Sunday, 3rd July 2022
Rev Daniel Xi An Poon
In Genesis 26, the life of Isaac is very interesting for us to look at. He was born out of all the impossibilities, when God promised Abraham to give him a son, there were no chance for Sarah to conceive. But by the faith of Abraham, and the trueness of God, Isaac was born. The blessings God promised will never change, His heart is for us and His love for us never changes. As long as we don’t give up, we will see God’s blessings come to past.
Genesis 26:1 tells us that ‘There was a famine in the land, besides the first famine that was in the days of Abraham.’ This was when Isaac starting to experience God, when the famine came, his faith was being challenged, he must believe that the God of his father is also his God. Why would bad things happen to us? Sometimes God will allow the environment to rise to challenge us and to test our faith.
Back in Abraham’s time, there was also famine, which caused Abraham’s decision to go down to Egypt. Abraham was afraid of famine; therefore, he took his family down to Egypt; at the same time, Abraham was also afraid that others might kill him because of the beauty of his wife, therefore he told everyone that Sarah was his sister. Abraham left his own promise land and went to a place he thought he would be safe, but at the end, he almost lost everything, even his wife. God gave favours to Abraham and intervened before it was too late.
SUBMIT TO GOD WHEN YOU LOSE PEACE
Many years later, Isaac also experienced famine. In Genesis 26:2, it says, ‘Isaac went to Abimelech king of the Philistines, in Gerar. Then the Lord appeared to him and said: “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land of which I shall tell you.”’ God told Isaac not to go to Egypt and not to be afraid. Why do we fear? Because we have lost our fear as we live under the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, we try to make judgement ourselves, and we try to find our own ways our with our own logic and the worldly methods.
When Abraham went to Egypt, God did not stop him at the first, but to test his faith and intervene when promises came up. But this time God already told Isaac about His promise and told him not to go to Egypt. God wanted Isaac to stay in Gerar, which means the place of boarding, and Isaac submitted to God. God knew Isaac’s heart was not right, even though he submitted to God’s instructions, but his heart was not in total submission. He still had doubt and he still was afraid. The place of Gerar was not only a physically boarding place for Isaac, but also a representation of Isaac’s heart that he was not commitment and submissive 100%. When our heart is not in total submission then God’s blessings would not come. When God gave us the vision of the Upper Room, do we really live out this vision and believe fully that God will bring blessings to us through the Upper Room?
God was training Isaac in Gerar, for him to learn the lesson of faith, and to experience the true peace from above. In Genesis 26:3-4, God said to Isaac, ‘Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father. And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.’ God has such a great promise for Isaac, He even talked to Isaac directly, but Isaac was still afraid.
In Genesis 26:6-7, even though Isaac followed God’s instructions and moved to Gerar, his heart was still not in total submission. ‘So Isaac dwelt in Gerar. And the men of the place asked about his wife. And he said, “She is my sister”; for he was afraid to say, “She is my wife,” because he thought, “lest the men of the place kill me for Rebekah, because she is beautiful to behold.”’ God sees through our heart, the doubt and faithless inside our heart will be revealed and have nowhere to hide. We must be truthful before God and deal with our own sins, otherwise even after we have given up everything to follow God, we will still not able to receive His full blessings.
Isaac did not witness God in front of people, on the other hand, in front of Abimelech, someone who did not know God, Isaac did not reveal the power of God. In Genesis 26:9, it says, ‘Then Abimelech called Isaac and said, “Quite obviously she is your wife; so how could you say, she is my sister?” Isaac said to him, “Because I said, lest I die on account of her.”’ Isaac lost the opportunity to testify God, however, the Philistines knew God’s greatness and they were also afraid of defying God. We can see it in verses 10-11, which says, ‘And Abimelech said, “What is this you have done to us? One of the people might soon have lain with your wife, and you would have brought guilt on us.” So Abimelech charged all his people, saying, “He who touches this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.”’ Isaac was using his own way, his father’s way, the worldly way, trying to get away from troubles, but God solved all his problems in supernatural ways.
GREATER PROSECUTION BRINGS BROADER ABUNDANCE
Genesis 26:12 says, ‘Then Isaac sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year a hundredfold; and the Lord blessed him.’ God’s promises never fail, and this time, Isaac testified God through his words and actions. In verse 22, Isaac said, ‘For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.’ What is our attitude when we are in the place God put us in? Do we treat it as a boarding place, or do we really commit to God’s vision, believe God is with us, and be planted by God?
Isaac was not sitting and waiting anymore, he did not see the place as his boarding place, instead he started to sow and reap in the land, and soon he received God’s blessings and abundance. Isaac had the harvest, and the Philistines were jealous. Genesis 26:1-16 says, ‘Now the Philistines had stopped up all the wells which his father’s servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father, and they had filled them with earth. And Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we.”’ Isaac’s attitude was changed, he was not afraid anymore, he did not fight with Abimelech, he also did not complain to God for his prosecution, because he realised how blessed he was despite of all the troubles and hardship. Verse 17 says, ‘Then Isaac departed from there and pitched his tent in the Valley of Gerar and dwelt there.’
Isaac moved away, he dug another well and called it Rehoboth. It was a desert place, and it was not easy to dig wells, but God still blessed Isaac. This time, the Philistines also saw God’s blessings and did not fight with him anymore. Isaac did not lose his peace this time, even with all the fighting and quarrelling, his heart grew boarder and wider, therefore he named his well Rehoboth, which means open spaces.
TURN DEFEAT INTO VICTORY
Genesis 26:23-24 says, ‘Then he went up from there to Beersheba. And 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 My servant Abraham’s sake.”’ Isaac went up to Beersheba, and God gave him even greater blessings and promises. The meaning of Beersheba is ‘Well of Seven’; seven is a complete number and God was showing His complete blessing to Isaac.
Verse 25 says, ‘So he built an altar there and called on the name of the Lord, and he pitched his tent there; and there Isaac’s servants dug a well.’ Isaac knew God’s blessing was real, he not only believed in it, but he also proclaimed it in front of all the people there. He pitched his tent there and sent a clear message to the people that he would be living there. It was a place of dry land, but God gave him water, he was able to dig the well, and he named it the well of seven. Verse 26 told us that, ‘Then Abimelech came to him from Gerar with Ahuzzath, one of his friends, and Phichol the commander of his army.’ This time, Abimelech was not there to take away his wife or to fight with him, but to make alliance with Isaac.
Isaac changed his attitude, he was no longer afraid; he submitted to God when he lost peace, he grew broader in heart when he faced prosecution, and he was able to turn his defeat into victor. God will raise us up in the place we fail, as long as we don’t give up, stay committed and submissive, be where God put us to be, then God’s faithfulness will never fail us.