Description / Transcription
The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense. Lord, we pray according to Your Word that You would give us righteous words from Your lips. We know that we can count on only righteous words from You, and so ask that we would not be fools who die for lack of sense but we would listen. The blessing of the Lord makes rich and He adds no sorrow with it. We ask that You would bless us, You would speak to us, You would make us rich in all eternal things, and give us ears now to hear from You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
I invite you to turn in your Bibles to Genesis, chapter 26. If you’re not in the habit of following along as I read, there’s a pew Bible in front of you, or I do grant permission just for this on your phone to read the Scripture. Don’t set your Fantasy Football lineup, it’s too late for that. But you can read your Bible.
It’s important not only that you follow along as I read from the text, but especially a passage like this today we’re going to go back and forth from this chapter to several other parts of Genesis, and it would be good for you to be able to see what I’m saying as we go back and forth and compare, and that will help us understand what God’s doing in His Word from this text, which at first may seem to be a little confusing, but as we have so often found in Genesis, there is much more than meets the eye.
“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. 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 Rebekah,” because she was attractive in appearance. When he had been there a long time, Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out of a window and saw Isaac laughing with Rebekah 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.””
“And 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, for you are much mightier than we.””
“So Isaac departed from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar and settled there. And Isaac dug again 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 well Esek, because they contended with him. Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that also, so he called its name Sitnah. And 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.”
“When Abimelech went to him from Gerar with Ahuzzath his adviser and Phicol the commander of his army, Isaac said to them, “Why have you come to me, seeing that you hate me and have sent me away from you?” They said, “We see plainly that the Lord has been with you. So we said, let there be a sworn pact between us, between you and us, and let us make a covenant with you, that you will do us no harm, just as we have not touched you and have done to you nothing but good and have sent you away in peace. You are now the blessed of the Lord.” So he made them a feast, and they ate and drank. In the morning they rose early and exchanged oaths. And Isaac sent them on their way, and they departed from him in peace. That same day Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well that they had dug and said to him, “We have found water.” He called it Shibah; therefore the name of the city is Beersheba to this day.”
“When Esau was forty years old, he took Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite to be his wife, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.”
So what in the world is all of this about? It seems like a bunch of disjointed stories about water rights and wells that have been filled up with earth and peace treaties, and yet again for the third time the “wife is my sister” ruse is happening again. It’s one of those chapters in Genesis that looks like a whole lot of nothing, until we understand what’s going on and we know what to look for.
So much of being able to appreciate God’s Word, we know we should, but learning to really appreciate it is to have the right sort of eyes to know what we ought to be looking for.
The first thing to notice to help orient us is that this chapter is quite possibly out of order. I don’t mean out of order like somebody make a mistake, but sometimes in narrative texts in the Bible the author deliberately puts things in a different chronological order in order to serve a larger thematic purpose, and this is likely a chapter that is out of some chronological order.
If you remember some of the dates, Isaac was 40 years old when he married Rebecca, and then it took 20 years to have children, so he’s 60 then. By the end of the chapter, if you look at chapter 27, you’re going to find that Esau is 40 years old and Isaac is frail, so 100, and yet Isaac seems anything but frail here in chapter 26. He’s laughing with his wife in some suspicious way we’ll come back to, and he’s unearthing wells and he’s a powerful leader of his clan and tribe, enacting treaties with the local king, and so he seems anything but an old man here, and most tellingly there is no mention of his children. It would have been very obvious that, “hey, this is your wife because you have children with you.” There’s no record of them having their children with them, and so it’s strange that they would have left them behind and gone to settle in some other place, and you say, “well, maybe the children were grown by then,” but that puts Isaac into his 80s or 90s, again which is not the man of vigor that we see here.
So many of the commentaries conclude, and I think with some good reason, that this chapter is not in chronological order. So what is it doing here then?
Well, notice also this second fact that will orient us. This is really the only chapter that we have that is all about Isaac. We had many promises about Isaac to be born, and then we had his amazing birth in chapter 20, and then we came in chapter, or rather chapter 21, and then in chapter 22 we had the near sacrifice of Isaac, but the focus there was really on Abraham.
Chapter 24 was about finding a wife for Isaac, but he was sort in the background, just waiting for the servant to bring Rebekah back. And then chapter 25, the birth of Esau and Jacob, but again there wasn’t really much about Isaac, there was more about Rebekah and these twins who were born.
And then when we get to chapter 27, Lord willing next week, we’ll find that he’s an old man and he’s about ready to pass on from the scene and the center of activity for the rest of the book is going to be on Jacob and then his sons.
So here we have in chapter 26, we have one single chapter that’s really about Isaac. In between the selling of the birthright and the stealing of the blessing, we have this one chapter which is here to summarize the life of Isaac, and so Moses by the inspiration of the Spirit is pulling together a number of stories, compacting them together, to say here we have in summary form the life of the patriarch Isaac. Abraham has died, Isaac won’t die for some time but we’re about to pass on the scene to his children, and here we have one shot to learn about Isaac.
Okay, you say, well, that’s sort of interesting, I can see that. One chapter about Isaac. That helps a little bit, but it’s still a confusing mishmash of stories from Isaac’s life. So you’re justified in asking the question, “Why are these events of everything in his long life, why are these events singled out as Isaac’s greatest this?” All right, here you go, have you checked out this new album “Isaac’s Greatest Hits”? Oh, you’ve gotta listen to it.
Why these events all pushed together? The answer is quite simple. Like father, like son. Chapter 26 is a deliberate attempt to show what Isaac, for better or for worse, was a chip off the old block. He failed where Abraham failed, he succeeded where Abraham succeeded. His life followed the same basic pattern as Abraham’s life. And most importantly what God wants us to see, is that Isaac received the same protection, the same promises, the same blessing that Abraham received.
So far from thinking that this is just a random set of events sort of all pushed together because they have something to do with water rights, there is actually a remarkable unity of structure and purpose to this chapter.
So this is where it will be really helpful if you have your Bible open so we can go back and forth to some passages and show all the ways that the life of Isaac is paralleling the life of his father Abraham. And so we’ll look at this scene by scene from chapter 26.
Scene 1 we might call the promise, in verses 1 through 5. Scene 1. Now notice the very first verse: “Now there was a famine in the land.” If you have been with us through this long series in Genesis, and we’re only halfway through the book, you may recall this very same language.
Turn back to Genesis chapter 12, verse 10. The exact same language, Genesis 12:10: “Now there was a famine in the land.”
So from the beginning of this summary chapter of Isaac’s life in Genesis 26, the careful reader or listener would be thinking, “Ah, okay, so this is a kind of Abraham 2.0.” Abraham received a call to leave his homeland and then when we get into the life of Abraham, it starts there in chapter 12, verse 10 with that very same sentence, “There was famine in the land.”
And so we have the same thing in chapter 26, verse 1. This is a dead giveaway from the beginning that we are going to be retelling the story of Isaac as a parallel to the story of Abraham. You can read liberal commentators who all say that, well, this is just a very clumsy sort of doublet, or maybe a triplet, these three sister-wife stories, but really they serve each a unique purpose, and we’re going to see that this one is meant to be in parallel with the two other stories where Abraham tried to pass off his wife as his sister.
Now notice in chapter 26 the Lord appears in verse 22 and says, “Do not go down to Egypt.” So there’s a difference, and we’ll come back to at the end. Abraham, as soon as there was a famine, he said, “Ah, I gotta to go Egypt. I leave this land which has been promised to me and I gotta find food.” Now the Lord says, “I don’t want you to make that same mistake that Abraham did. You’re going to stay here in the land.”
And what he receives from God is a promise of the same blessing. You see in verse 3, “Sojourn. I will be with you. I will bless you.” And then bookended at the end of verse 4, “And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.”
We have the very same promises that came to Abraham now coming to Isaac. The nations will be blessed, your descendants will be as the stars in the sky. Repeats the promises that God gave to Abraham in chapter 12, chapter 15, chapter 17.
So turn to chapter 17. This is the covenant of Circumcision. Look at verse 7. Genesis 17, verse 7. Here in summary form are the three fundamental realities promised to Abraham.
Verse 7: “I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”
Three things that God had promised to Abraham: Land, offspring, and “I will be with you.”
I was trying to think of three “P” words, progeny, presence, struggling with the land, parcels… Ehh. Plots of land. Promised Land.
Three things: Land, offspring, and My presence, I will be with you.
Well, you go to chapter 26 and these three things He promises again.
Verse 4: “I will multiply your offspring… I will give to your offspring all these lands. And,” as He said up in verse 3, “I will be with you.”
The same three things He promised to Abraham, He’s promising to Isaac. Abraham’s obedience is mentioned in verse 5, chiefly his obedience in being willing to sacrifice his own son. This is the exact same language that will be later be used in the Mosaic law in Deuteronomy chapter 11 that Abraham is being depicted as one, even before the law was given, who was faithful to believe God’s promises and to obey His Word, and by implication Isaac is to be the same sort of patriarch as his father was.
That’s scene 1. You can already see deliberately we’re walking in the same tracks that Abraham walked, same blessings, same kind of famine, same promises.
Scene 2 we can call the deception, in verses 6 through 11. What we have in the rest of chapter 26 is a kind of a back and forth, sometimes tracking with the story in chapter 20, and sometimes with the story in chapter 12. Remember, those are the two times, chapter 12 and chapter 20, where Abraham lied about his wife Sarah and said she’s my sister because he was afraid that she was too good-looking, even as a very old woman, that’s encouraging, she was too good-looking and he was going to be in trouble.
This part, in verses 6 through 11, is in comparison with chapter 20. So go back to Genesis chapter 20, verse 1: “rom there Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb and lived between Kadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar.” So that’s where he was at the beginning of chapter 20.
Now where are we in chapter 26, verse 6? “So Isaac settled in Gerar.”
Again, the attentive reader or listener is meant to see, ah, we are repeating the same kind of story that Abraham lived. Abraham called his beautiful wife Sarah his sister, and so does Isaac.
Now Abraham at least could have convinced himself that it was a half-truth, that she was related to him in this way with half-sister. Isaac doesn’t have that sort of salve on his conscience, he just lies about Rebekah.
Now there’s a little bit of a difference, that she doesn’t actually get put into the harem of the king. She’s not in danger in the same way, but she was in danger that any of the men could have taken her, and Abimelech finds this out. Look at verse 8. Rather than by some divine revelation as happened in the other stories, here we have Abimelech, the king of the Philistines, just looking out of his window.
And incidentally, if you’re tracking, oh, well, wasn’t it Abimelech in chapter 20? That was a long time ago and this is Abimelech again? How can Abimelech? Man, buddy, you keep falling for the same thing.
Well, likely it’s not the same person. Abimelech was a title like Pharaoh is a title, Abi-melech means “my father is king,” and when we get to his commander of the army, Phicol or Phicol, that may be another name of nobility, so these are likely not the same individuals but people holding the same sort of office.
And Abimelech looks out his window and he sees Isaac laughing with Rebekah. Remember that Isaac’s name means “laughter,” and this is a word that has a broad range of meaning. The ESV is right to say literally “laughing.” I think the King James may say “sporting with Rebekah.” Many of the commentators think that you could almost translate it as flirting or caressing. Whatever it is, it’s not just a ha-ha, they’re telling a joke, it’s some sort of compromising position such that Abimelech can look out the window and know, “You ain’t brother and sister. This is not brother and sister whatever’s going on here. Well, i have been lied to.” And sure enough, he was.
Abraham, in chapter 20, is found out and is rebuked by the Philistine king Abimelech, chapter 20, verse 9, and here, chapter 26, verse 10, his son Isaac is rebuked again by the Philistine king Abimelech. So we are tracking with the same story that Abraham lied about Sarah, the king finds out, says, “You could have brought shame and disaster upon my whole household, how could you do this?” Isaac does the very same thing, is rebuked by a man of the very same name.
Here’s scene 3. Prosperity and conflict, verses 12 through 22. Remember, when Abraham went down to Egypt despite himself, he’ lied, and despite himself he is nevertheless blessed. He becomes a rich man.
In chapter 20 he receives many sheep and oxen and male servants and female servants that Abimelech gave to Abraham and returned Sarah to him, so again he goes and despite himself he ends up being blessed. He prospers.
Well, what happens to Isaac? Look at verse 12: “Isaac sowed in the land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold.” Why? “The Lord blessed him.” And this is unique because the patriarchs in Genesis are almost always keepers of the flock, but here he works the ground, shows that they are probably in desperate times because of the family, and yet notice he sowed and reaped a hundredfold. This is a remarkable harvest in the best of years and the last we’ve heard in verse one there was a famine in the land. Truly, the Lord is blessing Isaac through no fault of his own, despite his own faults.
So it’s the same story. Abraham lies, he still gets blessed because God is in charge. Isaac lies but here he gets blessed in the midst of a famine.
Well, if you remember, and here’s where the stories between the wife-sister stories go back and forth between chapter 20 with Abimelech and chapter 12 with Pharaoh.
So go back to the first one in your mind where he lies to Pharaoh and he ends up becoming a very wealthy man after his ruse in Egypt. He becomes wealthy and what happens because of the wealth that he receives?
Go back to Genesis chapter 13. Look at Genesis 13, verse 5. Well, up in verse 2 of chapter 13, Abraham was very rich in livestock and he sojourned, and then verse 5, “And Lot, who went with Abraham, also had flocks and herds and tents, so that the land could not support both of them dwelling together; for their possessions were so great they could not dwell together, and there was strife between the herdsmen of Abraham’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock.”
Abraham lies, he gets blessed, but there’s also an underside, there’s something of a curse to this blessing, because of his great prosperity and wealth, it leads to conflict with those closest to him.
Well, what happens back in chapter 26? We read in verse 14, “He had possessions of flocks and herds and many servants, so that the Philistines envied him.”
And go down to 26, verse 20, and see if this language sounds familiar: “The herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen.”
Now that’s a strange sort of phrase, but you realize it’s the exact same wording that we had back in chapter 13: The herdsmen of Abraham quarreled with the herdsmen of Lot. Well, here it’s the herdsmen there in the land of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen. The same thing is playing out. Isaac has great prosperity and wealth, but because of it he can’t live at peace with his neighbors, they envy him, there’s quarreling, and there’s conflict.
Now you go back to chapter 20, that’s the Abraham/Abimelech story, and then Isaac is born, and then chapter 21 you see there’s a treaty with Abraham, or with Abimelech and Abraham, and Phicol his commander, chapter 21, verse 22.
And then we have, in the remainder of chapter 21, this business with Beersheba and finding a place and swearing an oath and the establishment of these wells.
Well, we have something similar in the life of Isaac. So you go back to chapter 26, and Isaac departs from there and he digs again the wells because the people had filled them up. This is among the most precious things. This would, this would rightfully be in the infrastructure bill, hey, you gotta have wells, you need to find some sort of water. And the conflict here is who owns these, so they’re not very happy that Isaac is back and they’re quarreling because he says, verse 20, “The water is ours.” The herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen, saying “The water is ours.” So he calls the name of that well Esek, meaning “contention.” Then they unstop another well and there’s more controversy, he names it Sitnah, “enmity.” And then finally another well, but this time they don’t quarrel over it and so he calls it Rehoboth, meaning “broad places,” or “room.”
Now part of the conflict here is Isaac is naming these wells. This is a sign that he is asserting ownership. They say “they’re ours,” he says, “well, I’ll name them.”
It’s like as if you went and named a plot of land. So our house, I’ve told you before they’re developing the 50 acres behind our house and they’re putting in 80 different homes, and it would be all very sad except the road does connect to a few of you here, so there’s a blessing in the midst of it. And they have all these signs now, “available” or “sold” and are starting to do all of the site work on these homes and they have the sign of the builder and the developer.
It would be like I just went there and decided to put my own sign and just started naming these plots. We’ll name this “Kevin’s Land,” we will name this “DeYoungstead,” we will name this “Churchburg,” and just started naming it. People would say, “What are you doing? This isn’t yours.”
Well, Isaac is asserting that he and his family are the rightful owners of these wells, Esek, Sitnah, and Rehoboth.
And incidentally, Pastor Derek, you missed such a great opportunity. You have three kids. You could have named them Esek, Sitnah, and Rehoboth, three wells, right there. It would have been just [laughter] for your whole life, people would say, “Where do those names come from?” “Well, they’re in the Bible. There’s three wells and three,” okay, you can follow that up with Pastor Derek afterward.
Scene 4. Worship. What did Abraham do in chapter 13 after he became rich in Egypt?
Well, go back, one more time, to chapter 13 and you look at verse 3: “He journeyed on from the Negeb as far as Bethel to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place where he had made an altar at the first. And there Abraham called upon the name of the Lord.”
So after the ruse in Egypt, which nevertheless led to great wealth and prosperity, what does he do in response? There’s an altar and he worships.
Go back to chapter 26. We see the same thing in verse 25: “So Isaac built an altar there and called upon the name of the Lord.”
And again we have the promise of blessing, which we’ve seen in verse 2, in verse 12, and here again in verse 24. The Lord says, “I am God of Abraham, your father. Fear not, I am with you. I will bless you. Multiply your servant for my servant Abraham’s sake.”
So it’s just like father, like son. He gets wealth, he stops, he builds an altar, he worships.
And then scene 5. Here’s the last scene. The peace treaty, in verse 26 through 33. Recall that in chapter 21 Abimelech and his military commander Phicol come to Abraham seeking a treaty because Abraham had become so powerful. We don’t want to think of Abraham as just a traveling man who’s wearing a sort of ancient bathrobe who has a few animals with him. He is a very impressive, dynastic ruler in his own right, and now that rule has passed on to Isaac.
But look what happened back in chapter 21. So go back to chapter 21, verse 22. You can see the heading in the ESV, “A Treaty with Abimelech.”
“At that time Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his army said to Abraham, “God is with you in all that you do.”
So Abimelech looks out, “Ah, this man dwelling in our midst is very powerful, he’s blessed, obviously God is with him.”
So not go to chapter 26 and we will find the very same thing, 26, verse 26, “When Abimelech went to him from Gerar with Ahuzzath his adviser and Phicol the commander of his army, Isaac said to them, “Why have you come to me, seeing that you hate me, you have sent me away?” They said,” this language should sound familiar, ““We see plainly that the Lord has been with you.”
Down to the very same greeting. They come to Isaac [sic] in chapter 21, what’s the first thing they say? “The Lord has been with you.” Here in chapter 26, the first thing they say to Isaac, “We can see the Lord has been with you.”
And so just as Abimelech did, that Abimelech in chapter 21, so this Abimelech in chapter 26 makes a treaty with the patriarch, a kind of covenant. You see in verse 30 and 31, the covenant ceremony consists of a meal and an oath. Just like covenants throughout the Bible, there is a ratifying meal and there is an oath that they swear. And just as Abraham, his very presence was a blessing to the nations around him, so Isaac is a source of blessing to the nations. Just as Abraham proved to be hospitable when the kings of the earth came to him, so here verse 30, “He made them a feast and they ate and they drank,” and the scene ends just as the scene ended in chapter 21.
We read in chapter 21:33, “Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God.”
So the treaty between Abraham and Abimelech in chapter 21 ends by naming the place Beersheba, and here you notice, chapter 26:33, the scene ends, again a covenant treaty between Abimelech and now Abraham’s son Isaac and it ends by naming the place again Beersheba. This isn’t because the biblical author has confused things. No, they dug up the very same well again and so it’s fitting that Isaac would give to it the same name.
So this back and forth with the rest of Genesis shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that what we have here in chapter 26 is not a disjointed set of confusing, somewhat uninteresting stories, but rather this is coherent chapter with one central purpose: Namely, to show that Isaac walked in the footsteps of his father Abraham, and that he received the blessing that had been promised to Abraham and now to his descendants.
In large part, what we trace out in the rest of Genesis is where does the blessing go? We think of it as, well, where to the patriarchs go, and that’s a part of the story. But it’s really who gets the blessing? What we have in chapter 26, one chapter to tell the story of Isaac’s life, to show how he walked in the footsteps of his father and received the same blessing that God had promised to Abraham.
So what lessons can we draw from these parallels? We’ve seen the chapter is meant to convey this relationship between Abraham and his son Abraham 2.0 within the larger context of Genesis. But how does this apply to our lives? Let me suggest four concluding points of application, four concluding points of application.
One. Remember that many of us enjoy God’s blessings because of our parents’ faithfulness. Many of us enjoy God’s blessings because of our parents’ faithfulness.
This was certainly the case with Isaac. To be sure, Abraham was often blessed despite himself, but overall Abraham is to be remembered as a man of faith. That’s how Hebrews 11 depicts him. And chapter 26, verse 5, depicts him as one who was obedient to God. He left his home, he dealt kindly with Lot, he defeated kings, he kept the covenant of circumcision, he prayed for those who didn’t deserve it, he was willing to sacrifice his only son, he bought a cave in the Promised Land, and because of all of that, through the Lord’s blessing, Isaac inherited servants, animals, a great name, and great promises. He enjoyed God’s blessings because of the faithfulness of his father, his father and his mother.
Now I understand not everyone in this room, not everyone watching online, has had good parents. But many of you, perhaps even most of you, did. I did. My wife did. And because they served the Lord and kept His commandments, we are inheritors of all sorts of blessings; economic blessings, educational blessings, most importantly spiritual blessings.
And if you grew up with that, like I did, it all seems very normal, until you see what the world is often like and you realize that sadly it isn’t all that normal.
Our world talks a lot about privilege. Privilege is a real thing. People have all sorts of different privileges. If you’re good-looking, if you’re strong, if you’re wealthy, there’s all sorts of ways to have privileges. We don’t all start from the same place. We don’t all have the same gifts, the same connections, the same advantages.
But of all the privileges that you can have, at least in an earthly sense, the most significant privilege without a doubt is to be raised by your mom and dad who love each other, stay together, teach you the Bible, take you to church.
Now, praise God, He works through all sorts of different ways, and many of us have grown up in less than ideal circumstances or through no fault of our own or perhaps through our own sins, which we’ve repented of. We are in those less than ideal scenarios and God still works through them. We praise Him for that.
But certainly, if you read any of the literature, economically, sociologically, the greatest privilege that you can have in an earthly sense is to have good, faithful, loving parents who raise you and your brothers and sisters, and certainly, as Christians, we know that it is the greatest legacy that we can give to our children that they would grow up in a world knowing mom and dad love each other, they love me, they read me the Bible, they took me to church.
So many, many of us have that privilege, and there is almost no greater earthly privilege that can be passed on.
So we see will Isaac he enjoyed God’s blessings because of his parents’ faithfulness.
Second lesson. We don’t have to make the mistakes our parents made.
Isaac made some of the mistakes his father made, we’ll come to that in a moment, but not all of them. Namely, he didn’t go down to Egypt. Now, it helped that God said, “Hay, Isaac,” with a megaphone, “don’t do what your dad did. Don’t go down to Egypt.” But he didn’t.
And there’s other things. He didn’t have more than one wife, as the patriarchs tended to do. Unlike Abraham, he didn’t try to have a child by some other means besides his wife; that was the path that Abraham took in an act of weak faith, both he and Sarah. But Isaac and Rebekah didn’t do that. So there was some progress.
If we’re honest, some of us are more intentional about wanting the next generation to make economic progress, to have a nicer home, to make more money, or to make educational progress or to have opportunities that we didn’t have, and all of that can be good, but far more important than any of that is that the next generation would make spiritual progress. I hope that whatever I can pass on to my children that they could learn to be holier than I am, to love Jesus even more than I do.
Yes, sometimes parents, we’re so locked in. They have to get the right education, we want them to have things that we didn’t have or we want them to have a different standard of living or a higher standard of living, or have opportunities with athletics or academics or music, but friends, isn’t this the most important legacy you can pass on? A legacy of holiness?
And children, and we’re all, whatever age children we are, when you look at your parents, they weren’t perfect. Isaac didn’t have perfect parents. And we’re meant to learn from them. I hope my kids someday will rise up and call me and my wife blessed, probably do already. Look at these kids you have, boy, you guys are blessed. Yeah, we understand.
But I hope that they would learn not only from the things that we’ve done right but even from the things that we’ve done wrong, and they would know how to follow Jesus, even better than we did. You don’t have to make, you aren’t in some ironclad position where you have to make the same mistakes that your parents made. Yes, our families are so influential on who we are, but they don’t have to be determinative. You still get to make real choices, and you don’t have to make the same mistakes that your parents made.
Which leads, however, to a third lesson. Beware that we are prone to make the same mistakes our parents made.
Isaac lied about his beautiful wife just like Abraham did, and you would think, you would think he had learned that lesson. Somehow the stories had been passed on, dad had done this not just once but twice, and surely Isaac would know of all the mistakes to make, when I’m in a place and there’s difficulty and I’m among a foreign king, the one thing I don’t have to do is lie about my beautiful wife. But of course, he does.
And our kids will often make the mistakes we made. No matter how much we try, we have the genes of our parents whether we like it or not, and if we live with them and saw them and saw their patterns, for better or worse.
Here’s why being a parent is so powerful and why it’s so encouraging and so frightening at the same time, is that as a parent you give to your children the default set of normal. And they don’t realize it, you don’t realize until sometime you get out and you see more of the world and you realize, “Oh, not everyone was just like me, not everyone had the same experience I had.” You’re giving them a default sense of normal. Either a wonderful sense of normal, parents love each other, they take care of us, the world is safe, or some have to endure quite the opposite.
So we have to realize as we look at our own upbringings and our own parents, that sometimes the mistakes our parents made open up horizons of sin to us that might otherwise be closed, or we wouldn’t even consider.
I think of a family I knew from one of my other churches and the son watched his father, who was a well-respected person in the community, and when the kids were almost grown, the dad just seemingly out of the blue up and left his wife of all those years and kids, and went off with another woman, and the kids were furious and they had a right to be. The oldest son was, rightfully so, and he became something of the spiritual patriarch in the family and went on to have the some profession as his father did and raised his family in a different way and show a way of faithfulness that his father hadn’t until many years later, to our surprise and people that knew them, in horror, we saw him do almost the exact same thing his dad had done, that for all of those years had just looked, “how could my dad have done this?” and then he went and left his wife and found another woman. Of course, he was responsible for that sinful decision, but surely there was something in his horizon of meaning that suggested this is something that when you get to middle age, a dad just might do, and tragically he did.
We are prone to make the same mistakes our parents made.
Here’s the fourth lesson finally. The life of faith is the life of blessing. That’s what’s most important. This isn’t first of all about lessons for parents and children, though we can see those here. It’s about lessons of faith. The life of faith is the life of blessing.
Go back to the very end of chapter 26. I didn’t say anything about those last two verses, and you may wonder what in the world are they doing there. Esau was 40, he took these two wives, and they made life bitter for his parents, Isaac and Rebekah. That seems like kind of an afterthought, but those two verses form an important transition block.
You see much is at stake in this promised blessing, and chapter 26 shows that the blessing that was so operative in Abraham’s life, yes, indeed, it was also operative in Isaac’s life, but the question remains who will receive the blessing next? Who will inherit it from Isaac? And these two verses remind us again it’s not going to be Esau, as we see him deliberately embrace polygamy, he married outside of his clan.
Isaac was blessed and a source of blessing to others. Esau is a source of bitterness. We’re meant to see the contrast. Isaac a source of blessing, Esau a source of bitterness to his family. This is a transition section contrasting the life of faith and the life of unbelief, or you might call it the way of the Lord versus the way of the world.
And we’ll get to why the blessing then in God’s sovereignly goes to Jacob and not to Esau.
What we are meant to see most of all in chapter 26 is this lesson for all of us who walk in the faith. What God did for your fathers and mothers as they walked in faith He will do for the sons and daughters as they walk in faith.
Galatians 3:9: So then those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
For those who have had the privilege of knowing a spiritual legacy in your home, you’re meant to pass on not just the good fruit of that legacy, but more importantly the faith and obedience of that legacy.
And this is why, parents, don’t be afraid to let your kids see that there are hard times in your life, that there are sins that you need to be forgiven of. That’s when they will see that God is faithful to you not just in good times, but in bad times.
Now does this mean that we will receive material wealth, like Abraham and Isaac? No. But we will receive spiritual riches, which is much better.
Does it mean we will surely have children? No. But you, too, can be a blessing to the nations.
Does it mean you will get your own parcel of land on earth? No. But you will inherit the heavens, which is far better.
And best of all, when you walk in faith with God, you receive the best, surest, truest, most eternal aspect of His promise, and that is the presence of God Himself.
Did you see throughout this chapter the Immanuel principle?
Verse 3: Sojourn in this land and I will be with you.
Verse 24: The Lord appeared, “I am the God of Abraham . Fear not, for I am with you.”
Verse 28: Even on the lips of Gentiles, “We see plainly the Lord has been with you.”
That’s the most foundational lesson to learn. As Isaac walked in the steps of his father Abraham, he made mistakes, he had sins, he needed forgiveness, but as he walked in faith and obedience, he knew that God would never leave him nor forsake him, and as we do the same we can rest assured that Immanuel, God with us, who we know not just as a promise but as the promised man come to earth, will be with us now and forever.
Let’s pray. Gracious heavenly Father, we give thanks for Your Word. Many lessons each week for us to see. May we not get lost and miss the forest because of the trees. Help us, Lord. Forgive us, we’re not the children we often want to be. We know we’re not the parents that we would like to be. But insofar as we have had a faithful legacy, help us to pass one to others. And even if that legacy of faithfulness is to start with us and our generation, give us grace to do so. And most of all, may we know as we walk with You that You are with us. In Jesus we pray. Amen.