Mightier Than We: The Transferable Covenant

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.

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