a. We ignore its prevalence. In Job 19:26, Job speaks of his own impending death when he says, “After my skin has been thus destroyed.” If we are to speak of and celebrate the Resurrection, we must first confront the reality of death and what it is. Every day the sun rises and sets and we often give no thought to it. Death is just as common and we probably give an equal lack of attention. b. We ignore its finality. Death is the leaving of this present existence. The lungs no longer exchange air; the heart stops beating; the blood stops flowing and congeals; the neurons no longer fire; the hands no longer perform work; the tongue no longer speaks; the body becomes motionless and pale. Death is the separation of the soul from the body. Death is the end of some relationships forever and the pausing of others. Death is the end of all the things that are pursued on this earth, like careers, and hobbies, and even retirement. Death is a journey taken by everyone. Romans 5:12, “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Death is the leveler of all for death comes to the rich and the poor, the influencer and the nobody, the Republican or the Democrat, the Christian or the militant atheist. Death is unavoidable. Death has been decreed by God. In Genesis 3:19, God says, “you are dust, and to dust, you shall return.” And in Hebrews 9:27 we are reminded that “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” Death may be inevitable but its time is uncertain. It may come after a long illness or in an instant. It may come anywhere; at home; at work; on the road; amidst obedience to God; in the act of sin. Remember the lesson of the rich man who said to himself, “have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry. But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” Now that we have examined the reality of death let us find comfort in the reality of the Redeemer.
A year ago, we started working our way through the book of Genesis. The first book is full of themes and doctrines that each subsequent book expands and develops. If you are wanting to learn about any area of theology, the study of God, you must consult Genesis to get a complete understanding. Most recently we have looked at the life of Abraham. Much of what we know about the salvation that God has given to us is rooted in the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Today, on Resurrection Sunday, we are going to break from Genesis and take a detour into a book about a man who was probably a contemporary of Abraham, Job. Like Abraham, Job had an understanding of the ways of God that probably exceeds what we give him credit for. Job chapter 19 begins with Job defending himself against his so-called friends. Job has experienced the loss of children, the loss of prosperity, and the loss of his health. He is experiencing the greatest pain and suffering of his life. You would expect his friends to come and encourage him, however, they level accusations against him claiming that it is because of his sin that he is experiencing all his trouble. Of course, we know that this is not true because at the beginning of the book we were allowed to see that this is a test of Job’s faith from God and an occasion of temptation from Satan. While Job is in the test, he feels that God has come against him like an army sieging a city. His family wants nothing to do with him. He has sunk to the bottom. In verses 23-24 Job announces that he wishes his words to be written, engraved in the rock forever. Some commentators suggest that he is about to relay the epitaph that he desires to be inscribed on his tomb. We can’t be sure this is true, but what comes after would be a very fitting inscription. What Job said all those many years ago stands today. In his words, we hear the reality of death and its destruction. He speaks of the reality of the Redeemer. And he introduces us to the reality of the Resurrection.
As we conclude this passage, I want to leave you with a few thoughts. First, remember what God says to Isaac, “Fear not for I am with you.” The command to “fear not” is repeated by God to numerous people on all kinds of occasions. Improper fear is an enemy of the Christian. We are to only have one fear; the fear of God. Isaac learns this. Isn’t interesting that God will be known as the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac. A child of God will not be without problems. Though you might be blessed by God, troubles may come upon you. They may even take your life. We must not listen to the world that says that God wants you to be healthy and wealthy and you should seek those things. Jesus promised persecution for his followers. The father promised to discipline his dearly loved children as a loving father ought to do. But God tells us not to be afraid of the trials, the disease, the sudden disaster. These cannot touch you unless God wills it. And though these things hurt they are accompanied with blessings and mercy. George MyIne encourages us by telling us, “are you not sometimes afraid, and you know not why? Faith fails, and you cannot account for it. The promises pass from your mind, and you cannot recall them. The ground on which you stand seems to sink under your feet. “A horror of great darkness” has fallen upon you. It is “sudden fear.” My Christian friend, there is only one remedy for it — you must take it to Jesus. He will soon restore your peace. Courage shall return to your heart, while He says, “Fear not!”
4. FAMILY TRIALS 34-35. The chapter ends on a negative note and a foreshadowing of problems to come. In one sentence, we have a summary of Esau’s adult life. Problem one: Esau is a polygamist. This goes against God’s original intent for marriage established at creation. Not one of the polygamist marriages of the Bible ever works out well. Problem two: Esau marries two Hittite women. He chooses to mix the line of Shem and the line of Canaan. He has married himself to women who are part of Ham’s curse. Not a good idea. Problem three: The Hittite women made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah. We just saw all the ways that Isaac honored his father. Esau on the other hand dishonors his father in these marriages. He dishonors his grandfather who sent his faithful servant 450 miles to get a wife for Isaac because he could not have a wife from among the Canaanites. And here Esau marries two. No wonder that he is called sexually immoral and unholy in the book of Hebrews. Nothing is sacred to him. He married pagans, he trades his birthright for a bowl of soup. What a heartbreak this must have been for Isaac and Rebekah. Some of you know this heartache after your wayward children. Their spouses are a source of bitterness to your spirit. You love them but their actions have brought nothing but pain and trouble to you. Isaac and Rebekah knew what you are going through.
a. We See Plainly 26-31. As Isaac is in Beersheba, Abimelech, Ahuzzath, and Phicol make a visit. Some people have said that Isaac’s words are harsh to them, but I think they’re accurate. “Why have you come to me, seeing that you hate me and have sent me away from you?” Isaac moves away from them after they showed aggression. Isaac has been trying to live at peace with them. What more do they want? They say, “We see plainly that the Lord has been with you.” They realize, because of the blessings that Isaac has, that Isaac has a God, Yahweh, on his side. Instead of trying to fight Isaac and the Lord they want to make peace. They say, “do us no harm, just as we have not touched you,” and here is the kicker, “and have done to you nothing but good and sent you away in peace.” Liars! We did nothing but good, except envied and hated you and stole from you. Besides that, it’s all been good. And we didn’t chase you away we sent you away in peace. This is typical of the world. They will buddy up with God’s people when it suits their needs. If harassing God’s people and stealing from them is advantageous then that’s what they do but if it is more profitable to be at peace and flatter God’s people, well, then that’s there m.o. The last line that they say, “you are now the blessed of the Lord,” is true. Abraham was the blessed of the Lord and now that privilege has passed to Isaac. That must have been an encouragement to Isaac that God had caused these Philistines to recognize this. Since they came in peace, Isaac agrees to the treaty like his father did and the peace that Abraham had with the Philistines is restored to Isaac. Isaac lived out what Paul calls the church to do in Romans 12:18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceable with all.” b. We Have Found Water 32-33. At the end of verse 25, we were told that Isaac’s servants began to dig a well at Beersheba. Was a brand new well or a re-digging of Abraham’s well we are not told but on the day that Abimelech leaves the servants found water. Isaac’s response is to name the well the well of oath just like Abraham. Isaac sees that he is receiving the covenant and the blessing that God gave to Abraham. He has had this truth confirmed over and over again. By naming the well in Beersheba, Beersheba he is demonstrating to the world truthfulness of God’s word.
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.