A famine comes and God tells Isaac to stay in Gerar and not go down to Egypt. While there Isaac lies to the Philistines and says that his wife Rebekah is his sister. God blesses him with great wealth while there and then the king of Gerar asks Isaac to leave because he’s become too wealthy. Isaac has some conflict with herdsmen while trying to find a new home but eventually settles in near a well. The chapter ends with king Abimelech coming out to Isaac and making a peace treaty with him.
The chapter is significant because God speaks twice to Isaac and confirms the Abrahamic covenant with him. We see God faithfully carrying out His promises
God makes promises to Isaac. Some related to his immediate situation. Others far into the future. Follow along in verses 1-6 with me…
A famine happens. Apparently Egypt was the refuge during famines. Abraham went there during the famine in his lifetime (12:10). Apparently Isaac thought about migrating there as well during this famine. But God told him to stay in Gerar which was and not go to Egypt. Verse 6 says “So Isaac stayed.” Ah, the obedience of Isaac is like that of his father.
I have an application right away, before we even go any further: God will command us to stay in difficult situations. He told Isaac to stay in Gerar and not go to Egypt where there would be a lot more help in the middle of the famine. God told him to stay in a place where it would be harder for him during the famine. The point of this application is that God’s will is not that we always have the easiest road with the least difficulty. But often His will is that we go through famines and that rather than trying to escape them in Egypt He tells us to stay in Gerar. What famines has God brought into your life? What difficult situation or season in life has God brought into your life? Stay. ***You’d rather be in the famine with the Lord than in Egypt without Him. You’d rather be single with the Lord than married to the wrong person without God. You’d rather be in your difficult marriage with God than leave your marriage and leave God behind.
But in telling him to stay and not go to Egypt God makes promises to Isaac.
First, God promises his presence. Verse 3 says, “Stay in this land for awhile, and I will be with you…” Later in the chapter God appears again to him and promises the same thing again. Verse 24, “…..” God would tell Jacob, Isaac’s son, the same thing in 28:15, “…..” God was with Joseph too, Jacob’s son, through his trials. In 39:2 it says, “….” and then in 21, “….” (prosper)
Moses told God not to send him and the nation into the Promised Land if He was not going to go with them. Turn to Exodus 33:14-15, “…” (Distinction)
As believers we now have the permanent presence of God within us through the indwelling Holy Spirit. But when God says “I will be with you” is more than just his presence. It means He is acting on your behalf to bless you. That God is with us means we don’t have to be afraid (v24). Think of the song we sang last week Immortal, Invisible, “Fear not I am with thee, do not be afraid, For I am thy God and will still give thee aid. I’ll strengthen you help you and cause you to stand, upheld by my righteous omnipotent hand.” A hymn no doubt inspired by Isaiah 43:2, “When you pass through the waters I will be with you.”
Second, in telling Isaac to stay he confirms with him the Abrahamic Covenant. Follow verses 3-4 with me and then verses 23-24. All the same things God promised to Abraham God now promises to his son Isaac. God had told Abraham in Genesis 17:21, “But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you….” Not through Ishmael but through Isaac would all the promises God was making to Abraham come true. Now in 26:3, God tells Isaac, “[To you] I will confirm the oat I swore to your father Abraham.”
What are those promises? We’ve reviewed them in detail in multiple sermons from chapter 12, 13, 15, 17 and 22. But by way of review it includes:
- Descendents as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the shore. Verse 4 “I will make your descendents as numerous as the stars in the sky…” Abraham was told the same thing in 22:17.
- He and his descendents would possess the land of Canaan. Verse 3 God says, “For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands…”
- The Messiah would come from his body, “through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed.” 4, 22:18)
A Couple Thoughts:
- Decisions are declarations. By staying in that land Isaac was declaring by faith that God gave that land to him. Just like Abraham did. His faith led to His obedience. Life decisions are faith declarations. Make the decisions you make for your life to be declarations of faith.
- The Promises are NOT the birthright.
- If God promises you something don’t look to anything else for it.
Then we see God’s protection. Follow along in verses 7-11.
So Isaac stays in Gerar. While he’s there he lies about his wife Rebekah and says that she is his sister. She’s very attractive and he’s afraid they would kill him to get her for their own. At some point king Abimelech finds out the truth and rebukes Isaac for lying to him.
I have to say that I am on Abimelech’s side here. This isn’t the first time this has happened to him. In chapter 20, which we skipped, Abraham did the exact same thing to Abimelech. Abraham said Sarah was his sister and Abimelech took her to be his wife. Turn to chapter 20 with me and follow along in verses 1-7.
Now here is Abraham’s son doing the same thing to him again! Abimelech must’ve been throwing his hands in the air with these Hebrew men lying to him, “Again?! Really?!”
I titled this section Protection, because really you do see God protecting Isaac. It really was a risk that husbands would be killed for their wives and it really was a survival strategy in ancient times to pretend your wife was your sister. But God protected in 3 ways:
- He protected by not allowing anyone to defile Rebekah
- He protected by not allowing Isaac to be killed
- He protected Abimelech and all the men of the city by preventing them from mistakenly marrying Rebekah and he even kept them from sinning by killing Isaac.
- Truth demands courage. Fear makes us lie. Lies, deception, falsehoods so often are done from fear. Being truthful demands courage. Some of us need to start being more courageous so we are more honest with God, or with ourselves, or with our spouses, or with our fellow Christians, or with our workplace, or with our kids, etc. Truth can only go when it is led by courage.
- Keep your conscience clear. This is related to truth in the sense that you’re not pretending as though you’re living right when inwardly you know you’re not. That’s not letting truth win inside you. “Work truth in my inmost being” Psalm 51 says. Be what Jesus said about Philip, “Now here is a man in whom there is no deceit” (Jn 1:47) – meaning no lies or falsehood or pretending.
Here’s why this is important: God will keep you from going further into sin if you live with a clear conscience. He will protect you in that way. Just like He did with King Abimelech. Abimelech did not know he had wrongfully married Sarah, and had he known who she was he never would have married her. He was honest. He was uninformed, but honest. That’s why God protected him by preventing him from sleeping with her and sinning. Here’s the point: God will not “keep you from sinning against him” if you do not have integrity, if you do not honestly seek to do what is right. If you are dishonest and duplicitous, then He will take the leash off and even lead you into situations where you will sin even more and earn even more judgment on yourself.
But if you are a dishonest, double-minded person, who defiles his conscience, then God will not protect you.
Now we see God’s blessing of Isaac included prosperity. Follow verses 12-25 with me…
He blessed him materially and Isaac grew very rich. Now he had inherited all his father’s wealth and I wonder how much loss he suffered from the famine. Who knows. Regardless, God more than made up the difference. THere are 3 points from this section that I really like.
First, God’s material blessings for Isaac were directly related to Isaac being the heir of the covenant. “I will bless you” said God. And bless him God did. A hundredfold the first year! In other words whatever he touched turned to gold!
Second, God blessed Isaac during the famine. While the land was not blessed and not producing, Isaac was experiencing tremendous increase and blessing.
APPLICATION: The blessings God gives us do NOT depend on our circumstances being favorable. What were the circumstances in Egypt for the Israelites? What were their circumstances when they were backed up against the Red Sea? What were their circumstances out in the wilderness all those years? There was nothing about their circumstances that would indicate the sea should part, their enemies would be destroyed, bread would just “be there” every morning, water would just pour out of dry rocks in the desert, and on and on. There is nothing about the stormy sea that should make the disciples have peace, or the thousands of hungry people with no food in sight that they shouldn’t worry, or the
Third, God’s blessings don’t eliminate every headache and conflict in life. Notice Isaac was asked to leave Gerar. He carried a bit of a grudge over this as v27 indicates. Not only was he booted, but then as he was out in the desert the Gerarian herders disputed with him repeatedly. Every time he found a well the herdsmen would squabble with him over it. He would just move on and this repeated until he found a well that no one argued with him over.
What I really like here is when God comes to him again for the 2nd time and encourages him and then it says Isaac worshiped the Lord. I love that. It’s just like his father did numerous times during his lifetime when God comforted him or encouraged him with the same promises.
APPLICATION: Life is not always going to be easy. But God is always going to be faithful. We need to move away from the idea that God’s faithfulness means He changes a situation more to our liking. We need to stop thinking that if God were faithful then He would make me more comfortable, more happy, more advantaged, and basically just make my life the way I want it. Turn to Genesis 39:20-23 with me and follow along. In my margin I wrote this note as I read this section a few months ago…
The point is this: Look for God’s faithfulness not in removing you from your difficult circumstances, but look for his faithfulness in the midst of those circumstances.
APPLICATION: Be meek. Isaac was powerful and rich, a threat to Abimelech. Yet he didn’t use his power against these little herders. Be meek.
Finally we see God bless Isaac with a pact. Follow verses 26-33 with me
The blessing of this pact is peace. Isaac was feared by Abimelech. Abimelech looked at Isaac and realized that if Isaac wanted to he could become a problem for him and the Philistines. So he took the initiative to make a peace treaty with Isaac. Smart move. Reminds you of what Jesus would say later on in Luke 14:
Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.” (v31-32)
Proverbs 16:7 says, “When the LORD takes pleasure in a man’s way, he causes even his enemies to make peace with him.
APPLICATION: Make your ways pleasing to God and He will increase the peace in your life.
CONCLUSION: Silent Reflection
- Trust God and stay in your famines
- Remember God is present with you
- When God promises you don’t look elsewhere
- Declare your faith with the life decisions you make
- Live with a clear conscience and inward integrity and God will protect you from sinning
- Have the courage to live by truth
- Look for God’s faithfulness in your situation, not necessarily in getting you out of it.