Do Not Be Afraid

23 From there he went up to Beersheba. 24 That night the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.”

25 Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the Lord. There he pitched his tent, and there his servants dug a well. Genesis 26:23-27

Why would Isaac be afraid? He and his people had just had skirmishes over wells, but now he was returning to where Abraham himself had lived. He was now a powerful and wealthy man. He was going to take over someone else’s territory, so it is with good reason that the Lord came to him again.

Have you ever read a passage of Scripture one year, and return to it the next year and get something different out of it? Of course; we all have. How is that so? It’s the same Scriptures. It is but you were in a different place in your walk with Christ. You needed to read one verse that made much more sense to you this year.

It was the same way with Isaac. He needed to hear something comforting and reassuring from the Lord.

Someone reading this needs to hear that God is with you, and He will bless you.

Do not be afraid.

He is in control. He is always in control.

Water, That Underrated Blessing

17 So Isaac moved away from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar, where he settled. 18 Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them.

19 Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and discovered a well of fresh water there. 20 But the herders of Gerar quarreled with those of Isaac and said, “The water is ours!” So he named the well Esek, because they disputed with him. 21 Then they dug another well, but they quarreled over that one also; so he named it Sitnah. 22 He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it. He named it Rehoboth, saying, “Now the Lord has given us room and we will flourish in the land.” Genesis 26:17-22

At least 4000 years have passed since this was written, and nations are still fighting over water rights. As the earth becomes more populated, having access to fresh water becomes a priority, especially for people who live in hot climates and are inland from ocean or sea water. Cities such as Chennai India, Capetown South Africa, Mexico City, and Sao Paulo Brazil, and even Tokyo Japan have experienced fresh water shortages. And it seems that every year much of southern California experiences water shortages. For some of these places it’s understandable that they might run low, which is why city managers should be building desalination plants like crazy, thus turning salt water into fresh and clean drinking water.

An interesting sidenote. Last year during Capetown’s water shortage, Israel offered to come and help build desalination plants in South Africa. If anyone knows about desalination engineering, the Israeli’s do. South Africa said, “Thank you but NO thank you!” to their offer, mainly because of their hatred for Israel. Unbelivable short-sightedness.

Similarly, there are still parts of the world that do not have access to clean drinking water and need to drill for it.

People need fresh drinking water to survive in urban, rural, modernized, and primitive settings. As we turn on the spigot every day for our showers, we don’t realize how much we take clean water for granted.

Fortunately there are ministries who go to the lands to help drill for water. They are experts in finding and drilling these wells. They also are able to give the living water to those who will hear. Lifewater.org and Living Water International are two such ministries worthy of our support.

With No Clear Direction

12 Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the Lord blessed him. 13 The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. 14 He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him. 15 So all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the time of his father Abraham, the Philistines stopped up, filling them with earth.

16 Then Abimelek said to Isaac, “Move away from us; you have become too powerful for us.” Genesis 26:12-16

Adding to yesterday’s dilemma, the Lord blessed Isaac beyond his wildest dreams. The King feared him and told him to move away.

Now Isaac had his own dilemma. He could do as the king asked or he could stand his ground and continue to grow more powerful. He ran the risk of losing it because Abimelek could have gone after him.

Most powerful men today would stand their ground and say that no one was going to tell them where or how to live.

But Isaac knew that there was a big world out there. He probably assumed that God could continue to bless him wherever he lived.

So, in the absence of clear direction from the Lord, Isaac had to decide.

We find ourselves in this situation all the time. In the absence of clear direction, what do you choose?

  • Local 2-year college or 4-year university with scholarship out of state?
  • Job here or job elsewhere making 80% more money?
  • Small church 10 miles away or megachurch a block away?
  • New car or nice used car?

So, how do you choose? Pray. Ask God. With no direction, make a decision. If it’s the wrong decision, ask God to reveal it to you sooner rather than later.

There really are no right or wrong answers when making those kinds of decisions.

Like Isaac, God will bless you as you make those decisions.

Will they always be the right ones? No, but He can still bless you in the middle of them.

Like Father, Like Son

7 When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” because he was afraid to say, “She is my wife.” He thought, “The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful.”

8 When Isaac had been there a long time, Abimelek king of the Philistines looked down from a window and saw Isaac caressing his wife Rebekah. 9 So Abimelek summoned Isaac and said, “She is really your wife! Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’?”

Isaac answered him, “Because I thought I might lose my life on account of her.”

10 Then Abimelek said, “What is this you have done to us? One of the men might well have slept with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.”

11 So Abimelek gave orders to all the people: “Anyone who harms this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.” Genesis 26:7-11

It seems to me as if I’ve already read this passage before! I did, back when Abraham was alive and well. He did the exact same thing with Sarah, and it was before Isaac and Rebekah were even born.

The human capacity for rationalization in the service of power, status, and greed is functionally infinite.

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In Isaac’s case, he tried to rationalize his actions for self-preservation.-He obviously didn’t set a good example for his children or his wife. As we saw yesterday, the cycle of sin continued.

On the flip side, King Abimelek now gave him protection to keep the line going.

Just when you think you have God figured out, that is, why and how he does things, he changes things up a bit. He of course doesn’t change but He has the ability to take control of situations for His ultimate glory, leaving a trail of “why did he do that?” questions in its wake. It’s all headed towards something, and He will get the glory. The journey getting there is downright confounding, yet interesting.

The Sin Life Cycle

Now there was a famine in the land—besides the previous famine in Abraham’s time—and Isaac went to Abimelek king of the Philistines in Gerar. 2 The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. 3 Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. 4 I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, 5 because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.” 6 So Isaac stayed in Gerar. Genesis 26:1-6

The Lord reiterated the promises He made to Abraham, a tradition and promise that would be passed down countless generations. I suspect this is done so that people don’t forget the promises. Isaac was quite literally the firstborn from that promise. He had to know the significance of that.

What’s interesting in this text is that the Lord said Abraham “obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.” We’ve just gone over several gross sins that Abraham committed, but still the Lord said all those nice things about him.

The point then is that while Abraham was a man of God, he also sinned. Should that surprise us? He sought after God, took things into his own hands, worshiped God over and over, blundered, worshiped, sinned, worshiped, etc etc. In other words, it’s the very life cycle of sin, repentance, and forgiveness.

As we work through the Book of Genesis, we’ll see this sin – repent – forgive pattern emerge across generations.

As the Law is passed down, we’ll see sacrifice entered as a “payment” for repentance.

The Vulnerable Brother

29 Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. 30 He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.)

31 Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”

32 “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”

33 But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.

34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.

So Esau despised his birthright. Genesis 25:29-34

Birthright back then was much more significant than it is now. Jacob clearly understood that, but Esau was more concerned about feeding his belly.

To be fair, however, Jacob knew exactly what he was doing and took advantage of the situation. For instance, it wasn’t an accident that Jacob asked for what he asked for. His mother probably put him up to the task since she favored him.

A different point should be made that applies today. Esau was tired and hungry, which made him vulnerable. Jacob had the cooked food ready to eat but wouldn’t feed Esau until he agreed to Jacob’s demands.

Many times in unguarded moments we say or do things that we wouldn’t normally say or do.

As an example, when I am driving long distance with my wife, I like to press on until it gets dark because I like to drive in the light. However, there’s a point on that trip where I have not eaten supper, it’s getting darker, and I begin losing patience. I get irritable. I know that I should have stopped at least an hour or two ago, but my desire to “get there” outweighs my hunger. I know where that “breaking point” is. After that point, I am a mess and hard to get along with until I get food and a bit of rest. I am very vulnerable.

In what conditions are you the most vulnerable? How do you avoid them or press through?

Youth and Choices

24 When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. 25 The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. 26 After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them.

27 The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. 28 Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob. Genesis 25:24-28

So we have two sons with very different interests and drives. Isaac liked Esau, and Jacob was probably a mama’s boy.

It’s really no different today. Some kids like to fix cars, while others like science or academics. Not everyone needs to be a mechanic, and not everyone needs to be a teacher or academic.

Recently I’ve watched 1940s videos where professions such as musicians and artists were looked down upon by the parents. Those weren’t real jobs. I recall the story of Jeff Dunham. He was a magician and ventriloquist, and his father didn’t believe it was something he could make a career of.

Today, Dunham is one of the highest grossing entertainer in America. His father did come around to his way of thinking early in his career, that is, after the money and fame was substantial.

The two are brothers, and we’ll see shortly how they interact and fight with one another. It’s a part of life and growing up.

Most of the families you know have kids who are totally different from one another. That’s the way it should be. They, too, need prayer as they navigate through the pitfalls and pathways of growing up. They need to know that their career choices are valid even if parents don’t think they are.

On the other hand, the kids also need to be humble enough to take the counsel from those who may know better. Case in point is my friend. His father was a petroleum engineer, and he suggested his son do the same, even though the son wanted to major in music. The father’s advice was to pursue music on the side because engineering will put food on the table. The man chose engineering, retired comfortably at age 56, and now does as much music as he wants.

Bottom line is kids need encouragement and prayer as they grow into adulthood.

Isaac Prayed For His Wife

19 This is the account of the family line of Abraham’s son Isaac.

Abraham became the father of Isaac, 20 and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan Aram and sister of Laban the Aramean.

21 Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. 22 The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord.

23 The Lord said to her,

“Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you will be separated;
one people will be stronger than the other,
and the older will serve the younger.” Genesis 25:19-23

Isaac provided us with a simple prayer model: pray for your family. Forget for a moment what he prayed for. Instead focus on the fact that he prayed.

We don’t even know how he prayed, whether it was long-winded, short, or even how many days he had prayed. We just know that he prayed.

Gentlemen, there is power when you pray for your wife and kids. Life is downright treacherous without somebody “covering” them in prayer through the blood of Christ.

Only you know their needs. Only you can plead with God to meet those needs. Even though this passage is descriptive, it’s backed up throughout the Old and New Testament with prescriptive text.

Gentlemen, your family needs you to pray for them, regularly, often, without ceasing.

Ishmael’s Bitterness

12 This is the account of the family line of Abraham’s son Ishmael, whom Sarah’s slave, Hagar the Egyptian, bore to Abraham.

13 These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, listed in the order of their birth: Nebaioth the firstborn of Ishmael, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, 14 Mishma, Dumah, Massa, 15 Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah. 16 These were the sons of Ishmael, and these are the names of the twelve tribal rulers according to their settlements and camps. 17 Ishmael lived a hundred and thirty-seven years. He breathed his last and died, and he was gathered to his people. 18 His descendants settled in the area from Havilah to Shur, near the eastern border of Egypt, as you go toward Ashur. And they lived in hostility toward all the tribes related to them. Genesis 25:12-18

The last sentence in this passage is indicative of the trouble Ishmael’s tribe would cause throughout its lineage. The bitterness and hostility came from the top down. Ishmael had every right to be bitter towards his brother and father, well, for a bit. Therein lies the problem. When you harbor bitterness, it doesn’t hurt the people you’re bitter towards, it harms you.

Now, in Ishmael’s case, his family was hostile all the way around. His bitterness got the best of him and it turned into violence.

We can learn at least two things from this bitterness.

First, your bitterness can most certainly affect others. In this case it affected all his sons and their families. Secondly, bitterness will destroy you and your relationships if not dealt with.

As we noted earlier in this chapter, life is unfair and people will do things to you that could cause bitterness.

What we do with that bitterness is entirely up to us. You can certainly blame others for your unhappiness or you can give your bitterness over to God (multiple times if necessary) to have Him help you deal with it. The longer it’s inside you to grow, the harder it is to get rid of.