Dig Another Well
Dr. Stephen Johnson
Genesis 26:1 - 1:0
September 30, 2017

I encourage you to turn in your Bibles to Genesis chapter 26.

In the book of Genesis we have the stories of the patriarchs.  Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  We know lots about Abraham. He has a covenant named after him.  And we know lots about Jacob, who God renamed Israel.  He has a whole nation named after him.  But what about Isaac?  He is the son of a famous father and the father of a famous son, but he's just a normal guy.  There's not much outstanding about him.  If you read through Genesis, it's almost just a little afterthought.  He was a boring guy who lived a ho-hum life and he made no ripples in his life.  He doesn't loom large in the Bible like his father or his son.  He's more like a small print footnote stuck at the end of one chapter – the chapter of Abraham – and introducing the next – the chapter of Jacob.

Isaac is almost the invisible link between two larger-than-life figures: his father Abraham, his son Jacob.  Unlike his father and his son who traveled abroad, Isaac lived a sheltered life.  He couldn't even find his own wife.  He couldn't even make up his own mistakes.  Repeating the same lies his father told.  Isaac really is an average guy.  No victory in battle.  Actually, there's not even a battle.  He rather was a pushover.  There don't appear to be any great steps of faith.

You know, some people make things happen.  Others have things happen to them.  Isaac was the latter.  He lived a common life of a faithful man.  His great claim to fame is that he chose to obey God, and because of that God used him to display His glory.

We catch up with Isaac in Genesis chapter 26.  He's already been to the mountaintop in that rather peculiar experience in the test of the faith of his father.  Where, you know, Abraham takes his son to the mountaintop to sacrifice him, and we're reminded that God will provide.  By the time we get to Genesis 26, his mother has died, his father has arranged for a marriage, and he's had two sons: Jacob and Esau.  Sons who didn't get along particularly well, and who agreed upon this strange arrangement where the older son sold his birthright for a cup of soup.  At least it could have been a nice filet mignon!  A cup of soup.  All of that comes before our text for this morning, which begins in Genesis 26 verse 1.

“Now there was a famine in the land, besides the former famine that was in the days of Abraham.  And Isaac went to Gerar, to Abimelech king of the Philistines, and the Lord appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt.  Dwell in the land of which I shall tell you.  Sojourn in this land and I will be with you, and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father.  I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands, and in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.  Because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.  So Isaac settled in Gerar.”

That is his point of obedience.  There is a famine, and there is a place where they can go for food, and God says, “Stay where you are.”  In Gerar.

Now let me tell you something about Gerar.  This is where Abimelech the king of the Philistines lived.  It was a strange land where the people were very harsh, and they had very strong idol worshipers.  This is where God tells Isaac to settle.  Not in the land where there is no famine, but in Gerar.  And Isaac stayed in Gerar.

Today I want to point to you three lessons that we learn from Isaac's obedience of God.  The first: obeying God does not mean there is no fear.  Look what happens right after Isaac determines to stay in Gerar.  We begin with verse 7.

“When the men of the place asked him about his wife, he said, ‘she is my sister’ for he feared to say ‘my wife’ thinking lest the men of the place should kill me because of Rebecca.  Because she was attractive in appearance.  When he had been there a long time, Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out the window and saw Isaac laughing with Rebecca his wife.  So Abimelech called Isaac and said, ‘Behold, she is your wife!  How then could you say she is my sister?’

Isaac said to him, ‘Because I thought lest I die because of her.’  Abimelech said, ‘What is this you have done to us?  One of the people might easily have lain with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.  So Abimelech warned all the people, saying, ‘Whoever touches this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.’”

This is the Word of God, about Isaac, the average Joe.  Full of fear.  He's doing what God wants him to do, and then the very next sentence in the scripture has him responding with fear.  He was an easily frightened person.  He obeys God but he is filled with fear.  When he walked into that place and saw their lustful eyes, he lied.  He said that his beautiful wife was his sister.

You may not have to be that strong of a biblical scholar to remember that this happened some other time in Scripture.  It was Abraham, his dad, who did the very same thing when he went to Egypt!  It makes me think, did Isaac not hear about that?  Did he not hear the family stories about how Abraham and Sarah went to Egypt, and Abraham lied and said – why did Isaac do the very same thing as his dad?  Did he hear the reports of what happened with Abraham and Sarah and thought, “Hey!  That's a good path for life!”

Now oftentimes we repeat the sins of our parents.  We repeat the stupidity of our parents.  And as a side note, it might be wise of us as parents to be careful what we do in front of our children.  It might be wise for us to live in purity in front of our children and our grandchildren.  Because the reality is that although some learn from the stakes of their parents and avoid them, others learn from our mistakes and repeat them.  But that's a side note.  It's a parental advice from Scripture.

Isaac in our text obeys God.  God says, “Stay where you are.”  And he obeys it.  But he immediately faces fear.  Fear which causes him to do something stupid.  To sin.  You know, fear will do that to you.  Overcome with fear, we often do things which we would not normally do.  But know this.  God's power is not hindered by our fear.

God's work in our lives is not thwarted by our occasional sin.  Not that we should test this.  I'm not suggesting you go out and lie a little bit, and see how God works through your lies.  But we should believe that the scripture speaks truth when it says that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.  Not that we sin intentionally, but we recognize that our sin doesn't thwart the power of God.

Isaac lies about his wife.  But just as God intervened when Abraham lied about Sarah, God intervenes again.  The pagan Abimelech sees Isaac and Rebekah laughing.  Isn’t that a peculiar phrase?  That's how they translate it.  This is verse 8.  He looks out the window, saw Isaac laughing with Rebekah.  There's something more here.  The King James Version says that Isaac was sporting with Rebekah.  Others say he was playing with her.  It wasn't Scrabble.  It might have been strip poker.

The NIV says he was caressing her.  They were, how shall we say, enjoying one another.  It was obvious they were not brother and sister.  So Abimelech calls Isaac and challenges him in his lie.  I suggest that perhaps we all need people who will call us in and challenge us in our lies.  Isaac says, “But I was afraid!”

Fear doesn't dissolve just because we're doing what God tells us to do.  When you're afraid, remember that God's power will prove sufficient.  God's Display of power is not dependent upon our display of courage.  When you obey God, He doesn't take away all sources of fear.  But His plan is not thwarted, not hindered, by our fear.

God's strength to carry out His plan is not dependent upon our strength to carry out our part.  I don't know what God's going to ask you to do, but when you're in the midst of obeying God there are times when you're going to face fear.  And don't let fear keep you from obeying God.  And do your best not to let fear lead you into sin.

The second lesson we learned from about obedience in this chapter is that God obeying God doesn't mean there is no opposition.  Back to our text, we're going to begin with verse 12.  Look what happens next.

“Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold.  The Lord blessed him, and the man became rich and gained more and more, until he became very wealthy.  He had possessions of flocks and herds and many servants, so that the Philistines envied him.  Now the Philistines had stopped and filled with earth all the wells that his father's servants had dug in the days of Abraham, his father.  And Abimelech said to Isaac, ‘Go away from us.  You are much mightier than we.’

So Isaac departed from there and encamped in the valley of Gerar, and settled there.  And Isaac again dug the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham his father, which the Philistines had stopped after the death of Abraham.  And he gave them the names that his father had given them.  But when Isaac's servants dug in the valley, and found there a well of spring water, the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac's herdsmen, saying, ‘The water is ours.’  So he called the name of the place Esek, because they contended with him.  Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that well also.  So he called it Sitnah.  He moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it, so he called its name Rehoboth, saying, ‘For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.’

From there he went up to Beersheba, and the Lord appeared to him the same night and said, ‘I am the God of Abraham your father.  Fear not, for I am with you.  And will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham's sake.’

So he built an altar there, and called upon the name of the Lord, and pitched his tent there.  And there Isaac's servants dug a well.”

This is the Word of Lord.

So Isaac becomes prosperous, and the Philistines envied him and kicked him out of the area.  So Isaac moves.  He digs another well.  And the herdsmen of Gerar quarrel with him.  And Isaac moves.  And he digs another well, and they quarrel over that well also.  So Isaac moves again.  And he digs another well.  They don't quarrel over this well, but want to know what Isaac is doing just a few verses later?  He's digging another well.  And you want to know what he's doing at the end of the chapter?  He's digging another well.

Because all along there's an opposition.  He's seeking to do God's will and the people around him are opposing him.  Obeying God does not mean you will not face opposition.  It might mean you'll spend your whole life digging wells.

Time and again as Isaac seeks to obey God and just dwell in the land, he faces opposition, and he responds in a way which may seem cowardly to some.  He never fights.  He never gets into a battle.  He doesn't get mad.  He just moves on to dig another well.  Isaac seems powerless.  Almost spineless, toothless, or brainless.  He ran out of water, but he didn't run out of options.  He would rather move willingly than to be removed forcefully, or even put up a fight when, as the leader of the Philistines said, “you're already mightier than us.”

He probably could have won the fight, but he chose not to engage.  He chose instead the path of peace, and he dug another well.  When you obey God opposition doesn't go away, and it may even increase.  The question is how will we respond.  Isaac knew that it is impossible for the godly to live without persecution.  The Apostle Paul writes all who live godly lives in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.  Obedience to God does not negate that fact.  But remember, opposition doesn't thwart God's ability to cause all things to work together for your good.

Isaac obeyed God.  He could have fled to Egypt.  He could have found food there.  But instead, in the face of opposition, he just dug another well.  And dug another well.  And dug another well.  Nobody laid a finger on him, his family, his herdsmen, his flocks, or his possessions.

Abimelech was impolite.  The Philistines were jealous.  It's interesting the very first occurrence of the Hebrew word Envy is in this chapter, Genesis 26:13.  No fist is thrown, no fight is ensued, no party has been hurt.  Feelings, sensibilities, relationships are hurt, but that's all.  Isaac is wronged and hindered but, he wasn't harmed or wounded.  There was always another well, another spring, another discovery someplace else.  You don't have to fight in order to be obedient to God.

Isaac learned to let go of things which were not essential for doing God's will.  There are many non-essentials in our lives that are just not worth fighting for.  Obey God and choose your battles carefully.  Isaac had opportunity to strike back, but the most he does is the question Abimelech.  In verse 27 Isaac says to him, “why have you come to me saying that you hate me and have sent me away from you?”

Isaac sets a feast before Abimelech.  The ones who opposed him, he gives them a feast and he seeks to make peace.  Obeying god will not put an end to opposition in your life but it may lead to reconciliation with those who oppose you.

The third lesson we learned today from the obedience of Isaac is that obeying God does not mean that life will be easy.  It would be nice to conclude that obeying God always resulted in health, wealth, and blessing.  If you just do what God tells you to do, you'll get rich.  If you do just do what God tells you to do, you'll never be sick.

What a great incentive we would have as we share Christ with people.  Come join our church, because if you join our church, you come to Jesus, you'll get rich.  Come to Jesus and you won't get sick!  Come to Jesus, and you'll have an easy life.  Please don't take that out of context, because that's not true.

But there's some who suggest that your success in life is measured by the content of your checkbook rather than the content of your heart.  That is not the teaching of the Bible.  Faith in God does not mean you will have an easy life.  Faith in God does not guarantee that everything will go your way.  Isaac obeys God by staying in the area, and time after time people would either stop up Isaac's family wells, or contend with them over who the well belonged to.  But time after time, Isaac would go peacefully somewhere else, dig another well, and find water again.

Just in this chapter, Isaac digs.  He moves four or five times, and he digs four or five wells, and plants four or five crops.  In the last 22 years I've moved – well, I moved here.  I moved to two different houses.  I've lived in three houses in Grand Junction in 22 years.

I hate moving.  Pack up all that stuff.  Figure out what stuff goes to the dump, and what stuff you have to take with you and sort out.  And, and here in one chapter of Scripture, Isaac has to move four or five times!  That's like every year.  Oh, time to move again!  Oh, time to dig another well!

In northern Wisconsin we had what's called a sand point well.  We had some of the freshest, coolest, most glorious tasting water in the world.  So much so that it ruined the taste of water for me.  I can hardly stand to drink water here because it's so different than the pure water of Wisconsin.  And one day we turned the faucet on and there was no water.  And we had to drive another sand point down.  It was six feet underground.  I just pulled this one up, stuck another down, when put put put with a sledge hammer, connected it up, I got fresh water again.  I never want to do that again.  Because you're swinging a sledgehammer, and our ceiling in that in the basement was only seven feet, so you could barely get it up.  And I certainly don't want to dig one with a shovel!

See if you can dig a well in your backyard here in Grand Junction.  Good luck with that!  We went just a few feet down when we were trying to extend water to the greenhouse.  You got to have a big tractor, and a lot of patience, and move a lot of rocks.  That's what it was like for Isaac.

Obeying God doesn't guarantee an easy life.  It's one thing to move when it's your idea, but none of his moves were his idea.  He was forced out of his homes.

Obeying God does not result in an easy life.  His relationship with the Philistines starts with fear.  It ends in peace.  But the chapter ends with an interesting statement.  Verses 34 and 35.  Esau is Isaac's son.  When Esau was 40 years old he took, Judith the daughter of Beeri Hittite to be his wife, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite.  And they made life bitter for Isaac, and Rebekah.

Thanks, kids!  Doesn't it seem like if you're obedient to God we shouldn't have problems with our kids?!  They grow up watching you live in faith.  What's up with Esau making life bitter for Isaac?  As though the events of this chapter weren't bad enough, God says live in this land, and partly because they lived in that land, Esau goes and falls in love with a couple of women from that land.

Don't expect that just because you are obedient to God your life will be easy.  Isaac teaches us that obedience to God doesn't remove fear.  It doesn't prevent opposition, and it doesn't make life easy.  But it is still the right thing to do.  Because in this chapter we see Isaac bringing glory to God, revealing God's love and care for him.

Towards the end of the chapter, in verse 29.  Well Abimelech, king of the Philistines.  The one who had sent Isaac away back in verse 11.  It's Abimelech that comes to him now and he says, “You are now the blessed of the Lord.”  This is an amazing proclamation by a pagan king!  In a recognition that the one who has been in his land has prospered there, and he has pushed them around.  The Philistines have pushed Isaac all around, and every place he goes God blesses, and they find water.  And the pagans have a recognition that the one who was obedient to God, even in the face of fear, opposition, and a difficult life, is blessed of the Lord.

Wouldn't it be great if in our life, because of our obedience to God, people looked at us and said “Your God blesses you.”  It's an affirmation.  A recognition that the God of Abraham and Isaac is the one true God.  Whatever you face; whatever you face while being obedient to God, trust Him, and dig another well.

Let's pray.

Our gracious Father, I ask that You would help us to always choose the path of obedience, that we might give You honor and glory.  In the name of Christ, amen.