a. The Lord Appears 23-24. Some time passes and Isaac moves on from Rehoboth back to Beersheba. On the night that they arrived and set up camp, the Lord appears to him. God knows what we need when we need it. After all this trouble with the Philistines, God has some encouragement for Isaac. First, God says that he is “the God of Abraham your father.” Look at how close God is to Isaac. He does not say, I am El-Shaddai but your father Abraham’s God. The God of the Old Testament is not some far-off vengeful deity. He is our father’s God. Then the Lord says, fear not. Why? Because he was with Isaac too. He was Isaac’s God just like he was Abraham’s. Then God goes back to the covenant promises, his stated word. I will bless you and multiply you. And then God reminds Isaac of his place in all this, “for my servant Abraham’s sake.” Not because of who Isaac is or what he has done, but because of his deceased father. That’s grace again. That’s undeserved or unearned favor. b. Isaac Worships 25. After the Lord leaves Isaac, his response is to build an altar, hold a worship service, and make plans to stay there for a while. The encouragement of God, the reminder of the blessing and promise and the statement of the certainty of the blessing and promise invoke worship. Honoring God and giving thanks, according to Romans 1, are the correct response to God.
a. Unstopping the Wells 18. Our story starts off with Isaac having to dig again the wells of water that his father Abraham had dug. Why does he have to do this? Because the Philistines had filled the wells in after the death of Abraham. It’s been a few weeks since we looked at Genesis chapter 21 but remember what had happened there. Abraham was sojourning in the same area and had dug a well but the servants of that Abimelech had seized the well. Then Abraham and Abimelech made a peace treaty. Apparently, the Philistines believed that the treaty only lasted as long as Abraham was alive because as soon as he was dead they stopped up the wells. They did not extend that treaty to Isaac. And so Isaac goes back to the old wells and digs them out again renaming the wells what Abraham had named them. Isaac honors his father and reestablishes what is father had built and also sends a message to the Philistines that he has now taken his father’s place and that they are in violation of the old oath. b. Contention and Enmity 19-21. At this point, the Philistines have not responded to what Isaac is doing. But Isaac begins to expand his reach by digging new wells. The Philistines were tolerant of him opening the old wells, but digging new and expanding? They were not okay with that. Isaac servant did a new well and the Philistine herdsmen lay claim to the well, saying “The water is ours”. Isaac gives the well a derogatory name, “Contention,” and then moves from that location. Then they dig a second well. The Philistines find out that Isaac is still trying to expand and so they lay claim to that well too. Isaac calls the well Sitnah or enmity. Isaac has declared the oath between his father and the Philistines dead. They are now enemies. Remember that the Philistines were envious of Isaac. That envy had turned to hatred and now Isaac and his blessings are a stench to them. c. Finding Some Room 22. Isaac moves again and they dig a third well. This time the Philistines leave him alone. We are not told what the Philistines were thinking as to why they didn’t pursue him, but Isaac says it was God. “The Lord has made room for us.” This is the faith of Isaac. God is restraining their evil against him and so he will be fruitful in the land. This is how the world usually treats God’s people. This is a continuation of the envy that we looked at last time. The world will continue to harass, even to the point of absurdity, God’s people if given the chance. But God is sovereign and he often, not always, spares his people from the world’s hatred.
We are back in Genesis chapter 26 as we look at the life of Isaac, a man who was blessed of the Lord. Last time we saw Isaac falter like his father Abraham because of his fear of the people. When he went to Gerar he was afraid that they would kill him which led him to lie about Rebekah. When he got caught, then he owned up to his sin and admitted that he lied to save his own skin. So Abimelech warned everyone in his kingdom to not lay a hand on Isaac or Rebekah. But this did not stop them from growing envious of Isaac as God blessed him with good crops, and growing flocks and herds and numerous servants. The envy became so great that Abimelech was forced to tell Isaac that he had to move. So Isaac left the city of Gerar and moved down into the valley. That brings us to where we will pick up the story in verse 18. If you have been keeping an eye on our culture you probably have seen a growing animosity toward God’s people. The culture that many of you grew up in has changed. I’m only 43, and the world that I grew up in has changed. Our culture was friendly to God’s people. It, in many ways, respected and acknowledged that Christians were blessed of God, but now, not so much. But is this surprising to us? Is this something new? No, as Ecclesiastes says there is nothing new under the sun. What we are experiencing today is what God’s people have always known. If we have been caught off guard it is only because we have been foolish to believe that the world was for us or at least okay with us. If we as the Church don’t understand what is happening in our country it is because we failed to learn the lessons of Scripture. We are afraid, of people, but not of God. We don’t know our Bible’s or worse, the church is full of worldlings, not Christians. So let’s take a look at this story of Isaac. First, we are reminded from his story that God’s people will struggle in this world as we see Isaac digging wells and having problems with the Philistines. Then we see that God is faithful to his promise as God appears to Isaac and reminds him of his promise. Then we’ll Isaac tries to live peaceably with his neighbors and finally will talk about God’s blessings and some of the family trials that come from following God.
So we saw in our text today that God gave the promises of the covenant to Isaac. And God is faithful and he will maintain this family line, through Jacob to Judah, to Perez, to Hezron, and so forth until you have “Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.” Matthew 1:16. Why did Isaac receive this honor? It was all of grace. Isaac has proven himself unworthy to receive the blessings of God and yet he is the recipient of the blessings because of God’s free and sovereign grace. Isaac received because of Abraham’s faith which God gave Abraham and grew in him. As Spurgeon said, “We come not to preach salvation to the righteous–for where shall we find them? But we proclaim it to the unrighteous and to the ungodly. “The whole have no need of a physician; but they that are sick” Christ has come after the sick, calling, not the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Oh, if anything will touch the heart it should be this word of free grace, this fact that God does bid sinful men return to him.” Too many people try to follow Christ because of what they receive from him not because of who he is. They want Jesus as far as he serves their needs. This is not following Jesus at all. A true follower of Jesus longs for the Holy Spirit to convict, to show them their sin, to point out every wicked thought and the show them just how bad they are because it is against this darkness that the light and beauty of Jesus in their hearts shines brighter. The temporal blessings are important and are true blessings from God. But like Isaac learned the spiritual blessings of God are so much greater. As Spurgeon also said, “A new heart is better than a new coat! To feed on Christ is better than to have the best earthly food! To be an heir of God is better than being the heir of the greatest nobleman! To have God for our portion is to be blessed, infinitely more blessed than to own broad acres of land! God has blessed us with all spiritual blessings! These are the rarest, the richest, the most enduring of all blessings! They are priceless in value!”
a. God Blesses 12-13. Despite a famine raging all around, God blesses Isaac. Isaac sowed and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. Remember that all that Abraham had gone to Isaac. Isaac started rich but then he goes to uber-rich. We must be careful to think rightly here. Isaac’s wealth is a blessing, not a curse. Often people fall into two camps when it comes to money. Either they’re in the prosperity gospel camp that says that you should seek earthly wealth because God wants you to have lots of money or they fall to the other side and they think it is holier to have little and despise those that have money. Neither of these positions is biblical. The warnings of the Bible are to not serve money but to use the money to serve. Which is it harder for to enter into the kingdom of heaven a rich or a poor person? What does Jesus say? Who can be saved? “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” b. The Philistines Envy 14-17. At the end of this section, we find Isaac blessed and the Philistines in envy. As Proverbs 14:30 says, “envy makes the bones rot,” and so they could not tolerate the presence of Isaac anymore. This envy along with some probable fear leads the people to say to Isaac, “Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we.” This echoes the Egyptians during the time of Moses, as they saw the blessing of God upon the Israelites and they said, “Behold the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us.” When God pours out his temporal and spiritual blessings upon his people, the world takes notice, and it drives them crazy. Isaac listens to the people and instead of stirring up trouble, he maintains the peace by moving to the Valley of Gerar and lives there.
a. Isaac Lies 7. Just like with Abraham, God has given everything that Isaac needs to confront the trial that is coming. And Isaac’s first response is to obey. But what happens when things get real. When the pressure is on Isaac turns to a coward like his father. The people began to ask about his gorgeous wife and he says, “she’s my sister.” Isaac is a liar. At least Abraham was only telling a half-truth. Rebekah is not his sister or even his half-sister. AW Pinks suggest there are at least two things we can learn from this. “First, the readiness with which Isaac followed in the way of Abraham suggests that it is much easier for children to imitate the vices and weaknesses of their parents than it is to emulate their virtues, and that the sins of the parents are frequently perpetuated in their children. Solemn thought this! But, second, Abraham and Isaac were men of vastly different temperament, yet each succumbed to the same temptation. When famine arose each fled to man for help. When in the land of Abimelech each was afraid to own his wife as such. Are we not to gather from this that no matter what our natural temperament may be, unless the grace of God supports and sustains us we shall inevitably fall! What a warning!” b. Abimelech Responds 8-11. As Isaac and Rebekah are pretending to not be married Abimelech catches them laughing. This is a little play on words because the root of the name Isaac and what Abimelech sees them doing are the same. The context matters for this word in Hebrew. The exact word is used about Ishmael laughing at Isaac. In that case, it is a laugh of mockery. Between Isaac and Rebekah, it is a playful laugh. It is a laugh that is shared between those in love. Upon seeing this Abimelech does not ignore the situation but immediately acts. He calls Isaac in and questions him about his relationship with Rebekah. Isaac admits that he lied because he was afraid. The king comes back with, “What is this you have done to us?” This Abimelech does not need to wait for a dream like his predecessor. He is ready to make a public decree. “Whoever touches this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.” It’s surprising that this Philistine king has such a high view of marriage. He knows that if someone violates the sanctity of the marriage vow it brings guilt and not just guilt on the individual but on, as he says, “us” meaning the people of Gerar. Abimelech warns the people that if they tried to do anything to disrupt this marriage they would receive the death penalty. A man without the Bible, without the covenant promises of God, shows more respect and honor for Genesis 2:24 than Isaac does. That’s just sad, but it proves what Paul said in Romans 2:15 that the work of the law was written on Abimelech’s heart, while his conscience was also bearing witness, and his thoughts had excused him from this sin.
a. Famine in the Land 1. In verse one, we are introduced to the setting of this chapter. “Now there was a famine in the land.” From the outset, we are told that what is about to happen, the situation that Isaac finds himself in, is because of an external cause. Isaac finds himself in a famine. Famines are mentioned frequently throughout the Old Testament. There are many secondary causes for famines like war, raiders, or lack of rain. But the writer of Psalm 105 reminds us of the first cause. When explaining the cause of the famine in Joseph’s day, which we will get to soon, it says that the Lord, “summoned a famine on the land and broke all supply of bread.” And so we are reminded that the events that are about to occur were precipitated by this famine. As we review this chapter we might be tempted to say, “Wait a minute. Didn’t this happen to Abraham? Is this just a retelling of his life?” Of course, our author Moses, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, anticipates this objection. That’s why in the second half of verse 1 we read that this is a different famine from the one in Abraham’s days. The events are similar but that is due to divine providence not to a storytelling device. The stories are similar but there are enough differences to make it clear Moses is not just retelling the same story but he is linking the life of Abraham and Isaac. b. The Lord Appears 2-6. Just like his father, the Lord appears to Isaac. And just like his father, Isaac must decide what to do about the famine. Does he stay in the land or does he move? Presumably, Isaac had decided to move to Egypt but God intervenes. The Lord says, “Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you.” It is interesting the Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all must confront a famine and God deals with each man differently. Abraham decides to move to Egypt without prompting from God. Isaac wants to go to Egypt but God stops him and Jacob wants to stay in Canaan but God tells him to go to Egypt. Why was Isaac not allowed to go to Egypt? We could also ask why was he not allowed to go to Mesopotamia and Jacob was? God knows each individual and he knows how to deal with each of us. The question that Isaac might have had in his mind was why stay in the land that has a famine? God answers that question with a great answer. First, God says, “I will be with you.” As we know from Romans 8:31, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” The special presence of God would be with Isaac. Then God says, “and will bless you.” God’s presence and God’s blessing would be upon Isaac that’s why he could stay in the land. Now that’s great news, but God takes it one step further. In verse three God says that he will establish the oath that he swore to Abraham. These are not new promises that God is giving to Isaac, these are the promises that he gave to Abraham. The oath, the covenant that was made is now being transferred to Isaac. Look at the promises. “To you and to your offspring I will give all these lands.” “I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven.” “In your offspring, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” This is the promise to Abraham. But this is not surprising, right? God is faithful and he is good. Of course, God would be true to his word. But what might surprise us is what we find in verse 5. This is the answer as to why Isaac is receiving these promises and blessings. “Because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” Where is Isaac? No mention of him and his obedience. This is the grace of God. Isaac gets blessed not because of what he has done or who he is but because of someone else. That’s how grace works. That’s why salvation is by grace alone. It’s not because of you or what you’ve done but because Jesus died on your behalf and Isaac’s behalf. What is Isaac’s response to the appearance of God? He obeys. He settles in Gerar and does not travel to Egypt.
Even though we were first introduced to Isaac back in chapter 21, much of what we learned about him was incidental to the story of Abraham. Even when Isaac was the one God asked Abraham to sacrifice, little was said about Isaac himself. That story focused on the faith and actions of Abraham. Isaac’s role in history, up unto chapter 24, was to be a tool in the hand of God to strengthen and grow the faith of Abraham. Then in chapter 24, we noticed the shift. Abraham was still alive and had years ahead of him but the narrative has shifted. We read the story of Abraham’s servant and his quest to find a wife for Isaac. We marveled at the providence of God and the appointment of Rebekah to be the next woman to play a part in the promise to Eve. That brought us to chapter 25 and the mention of Keturah. Those final years of Abraham were only given two paragraphs mention by Moses. Truly, the story and as we’ll see today, the covenant promises, had been passed on to Isaac. At the end of chapter 25, Moses gave us a preview of what is to come for the children of Isaac. We have been given a glimpse of the struggles that are within that family. Esau was a wild man not interested in the family or leadership and Jacob seems to be consumed by selfish ambition willing to deceive and prey upon weakness. The story then shifts back, here, in chapter 26 to our friend Isaac. Now, at our church we believe and teach at the Bible is the authoritative, infallible, perfect word of God in all of its parts and words. There are intent and meaning that are inherent to Scripture. Our job is to mine the truth from Scripture and not to read our thoughts back into Scripture. This being true, the order of the narrative is not accidental. There is a reason why Moses shifted to Jacob and Esau for a moment. There is a reason why we had to learn about the two nations that come from Isaac. We needed to learn about how Esau would be so quick to sell his birthright and Jacob would be so conniving. Now we know what the next generation is like that is coming after Isaac. That sets us up for our story today. We are going to break 1-17 down into three parts. The first part in 1-6 I’ve labeled The Transferable Covenant because mainly we read about God pronouncing the covenant blessings over Isaac. Next, we’ll see Isaac’s Fear in 7-11. The proverb, The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, will be proven here. And finally, will look at Blessing and Envy in verses 12-17. The world doesn’t like when God blesses his children, and we see that in the life of Isaac.
There is a lot more we could say about this passage but allow me to leave you with a few thoughts. Look at Isaac and Ishmael and Jacob and Esau. Both sinners and yet they would follow different paths. What caused this? God. We have seen this over and over in Genesis. God’s intervention, his choice, his favor are what change the person. The children’s catechism question asks: What is a change of heart called? Answer: Regeneration. God must regenerate the heart so that a person might choose to follow him. Sure, they will make their own free choices. But their will to follow God or to despise him begins with God’s choice. As Frank Hall said, “There are only two kinds of people in this world — Jacobs and Esaus. These two men represent the entire human race. Jacob represents God’s elect — and Esau represents the reprobate. Jacob is loved by God — and Esau is hated by God… Because Jacob was loved by God — God sent His Son into this world to redeem him from his sins. Christ died for Jacob…” Jacob will struggle throughout his life, but in the end, he will call the Lord his God.
In this last section we have just a short story about the boys. They are growing up and have become very different men, and yet they are both sinners. Both of them, in this passage, are painted as men who are after what they want, and neither is in the right. We know the story but what do we learn about these young men. a. A Materialist. This is Esau. We are told in verse 27 that he is a skillful hunter and that he spent time in the field. We’ll learn later that Isaac loved Esau because of the game that he caught. That’s nice of him. But Esau is a materialist. He is only concerned about the here and now. The story tells us that he was out in the field hunting and he came back starving and demands a bowl of soup. This is where the red part comes in because apparently, the lentil soup Jacob made was red. So Esau is named Edom because he’s red and because of this selling of his birthright for the red. But we see here what view of the birthright, the leadership of the family, Esau had. He traded it away for what he needed right then. b. A Conniver. Jacob was a different man but no less a sinner. Let me correct something here. The picture that Jacob was some effeminate Momma’s boy that only hung out in the tents with his milky smooth skin is not what the Bible describes. Jacob was a mild or quiet man who dwelt in tents, just like his father and Abraham. They were not men of the field but were men of means and conducted business to care for their household. To say that Esau was a manly man and Jacob was a sissy is not true. It’s more like Esau was a guy who rejected his family’s way of life and the leadership role while Jacob had selfish ambition and wanted to gain the leadership role through whatever means necessary, even, as we will see, allowing his mother to be cursed for him.