Can you imagine what it would be like to be a son/daughter of a very famous person? Grow up in their shadow? Whoever you were, whatever talents or gifts you had would always seem “less than” inferior, read you this quote:
For Peter Fonda, being a son of Hollywood royalty wasn't easy. For one thing, he couldn't escape the comparisons; every time Peter went on an audition, it seemed, they wondered why he didn't possess the same natural skill as his dad, the great Henry Fonda. Then there were the other actors and directors who resented him, assuming his surname had given Peter an unfair advantage. And his relationship with his dad was hardly picture-perfect.
“Famous Fathers, Celebrity Sons” by Steve Ryfle Netscape Celebrity
Isaac was like Peter Fonda. For him, his life was somewhat obscured by the more eventful lives of both his father Abraham and his son Jacob. There’s only one chapter that is solely devoted to his life, 26. He did have a miraculous birth, and it seems he willingly submitted to almost a sacrificial death on Mt Moriah and like a fairy tale, he loved the woman God had chosen for him; like his father he is believer in the Covenant. Also like his father he was forced to wait a very long time for his children to be born. Both he and his father became entangled with ruler Abimelech in Gerar and tried to convince others that his wife was his sister.
But Isaac was also very much unlike his father. He never traveled more than a few miles from his birthplace. He had only one wife, only 2 sons. He was never in a battle, his disposition seems to have been more of a follower than a leader. Yet, he is a Patriarch of Israel, Covenant Keeper.
Today we’re going to focus on Isaac.
I. Isaac becomes a Father - Genesis 25:19-26
II. Isaac receives Command and Covenant - Genesis 26:1-6
III. Isaac repeats Father’s sin - Genesis 26:7-11
IV. Isaac reveals patience in conflict - Genesis 26:12-22
V. Isaac rewarded by God and Abimelech - Genesis 26:23-33
A. Read Genesis 25:19-21a. I imagine Abraham was a great source of comfort to his son during these 20 years of infertility. Abraham himself had waited 25 years for Isaac’s birth, God seems to have a purpose and a pattern in waiting for his promises, at times unknown to us. Finally Rebekah becomes pregnant, she should be the happiest woman on earth but not quite, in fact she’s miserable, “If it is going to be like this, I’m not so sure I want to be pregnant!”(NET) She asks God why is this happening to me? READ Genesis 25:23. I’m sure she was encouraged by this prophecy. When you’re pregnant all you can think about is giving birth to a healthy baby. Rebekah is told that and much more, she is going to give birth successfully to two boys that would survive, grow up and they too would have families and descendants. There’s a little cloud over this joy, the prophecy says these boys would be separated, older would serve the younger. These boys are to be “two peoples, going their own ways from birth” NEB. I think it’s every parent’s desire that your children love each other, get along, some even hope they’ll be best friends. But that’s not always what happens. Right here, God says before they were born “they’re not going to get along, they won’t live near each other, power play in their relationship, younger is going to dominate”. READ Genesis 25:24-26. Esau’s name means “hairy one” =hairiness in the ancient world indicated an animal-like nature. Jacob’s name means “El will protect” but the Hebrew spelling of Jacob (ya’aaob) is similar to the word “heel” when Jacob grasped Esau’s heel during the birth he got the nickname “heel-holder” sometimes called “deceiver, trickster”. With their births Isaac becomes a father and the Covenant has a new heir, God has kept His promise.
We’re going to skip over the story of the birthright and pick that up next week, stay focused on Isaac. In chapter 26 we’re going to see a series of circumstances which are amazingly similar to what his father Abraham experienced.
A. READ Genesis 26:1. Separate event, nearly 100 yrs later from Abraham’s encounter with Abimelech in chapter 20. There is a famine in the land, Isaac is tested. Every event in our lives also has the potential to be a test for us. Whether it’s feast or famine, life or death, seems good or bad, everything we do/decisions we make, they have the potential for spiritual growth or slipping backwards. God allowed this famine to come at this time to encourage Isaac to trust Him in all things. MAP.
He went to Gerar. He had been living in Beer-lahai-roi (SW of Beersheba, area of Kadesh- Barnea) Semi-arid region. Perhaps Isaac thought he might do better where there was more rainfall, traveled about 50 miles NE to Gerar, closer to the coast. There another Abimelech was ruling, son or grandson of chapter 20. “Abimelech” seems to have been a title like Ceasar or Pharaoh or King. No mention of praying for guidance, seems that Isaac may have temporarily forgotten about relying on God’s direction, or dependent faith in God to provide, protect, instead he decided to act on his own, figure out how to feed his family himself, take control of his own life. He must have been making plans to go to Egypt when God intervenes.
B. READ Genesis 26:2-5 Lord appeared. This is the first time we see the Lord appearing to Isaac alone. God’s command “don’t go to Egypt” is followed by His promise of the Abrahamic Covenant, it now belongs Isaac. It includes the land, to become a great nation, to have and to bring blessings to all the world, this is promised to Isaac. God says “I will be with you and bless you” (Genesis 26:3).Why? Was it some good deed that Isaac had done? No, he was chosen the same way his father was chosen, by the Sovereignty of God. Out of all the people in the world, God chose Abraham- made promises to him and to his descendants – and Isaac was heir to the promises. God chose
C. READ Genesis 26:6 Isaac stayed in Gerar. Isaac obeyed God, stayed in the Promised Land, did not go down to Egypt. This section gives us a glimpse of possibly when the God of Abraham truly became the God of Isaac. Up until now, Isaac had lived in the shadow of his father. Back in chapter 22 on Mt Moriah Isaac had a willing faith and trust, in chapter 24, 25 we see he is a man of prayer. Now we see Isaac relating to God in a personal, one-on-one way. As we said last week, this personal faith, personal encounter with God is the way we all must come to have a saving relationship with God. It wasn’t enough that his father, his mother were believers, wasn’t enough that he was brought up in a godly home, wasn’t enough that he was the son of the promise, Isaac himself had to embrace the faith, he had to put his trust in the Living God, obey him. He did.
Application: What about you? I know some of you have been brought up like Isaac. You mother and father have been strong Christians all your life. You’ve always gone to church, always known of Jesus, He has always been part of your life. If I were to ask you “when did you become a believer?” you might answer “I’ve always gone to church, I grew up in the church.” If you answered that way I’d have to ask you respectfully, No the question is “When did you personally become a believer” You might answer my whole family is Christian. But, when did you decide their faith was your faith? Bible makes it clear, we individually must choose to when we hear the gospel, good news, we must either accept Christ as our Lord/Savior or we reject Him by default. Do you have a personal faith or is it second-hand? Is it your faith or is it the faith of your parents/grandparents that you’re relying on. Is it Your faith or the faith of your spouse, sibling or a close friend?
John 1:12 But to all who have received him - those who believe in his name- he has given the right to become God's children
God of Abraham became the God of Isaac, later we’ll see Jacob too must have a personal encounter with the Living God to become a Covenant Keeper.
Now Isaac has his father’s faith but he also has something else from his father.
A. READ Genesis 26:7. Poor Isaac, like his father, is burdened with a beautiful wife. It seems the men in the city were interested in her, maybe they even came up to Isaac and said “she’s gorgeous, I’d love to date her, who is she, is she related to you?” Isaac, like his father, became fearful for his life. Isaac, like his father, was worried that they might kill him to get Rebekah. And Isaac, like his father, knew lying wasn’t right but Isaac, like his father, thought perhaps in this circumstance it was necessary to save his life. Maybe Isaac was remembering how Dad lied, he got away with it and they didn’t kill him. We’re so disappointed when we read that he just like his father Abraham, too lied about his wife, but I wonder how many of us have restored to lying to get ourselves out of a jam, how many of us have lied to cover-up a mistake, to avoid something unpleasant? STORY. Lying is a sin, it can never truly help us, we can never expect God to bless the circumstance if we’re deceitful. God is gracious, slow to anger, but He doesn’t overlook sin, there will be consequences. What makes this particularly tragic is it is the same lie his father had used. His sin was just a repetition of his father’s sin. The easy way that Isaac repeated Abraham’s sin shows us it is much easier to imitate the weaknesses of our parents than to emulate their virtues. There’s great contrast between the personalities of Abraham and Isaac but they commit the same sin.
B. Back to the story. READ Genesis 26:8 This lie had gone on a long time but Isaac got careless, he was caught. Nothing harder than to live a lie over a lengthy period of time, it affects your whole life. Numbers 32:23 And know that your sin will find you out Why?
Hebrews 4:13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. God said enough lying, no more. How disappointed Abimelech was READ Genesis 26:9,10. Abimelech saw and rightly confronted Isaac, Isaac had to admit what he’s done wrong. OUR SIN AFFECTS OTHERS, but sometimes its consequences are not apparent, at first, and we think we’ve gotten away with it. Isaac didn’t mean to hurt anyone, certainly not the King, but he did. Abimelech basically said, “you didn’t have to lie, you were being unfair to us, you could have hurt us by allowing someone to commit adultery and people are mad at you, you messed up. Instead of retaliating, I’m going to back off and sign a restraining order for your protection (Genesis 26:11) Imagine the humiliation.
Application. Why is that so difficult for us? Why do we have to learn how to be transparent, vulnerable and honest with others? Perhaps it’s because most of us are so concerned about other’s think of us we can’t risk being see as “less than perfect, or good, or righteous.” I wonder if Abraham ever said “Son, I had to learn a hard lesson about lying when I was afraid, I made a terrible mistake, I put your mother in great danger, and when the lie was exposed I felt awful, God forgave me, but I was so embarrassed that I let God down, I embarrassed the family, I pray you never have to go through that, it’s was too painful, learn from my mistake.”
Have you ever had a conversation with your children like that? With a loved one? We are not perfect, we do sin, and we need confession and forgiveness and we need to help others avoid repeating our sins.
Has this story spoken to you? Is there a habit, behavior, some language you see in your children that makes you cringe because it a mirror, you see yourself in them. How are you handling it?
A. Isaac stays in the area, must have acquired some land because the text says he planted crops and within one year they multiplied 100x because the Lord blessed him, rich, wealthy. Wait a minute, didn’t we just read he lied and now God is blessing him? Why? Glimpse of the mercy, grace, forgiveness, faithfulness of God Psalms 130:1-5 (LB) O Lord, from the depths of despair I cry for your help: “Hear me! Answer! Help me!” Lord, if you keep in mind our sins then who can ever get an answer to his prayers? But you forgive! What an awesome thing this is! That is why I wait expectantly, trusting God to help, for he has promised. What did God promise Isaac READ Psalm 130:3 (to bless him). God is faithful, God keeps His promises, even when we do not. Isaac was blessed because God said He was going to bless him.
B. With this blessing comes conflict READ Genesis 26:13,14 As long as mankind is human the prosperity of one will be the envy of another. Envy= displeasure with God and His way of dividing up His resources. Do you ever struggle with envy? I do, I love nice things, nice houses, cars, trips. My great grandmother used to say “there’s nothing shameful in being poor, it’s just terribly inconvenient” We all would rather be rich and not be inconvenienced! This is convicting, the opposite of envy is contentment! But Isaac’s neighbors are envious, it may have seemed a surprise to Isaac but they are determined to ruin his life. They start by stopping up an old well (Genesis 26:15) Adequate water was necessary to live- needed it for his herds, crops and his family. Complaints must have reached the court, Abimelech gets involved and says “Go away, too powerful”. Moves away but not far enough. Begins again, he re-digs old wells his father had dug, finds fresh water, as soon as the well was discovered the Philistines claimed territorial rights. This happened several times (Genesis 26:17-22). Isaac had to come to grips with how to handle this conflict. Bible says rather than argue, fight over the disputed rights, he decided to move on. Decided he wouldn’t “power up” and fight. Don’t misunderstand, Isaac is not sweeping these problems under the rug- the names he gives the wells (Genesis 26:20,21) prove he is fully aware of the problem, his choices (Esek=dispute; Sitnah=opposition) Isaac is choosing, as Abraham did with Lot, to give up his own rights for the sake of peaceful relations. He is going to trust God’s care and promise to protect, bless and give him the land in His way, His timing.
We have conflicts in our lives too. There are times when we must confront wrongs, when we can’t overlook. Share some questions we can ask, making the decision to overlook or confront:
When and How should you go and confront someone? (Peacemakers Ministry)
When someone has something against you (Matthew 5:21-24)
When someone’s sins are too serious to overlook (Matthew 18:15)
Questions to ask yourself=
Is it dishonoring God? (Romans 2:21-24)
Is it damaging your relationship?
Is it hurting others? (Luke 17:2-3)
Is it hurting the offender? (James 5:19-20)
Isaac is a man in search of peace, decision to move on. These are wells, why go to war over a well when we can move a mile or two and dig another. It’s not worth it. There are always 2 ways to handle conflict: God’s Way and your way. God’s way may mean getting godly advice, it may take longer and it be harder but God will lead and guide and help.
Application: Is there a conflict over “rights” in your home that you’re struggling with? Would gentleness describe the way you’re reacting? Listening to radio, “strange lack of civility” today, convicted me along with this lesson, trait of Isaac I want to develop is manifesting peace, actions, language, opinions. Are you living in peace? In your family? With your neighbors, even at personal sacrifice? Ours is a “don’t get mad, get even” world= but is your life different? Or are you right now jeopardizing your testimony over some personal right or thing? Isaac was a peacemaker who was rewarded by God and surprisingly also by Abimelech.
A. Isaac moves on to Beersheba, very same night after he puts up the tents, unpacking boxes, God comes to him. This is the second and last recorded time that God appears to personally to Isaac. READ Genesis 26:23 Don’t be afraid I am with you. Wonder what Isaac had been fearing? Was it that there would be enough water in Beersheba? Crops and herds continue to produce enough food? Would they be in personal danger there? God comes and says “don’t be afraid, you are my chosen one, you are the heir of my promises” Just like his father Isaac responded by building an altar and worshipping God revealing he is a Covenant keeper to a watching world, not long after
B. Abimelech and 2 leading men in his court visit Isaac to make a treaty with him. Isaac asks a great question “why after you kicked me out have you come to see me”? READ Genesis 26:28 God is with you, you are a man of faith, you can be trusted, we want to be at peace with you. They saw his prosperity and rightly attributed to God’s blessing and they were impressed with the way he handled conflict
Isaac was not his father, he was his own unique person, entrusted with the responsibility as heir of the Promises of God, entrusted to live his faith before a watching world, set apart to trust God’s provisions and to worship Him openly, he was challenged to resolve conflict as a godly peacemaker. Though he was not perfect, Isaac was called to be a Covenant Keeper. May God grant us the grace and strength to also be God’s covenant keepers.