“In the footsteps of his father”
II. Vs. 1-11 Like father, like son
III. Vs. 12-33 From blessed in the world to blessed of the Lord
This is the only chapter devoted exclusively to Isaac the events of his life are summed up in this chapter. His life looks a lot like that of his father who had been dead for some time. There is something interesting in observing these three patriarch’s, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as it relates to our lives. Their lives seem to be centered around three distinct activities that each is known for: “Building altars, digging wells and pitching tents”!
Abraham: Builds altars, four times we are told that he does so. Altars were places of worship, so Abraham’s life seems to have centered on the worship of God. Yet it is recorded that he only dug 1 well and pitched 2 tents, (accept for 26:15 where it is obvious that he dug many wells)!
Isaac: “Digs wells”, five times we are told that he dug wells and each time he seems to re-dig the ones that his father had dug. Wells of water in scripture seem to always point to God’s provisions for a healthy spiritual life. In John 4:1-4 Jesus told the women, “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst!” Then you have that phrase in Ephesians where Paul says that Jesus cleansed us by the “washing of the water of the word”! Isaac is a man that emulates the spiritual life of faith of his father. Yet we are told that Isaac builds only one altar and only pitches his tent twice.
Jacob: “pitched tents”, 4 times we are told that he pitched his tent. Tents are always used to symbolize a person’s abode during their spiritual journey. Jacob goes down as a guy who no matter where he was at made his home in the Lord. Yet, as far as the other three activities of his forefathers, he built only one altar and dug no wells.
We too ought to be “altar builders, well diggers and tent pitchers” in our lives. We need to always be folks who:
Long to sit at the feet of the Lord to worship Him.
Come and dig deep in His word to be refreshed by Him.
And find that wherever He has placed us, (as long as we are in constant fellowship with Him) we are at home.
II. Vs. 1-11 Like father, like son
Vs. 1 Unfortunately Isaac fathered in his father’s footsteps in sin as well proving that human nature does not evolve from generation to generation, there is no such this as the “generation gap” when it comes to sin and failure! Isaac, like us, will spend far too much time in “boarder land” in between the land of promise and the world but God will lead him back to a place of His presence.
Vs. 2-3a A 100 years have passed from the time when Abraham experienced a famine in the land. The use of the name Abimelech here shows that this was a title not a name. This is the 1st time in over 50 years that we are told that God appeared to Isaac, the last time we are told so was the time on Calvary where God confirmed the covenant He made with Abraham. The surprising thing is that Isaac ends up going to Gerar, which is located 10 miles from Gaza which is on the border with Egypt. It seems to me that we Christians will react one of two ways when we are facing a spiritual drought or famine:
We will head towards the world seeking comfort or support
We will draw closer to God in order to experience more of His provision and love.
Egypt is always a typology of the world and Isaac like us so many times are tempted to employ worldly means to sustain our needs. God is always warning us not to “go down to Egypt” but rather “stay in the land”. Isaac was to go where God directed and not where the situation dictated! The only way Isaac would know where to dwell was to be nearer the Lord!
Vs. 3b-5 To reassure Isaac of His ability to sustain him in the land God reaffirms the covenant that He made with his father. So that Isaac would know that God had chosen him as well as his father. The promise has three blessings attached to it:
Lands: “for to you and your descendants I give all these lands”
Nation: “And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven”
Blessing: “in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed”
The bases of these promises we are told is twofold:
- God’s grace: “I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father”.
- Abraham’s faith: “because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.”
“The promises were based upon God’s faithfulness to Abraham and Abraham’s reaction to this seen in four areas of obeying God’s voice.”
- “My charge”: Is an observance, that all that Abraham saw and heard was important to God Abraham did.
- “My commandments”: Here were things that God specifically told him to do or not to do. This would be like God’s commandment to leave his former home of Ur.
- “My statutes”: The idea here is that of immutability or unchangeableness in nature. This would be like God’s statue of circumcision.
- “My laws”: This involved instruction, like God instructed Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.
Isaac had been brought up with this but this is the first time it directly involved him. In God laying all of this out for Isaac He is reminding him that we are not saved based upon our obedience rather our obedience is the first sign of our new life.
Vs. 6 As I said Gerar is a border town in between the land of promise and Egypt, it is a far cry from “Beer-sheba” or the well of oath where God will move him by verse 23. Isaac at first moves towards where he thought the situation dictated he goes and not where the Lord was directing him. There are far too many of us Christians living in “borderland”, like Isaac, we see how close we can live to the world without actually being there. With all the places Isaac could have chosen to live in the land of promise he chose the closest place to where God told him he could not go. Is it any wonder that he repeats the same sin of lying about his wife as did his father? Later on though we will see that the closer he came to the “well of oath”, the more blessed he becomes and the world will come take notice of that. Saints, “Let’s live on cutting edge with Christ which is on the other side of the world!”
Vs. 7-11 This is the third time we have seen the same sin which is an inability to trust God! Isaac like his father before him was willing to risk his wife’s purity for the price of personal protection. They had been married 35 years and like his mother she is a beautiful woman. It is not long after being in the land that Abimelech looks at his window to see Isaac and Rebekah acting like husband and wife, not brother and sister. One wonders what the explanations were about Esau and Jacob. Like the leaders before him Abimelech is summoned to rebuke Isaac for his unbelief. To this worldly rulers credit he establishes rules to keep any harm from coming to Isaac, Rebekah and their family.
III. Vs. 12-33 From blessed in the world to blessed of the Lord
Vs. 12-14 It is the “goodness” of God that leads to repentance so we are told and this is made very clear to us here as God blesses Isaac to move him where He wants him. Even though Isaac experiences blessing while living on the border we should not fall into the thinking this was a sign saying that his dwelling there was blessed. Simply put God blesses people not places there is no such thing as “God’s country nor God forsaken”. This is the first mention of “seed sowing” in the Bible which has its parallel in Christians sowing the seed of the word of God into the field of the world. Sixty fold in a few years would have been thought of as extraordinary but 100 fold the first year was a sign of God’s abundant profession. So the outcome of God’s blessing was twofold:
- “He became very prosperous”: Although he had already been given the inheritance of his father he now was added even more.
- “The Philistines envied him”: Along with the blessings of God often comes spiritual warfare in a greater magnitude.
Vs. 15-17 Envy led to spite as they stopped the wells that Abraham had dug and Isaac was using. In ancient cultures the digging of a well represented a claim of possession upon the land in which they were dug, which they obviously resented. All that Isaac saw was that these wells enabled him to prosper in “borderland” and it is this success that Abimelech blames as the reason for his countryman’s actions. Isaac chooses to be a man of peace, not a man of war as he leaves only a little ways away.
Vs. 18-22 His intent was to make each place he moved a place to set down his roots but each time a dispute arises which forces him to move. Isaac did not realize it but God was leading him home one well at a time. Notice that he re-digs the wells that his father dug naming them the same thing that his father had named them. In so doing he is following the faith steps of the father of faith. I find it interesting that the world stopped up the wells so that those could not drink freely of them. “Have you found your spiritual life becoming dry? Have you had a hard time finding refreshment in the Lord? Hey, why not go back and uncover the wells where you have drank freely from in the past?” The truth is when you find yourself thirsty go back and dig out a past well! D.L. Moody once said, “This book will keep you from sin and sin will keep you from this book!” We need to guard the Word with our life so the word will guard our life!
As Isaac dug out new wells that his father did not dig he named them:
- Vs. 20 “contention”
- Vs. 21 “opposition”
- Vs. 22 “roominess”
The first two were good wells but they were in the wrong land. God does not want His children to dwell in the land of “contention” and “opposition”, but when they come into where God wants them to be they will dig wells and call them “roominess”. Let’s make sure that we aren’t digging the right wells in the wrong place, move away from the border and back to the promises of God. God uses Isaac’s wrong opinions, “abundant water and lack of hostilities” to lead him to a place of commitment.
Vs. 23-25 The greatest change upon Isaac’s travels happens when he realizes that it ought not to be circumstances that leads him but rather the Lord. It is upon digging the well of “roominess” that he sees that the further he is from the world the more freedom he has. Upon further looking at this we find that this well of “roominess” was the first place he and his father went to upon leaving the mountain of sacrifice in chapter 22:19. Isaac finally has come to see with his heart where his feet had already been taking him to the land of promise and sweet fellowship with the Lord. As he surrendered to the Lord’s guidance in his life he found true freedom without any “contention” and “opposition”.
Verse 25 Records the order in which he does things as:
- Built an altar
- Called on the name of the Lord
- Pitched his tent
- Dug a well
Before, in his life, he had always sought to be refreshed before he had worshiped now he knows that refreshment comes as we sit at the altar. No matter what the circumstance the best place to make our home is at the altar, it there that we will find His provision of grace in times of need, thus he finally dug a well.
Vs. 26-33 One last thing to see here is with all of the blessings while living in “borderland” it is only when Isaac is back in the freedom of the Lord that Abimelech says, “You are now blessed of the Lord”. While he had material blessings in the world now he had so much more that the world comes to want the peace that he has.