life. It means that God will protect us from all dangers and lead us in the best way.
Second, God promised Isaac that he and his descendants would possess all these lands including the place where he was staying now. This was the main reason why God told Isaac to stay where he was – It was his way of staking a claim to the promise land. And it was an act of faith testifying that he believed this land really was his, though others were living there. Third, God promised him that he would give him numerous descendants like the stars in the sky. Lastly all nations on earth would be blessed through his offspring. So many blessings, even to bless all peoples on earth.
In fact, it seems that God’s blessing was so abundant compared to Isaac’s seemingly small decision of just staying where he was. How was it possible for him to get such abundant blessings by his obedience? It was because he would benefit from his father Abraham. God kept telling Isaac why he wanted to bless him. God says, “For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. Through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and my laws.” When Abraham had obeyed God by offering his son Isaac, God swore to him that he would bless him and make his descendants numerous and through his offspring all nations would be blessed. These blessings that God had given to Abraham are the same ones that God now gave to Isaac. So Isaac inherited to promise of his father. His father had done all the hard work and Isaac would reap the benefit. Here we also learn Isaac’s position in God’s redemptive history. God did not just mention Isaac himself, but also his descendants. This means that his role would be to maintain God’s blessing that he received from his father, and hand it down to his children. So we also learn how important it is to pass our faith on to the next generation; to our children, and also to college students. If we have Christian parents, then we can also learn from Isaac to honor the spiritual heritage that w have received from them. For instance, in our ministry, senior missionaries did all of the hard pioneering work and we reap the benefit. Especially among our second generation members, it is important to value your spiritual heritage, maintain God’s blessing.
Through Isaac’s life, we see that staying in the promised land did not mean a trouble free life. Rather, Egypt was the easy life, and the promised land was the land of famine and persecution. Living in the land of promise, some people have job problems or serious financial difficulties or they are persecuted. We should not think that following God means the beginning of life on easy street. Far from it, Jesus described Christian life as a narrow way, requiring constant effort. To say that Isaac’s mission was to maintain God’s blessing should not lead us to think that it was an easy mission.
How did Isaac respond? Verse 6 says, “So Isaac stayed in Gerar.” It must have been difficult for Isaac to stay. First he felt financial pressure. What good is a large flock if you cannot feed them? They could all die and then he would have nothing. In verse 8, we learn that Isaac stayed in Gerar a long time. This implies that it was a long famine. Isaac had to struggle daily to survive. It always seemed a good alternative to go down to Egypt and solve his food problem the easy way. But Isaac made a decision to obey God and stay in the land, holding on to God’s promises.
While staying in the land famine was not the only problem that Isaac faced. He had fear of losing his life because of his wife. When Isaac moved into Gerar, Isaac became popular because of his beautiful wife, Rebekah. But the Philistines didn’t know how Isaac was related to Rebekah. So they came to him and asked about Rebekah, “Who is that beautiful woman? Is she married?” I wonder why they couldn’t guess Isaac was her husband. Probably compared to beautiful Rebekah, Isaac looked too old. Anyway Isaac should have answered, “She is my wife” to keep them away. But instead he said, “She is my sister.” Isaac spoke this lie because he thought he could save his life. But by calling Rebekah his sister he ended up putting her in a very vulnerable position. Earlier in Genesis, we find that Isaac’s father Abraham had made this same mistake twice. Abraham also had worried about being killed because of his beautiful wife Sarah. I am sure that Isaac did not learn from his father’s mistake because he had not been born at that time. But it is amazing how quickly children pick up their father’s bad habits. Now Abraham and Isaac had the same dilemma: their wives were beautiful. What a dilemma. Everyone wants a beautiful wife, but the more we have the more others covet. So if you think that your wife is not so beautiful thank God because your life is safe. But I think that all of us know that we have beautiful wives, because a woman’s beauty is not in jewelry and make up, but a beauty of character. So, if you think your wife is beautiful thank God also.
We can imagine how uncomfortable Isaac felt after speaking this lie. He was fine while he was among his family members. But whenever he and Rebekah went out and met the Philistines he had to act as if he were Rebekah’s brother. But his lie couldn’t go forever undiscovered. One day Abimelech king of the Philistines looked down from his window and saw Isaac caressing his wife Rebekah. I think Isaac lived close to where Abimelech lived. So Abimelech summoned Isaac and said, “She is really your wife.” Why did you say, “She is my sister?” Isaac answered him. “Because I thought I might lose my life on account of her.” Then Abimelech rebuked Isaac, “What is this you have done to us?” “One of the men might well have slept with your wife and you would have brought guilt upon us.” Abimelech was not as wicked as Isaac had thought. He had some sense of morality. So Abimelech gave orders to all the people: “Anyone who molests this man or his wife shall surely put to death.” Where there was no established law or system Abimelech’s word was like an absolute authority upon his people. In this event we see the hand of God’s protection and the fulfillment of his promise to be with Isaac.
Not only was God with Isaac but God blessed Isaac. Isaac planted crops in the land and that same year reaped a hundredfold increase of what was sown. At that time people generally reaped between 25% and 50% more of what they had sown. Missionary Jacob said that he used to count the number of grains on one stalk and the number was never more than 32. The harvest Isaac reaped was not by the agricultural revolution but by God. The Lord blessed him. Isaac had already been rich because of the inheritance he received from his father. God blessed him more until he became very wealthy. He came to possess so many flocks and herds and servants. While everyone else suffered from famine Isaac became very prosperous. Here we learn an important lesson that when we obey God and live by faith God will bless us. And his blessing is abundant. Even if we face a famine and go through many fears and difficulties of life he will be with us and help us to get through. When we live by faith and receive his abundant blessing we can be so joyful and happy.
A couple of weeks ago shepherdess Belssi shared that she had gone unemployed for three years after her graduation. Even as a single person, going unemployed for three years seems too difficult for her. A part of the reason she couldn’t get a job easily was that there were not many jobs for her here. Her major was chemical engineering and she could have easily gotten a job in Texas or somewhere else. But in the midst of suffering she made a decision to stay by faith and God blessed her. She is now a manager in her company. She is now a director of our CBF.
II. ISAAC’S WELL DIGGING LIFE (15-32)
Through God’s abundant blessing, Isaac became very wealthy. But Isaac’s great success brought jealousy from the Philistines. When the Philistines who owned small flocks of sheep saw Isaac’s huge flocks and herds passing by leaving a huge dust cloud in their wake, the Philistines became very uncomfortable and unhappy. They said to each other. “This guy is a foreigner but he is richer than us. His flocks will eat up all the grass!” We have got to do something. Not long before, the Philistines had been friendly with Isaac, and he had the kings protection. But then they became hostile toward Isaac and stopped up all his wells with earth. Then Abimelech, who had protected Isaac earlier, also became hostile and gave him an order of deportation. So Isaac left the city and stayed in the valley of Gerar.
What kind of life did Isaac live in the valley? He lived a well digging life. Back in those days wells were very important. Good pastureland and wells were two things people and animals needed to sustain themselves. Each well was so important that it had its own name. So filling up someone’s well was regarded as a declaration a war. Isaac reopened all the wells the Philistines had stopped up. But since his flocks and herds had grown so large, those wells were not enough. Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and discovered a well of fresh and cool water there. The water tasted far better than Deer Park or Vermont Spring water. But the herdsmen of Gerar came and claimed the well saying, “The water is ours!” Then Isaac’s servants dug another well, but they quarreled over that one also. So Isaac named the well Sitnah meaning, ‘Opposition’. It was very hard to dig a well, and even after investing so much, there was never a guarantee that you would hit water. How unfair and unjust it was that Isaac’s servants did all the hard work of digging the wells and then the Philistines simply took them. The Philistines threatened Isaac’s survival. How was he going to water his flocks? Isaac could have declared a war fought for his rights, using his servants as an army. People are inclined to think that Isaac should have had guts to fight. But, no. Isaac acted in a different way. After watching his servants’ disputing and quarreling with the herdsmen of Gerar for a few moments, Isaac simply moved away and dug another well. How could Isaac do that? Was it because he was quiet and gentle? Even a quiet man would not endure such unfairness for long, and would erupt with anger to fight. We can’t explain this just with his character. More than his character Isaac had the promise of God in his heart that if he stayed God would bless him. Isaac believed in God’s blessing in digging wells as he had blessed him with so many flocks and herds and hundredfold of crops. With this faith he depended on God and his blessing instead of fighting with men. The naming of the third well shows why Isaac could just meekly move on. When the third well was dug, no one quarreled over it, and so he named it ‘Rehoboth’, meaning “room”. After getting the well he said, “Now the Lord has given us room and we will flourish in the land.” Notice what he said. “Now the Lord has given us”. Isaac accepted God’s sovereignty over his well digging. It was God who led him to strike water each time, and it was God who would give him room in the land, if it was to be his land. When the Philistines had claimed the wells his servants had dug he accepted it as God’s will and moved away. Then when God granted him a well he accepted it as God’s will too. Through famine and persecutions, God answered all his prayers, and God used this trouble to grow Isaac’s faith. Isaac learned that the Lord was the source of all blessings. He learned to trust in God believing that God was leading him in the best way.
From Rehoboth Isaac went up to Beersheba. There Isaac built an altar and called on the name of the Lord. Through famine and persecutions Isaac experienced God. He experienced God’s protecting and his abundant blessings. He experienced God’s faithfulness in keeping his promises. Isaac thanked God and praised God by building an altar.
Meanwhile, Abimelech had come to Isaac from Gerar. What was the reason he came? Verse 28 says, “They answered, “We saw clearly that the Lord was with you; so we said, ‘There ought to be a sworn agreement between us’-between us and you….And now you are blessed by the Lord.” The reason Abimelech came to Isaac and wanted to make a peace treaty was that he saw clearly that the Lord was with Isaac and he was blessed by God. With all the blessings Isaac got and his meekness despite hostile treatment Abimelech saw that God was with Isaac. Though Isaac seemed to lose small battles he won the final war through his faith and meekness. He never fought, but now the Gentile king came to him to sue for peace. He let people steal whatever they wanted, but now h was only more blessed and prosperous. Isaac understood that the real battle is not against flesh and blood. His son Jacob probably would have fought back and made a big mess that he would have to run away from. But Isaac, through his life of faith, gave a good influence even to the pagan king. Through his humility, Isaac reflected God in his life. This passage reminds of that the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:5 are true, “Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.”
Now lets read verse 30-32. “Isaac then made a feast for them, and they ate and drank. Early the next morning, the men swore an oath to each other. Then Isaac sent them on their way and they left him in peace. That day Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well they had dug. They said, ‘We have found water!’” Life without God is full of strife and struggles to survive. But life with God and his promise there is hope and future.
God has blessed me abundantly. From 2002 August to 2004 June I worked at a Korean owned company. For the first year, I worked as office worker. But because I made one mistake, the second year I was demoted to be a night shift warehouse worker carrying heavy loads of food boxes and loading them on trucks. I felt ashamed to tell others about the job that I had with a college degree in Computer Information Systems. Out of frustration I sometimes yelled inside the freezers when no one was around. Sometimes I looked at the moon at night in tiredness. I thought about Joseph of the Old Testament whom God was with. His situation was worse than mine as a slave and a prisoner. I received much comfort and hope from God who was with Joseph. Then I moved to another job in Virginia. But after two weeks I was fired. After that I went three months unemployed. I experienced a severe famine. I felt if I went on like this I would have to file for bankruptcy. When I had conflict with my father in law who lived with my family, I felt running away to Florida or Califonia to forget everything. But I couldn’t go because of my wife and three sons. Last Christmas time, through Isaiah study I accepted Immanuel. I realized that God had been with me during my hardship and famine and I could praise God. This January God granted a Database job in Lockheed Martin, the biggest defense contractor for the Department of Defense. I had given up my hope of getting an IT job in an American company. Through this, God taught me that it is only by God’s grace that I live. Now my mentor, who is a senior DBA teaches me every day to grow in knowledge and experience. God has blessed me to study with three sheep during my famine and now. Shepherd Tommy is growing struggling to write testimony every week and feeding one faithful sheep, Sam.
In conclusion we learn that when we obey and live by faith holding to his promise God will abundantly. I pray that God may help us to hold onto his promises so that we may meet God personally and grow and reflect God’s glory in our lives.
Lets’ read the key verse Key Verse: 26:3a
“Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you.