Isaac definitely a key figure in God’s plan of redemption, his plan for us! On the short list for OT figures mentioned by name in NT – Paul connects our spiritual heritage and blessings to Isaac on three occasions. Author of Hebrews does much the same by reminding readers that Isaac is the one through whom the promises came down through the generations. Yet Isaac received pretty limited coverage compared to father Abraham and son Jacob. This chapter the only one given exclusively to Isaac as lead character.
Way the story starts almost sounds like account of Abraham and Sarah back in chapter 20. Author does make it clear this really is different event with different people. King of Philistines referred to as Abimelech – highly unlikely to be same individual from more than 40 years earlier. Either a title like Pharaoh or name common in a family – Sr., Jr., III, etc.
All story is important, it’s in the Bible. Most significant is the interaction between Isaac and God, what we learn about character of each in light of it. Isaac briefly commended for his faith at later time (Heb. 11:20), his faith does not shine very brightly here.
A. Isaac moves to Gerar v.1-6
not clear if this was an act of God or of nature – served to give Isaac and Rebekah opportunity to trust God
important to remember – not just a “food” hardship for people – agriculture formed backbone of entire economy
also more like large operations in western US – substantial portion of Isaac’s wealth in animals, not land – grazing rights, not ownership
and… if conditions meant famine for people, meant the same for livestock – plus, semi-nomadic farmers don’t have barns / silos / granaries
change of plans
based on God’s message to Isaac, seems he probably intended to pass on through Philistine territory, following coastal road to Egypt… perhaps Goshen, Nile delta, less dependent on rainfall
instruction from God very similar to first message to Abraham, only condensed – land I will show you, here it is, not Egypt
should have been greatly reassuring to Isaac – God’s favor did not end at Abraham, still directly interested in Isaac
further encouragement – Abraham had made God’s covenant plain to Isaac, passed it along as part of father’s blessing
now Isaac gets it first-hand from God – not left to rely solely on Abraham’s say-so and hope God agrees with it
is one significant addition: fulfillment explicitly conditioned on Isaac’s obedience – stay here and I will be with you, bless you, give you, keep my old promise
God’s statements look to past as well as future – Isaac will receive these blessings in part because of Abraham’s obedience / faithfulness
implied Isaac’s obedience and faithfulness to God could have similar bearing on future fulfillment of promise
B. Isaac sins in Gerar v.7-11
Isaac had similar ideas about his wife as Abraham had about Sarah – age difference, beauty, got serious risk there
hard to believe Isaac didn’t know his parents’ history… story made it to Moses – appears he followed example without getting the point
someone has said there is big difference between being afraid and being a coward – being afraid at times right/good
Isaac’s fears probably were warranted – problem was he handled his fears in a cowardly way… and got busted
same lack of trust
don’t be hard on Isaac, we do exactly the same – Isaac did trust God… for the really big things he couldn’t control
Isaac did obey God’s command, stayed where God told him to, did not continue traveling to Egypt
did not trust God with the little thing he thought he could control… and made it worse:sinned against God (lack of trust), sinned against neighbor (told a lie), sinned against Rebekah (expected her to back up the lie)
how often do we do the same – different details, basic points the same: trust own abilities rather than God
only matter of time – husband / wife can’t keep up charade indefinitely… esp. when the king is a peeping Tom
saw clear evidence were husband and wife: “obviously…“, then did right thing – confronted Isaac with his deception
same song, second verse, same chorus – in attempting to protect himself, Isaac put many others at risk… from God’s displeasure – always the way with sin
even though possibly discrediting Isaac, Abimelech told the truth… and put teeth to it – not to be any question about their relationship
C. Isaac is blessed and banished from Gerar v.12-17
blessed by God
clear example of forgiveness – God did not hold Isaac’s sin against him even though would have been justified
Isaac didn’t obey (trust) God yet he was blessed in spite of it – hope of future blessing can be no incentive to sin
experience of blessing after sin is incentive for praise and thanksgiving… for God’s grace and mercy – esp. when blessing is abundant / over the top… 100:1 for starters
envied by his neighbors
not an uncommon reaction – people consider only what they see and react to it… often in a bad way
neighbors saw Isaac’s amazing prosperity and resented him for what he had – apparently didn’t bother ask “why”
is highly likely if Philistines had trusted and obeyed God rather than idols, they would have been blessed also
banished to his tent
fear got added to envy, raised red flags enough king got involved – for sake of peace and national security, Isaac had to go… at least out of immediate neighborhood
Isaac and Rebekah had settled down, house with windows – had to leave that behind, go back to life in tent
something obvious in everyday life: even though God promised Isaac the land, he was not to think of it as the ultimate promise – God had much more in view
One of results of famine and Isaac’s migration – God sent the Gospel to the Philistines… before they became such fierce enemies of Israel. Happened while they still had some grasp of right/wrong, commitment to the truth. Like others, Philistines squandered opportunity God gave and lived to pay high price – eventually an end as distinct people group. Long before Jesus’ commission to disciples, had all nations of the world in view. Abraham and descendants would be favored above others, yet rest of humanity not excluded from God’s blessing and the Gospel.
Second thing to see: God’s promises and blessings for this life are real, are wonderful, are intended to serve as attractant: way to show the lost in way they can understand that friendship with God is good thing. Means we should be sure to let them know the source of blessing: not our smarts, family legacy, luck of the draw, but God and his grace.
Third thing: even God’s best blessing in this life only a tiny example of blessing found in eternal life and inheritance promised to us in Christ. No matter how good our imagination, how much God has revealed in his word, we still have no real grasp of what is waiting for us. We just know it’s gonna be great!