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Isaac, Digger Of Wells

“Then Isaac dug again the wells of water which had been dug in the days of his father Abraham, for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham; and he gave them the same names which his father had given them.”(Genesis 26:18)

Isaac is a very unique figure in the Book of Genesis. A full 14 chapters are devoted to the life of Abraham. Ten chapters chronicle Jacob and 12 feature Joseph as the most prominent person. As for Isaac, Chapter 26 is pretty much it. Sure, he is spoken of as early as Chapter 12 when God promises his father Abraham that he will become a “great nation.” In fact, Isaac’s impending birth is a key subject throughout the life of Abraham. But what are we told once Isaac finally arrives? Remarkably little.

The details given to us in Chapter 26 of the prime of Isaac’s life (the following chapter opens up with Isaac in his old age) are at first glance quite mundane. But what we are shown are truly the highlights that are of the greatest importance. Unlike his father Abraham, there are no great journeys undertaken, no wars waged. His life is not portrayed as his son Jacob’s: filled with intrigue, deception, and family struggles that would rival the most riveting of soap opera plots. But the events of Chapter 26 are precisely the things which God finds important. These are the things that really matter.

God’s Covenant Is Confirmed

In Verses 1-5, and then again in Verse 24, God appears to Isaac and confirms His promises that He had originally made to Abraham. I am with you, I will bless you, I will multiply your descendants. God does not actually appear to very many people in the Bible, Isaac was one of the few. If we were told no more than this, it would serve to fix Isaac’s as one of the most extraordinary lives ever lived.

Like Father, Like Son

“The Lord appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; stay in the land of which I shall tell you.” (Genesis 26:2)

There are several uncanny similarities between the events in Isaac’s life and Abraham’s. So much so that some have questioned whether or not the details were maybe muddled over time and confused before they were written down. Famines, kings called Abimilech, army commanders named Phichol, lies about wives really being no more than sisters. As baseball great Yogi Berra said: “It’s déjà vu all over again!”

But it seems that the names Abimilech and Phichol were more likely titles given to men in those positions (such as “Commander-in-chief” or “Pharaoh”). Famines were definitely a common occurrence, and we are specifically told that this famine was in addition to the first famine in the days of Abraham (Verse 1). When famine strikes in the land this time, Isaac’s first instinct is to do what his father had done and go down into Egypt. But the Lord restrains him from doing so. When he arrives in the land of Gerar, he also emulates Abraham’s actions and tells the locals that Rebekah is his sister. Isaac not only learned the noble and commendable traits of his father, he learned the sinful and baser tendencies, as well. We learn here that Isaac was not a perfect man, and we are reminded of the importance of modeling godly behavior in front of our own children.

Patience And Meekness

 Now all the wells which his father’s servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father, the Philistines stopped up by filling them with earth.” (Genesis 26:15)

We glean two very exceptional (and very rare) attributes of Isaac when we read of how he patiently re-dug the wells of Abraham which the Philistines had covered. They are the virtues of patience and meekness. No sooner does he strike flowing water beneath the valley floor than the local herdsmen run him off and claim the well as their own. He does not threaten, he does not retaliate (compare 1 Peter 2:23); he simply moves on. He digs a second well, and the same thing happens again. But patiently and peacefully Isaac moves to yet another spot. There, at the Well of Rehoboth, Isaac praises God that He has provided a place in the land for him.

Busy Digging Wells

Finally, the whole tone of this chapter, indeed of Isaac’s whole life, is that he busies himself with the digging of wells. In the face of opposition, in the face of strife, in the face of trouble and turmoil: Isaac digs wells. Though there are those who would fill his wells with earth, though there are those who would try to steal the precious, life-giving water found beneath them: Isaac continues to dig wells. In good times and bad: Isaac digs wells.

When we consider that we have a Well ourselves, a Well that is the Lord Jesus Christ, filled with living waters (John 4:10), waters that we may drink of and never thirst again; we realize that our lives, too, are best spent with the patient digging into this Well. Digging deeper into the Well of His Word, coming to know Him better. Even when others would seek to steal the life-giving water that we find in Him (though no man can), even when others strive with us as we press on — digging ever deeper.

The digging of wells may not seem to be the most exciting of undertakings, in fact, we know that it takes a great deal of persistent effort. It can be back-breaking, exhausting, and downright heartbreaking when we have dug and dug and still failed to strike water. But Isaac is perhaps best known as a digger of wells. May we all be.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published May 13, 2010]

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

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Esau Sells His Birthright

And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.)  Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” (Genesis 25:30-31 ESV)

In Genesis 25:23, the Lord tells Rebekah that the reason that the twins in her womb are struggling against one another is that they are “two nations”, and “two manner of people.” They are different in every way. We do not read much farther before we see exactly what He means.

Esau was a hunter: a man of the field. Jacob was a quiet man and spent his days indoors. Esau was brawny, muscular, and athletic; Jacob was fair-skinned and soft. Because of this, the boys’ father preferred manly Esau, while Rebekah doted on Jacob, the “Mama’s boy.” But while these are the initial distinctions between the two young men given to us in Genesis 25:27-28, we learn that there is much more to it than that when we come to Verses 29-34:

Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.) Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.” (Genesis 25:29-34 ESV)

At first glance, it seems that Jacob is blackmailing Esau by threatening to let him die if he does not surrender his birthright immediately. But let us consider for a moment what is actually going on here. First of all, Esau comes in from hunting and is exhausted. I am certain that he was very hungry at this point and it seems that he hadn’t had any luck in his hunt, coming home empty-handed. So, he smells the stew that Jacob is making and asks him for some of it. Jacob tells him the price that he requires for giving him some, to which Esau replies that he is about to die, so what good is his birthright anyway? We should bear in mind that the two boys were living in the house of their father, Isaac, who had inherited all that his own father, Abraham, had (Gen. 25:5). This house was without a doubt filled with food and servants who could have happily brought Esau something to eat. Jacob is not holding Esau captive; he is not the only one who can provide him with food. It is doubtful that Esau was actually in any danger of starving to death at this moment (these were his words, not the writer of Genesis), but even if he had been, he certainly had other options.

So what made Esau surrender something so valuable for such a trivial price? The text says: “Thus Esau despised his birthright” (V. 34). It was of no value to him whatsoever. Why not at least get a bowl of hot soup out of the deal since it was something he didn’t really care about anyway? So we have here a further distinction between the two boys that went beyond their occupations and physical prowess. Jacob valued the birthright while Esau did not. What exactly, then, did the birthright entail? In the days before the Law of Moses was given, the firstborn son in each family would not only inherit a larger portion of their father’s possessions, he would also serve as the priest of the family. God would set apart unto Himself the Levites under the Mosaic Law (Numbers 3:12), but before this, the position of priest within each household fell to the firstborn son as part of their birthright. It seems that Esau really had no interest in taking on this role and placed no value in serving God at all. After eating the stew, Esau does not so much as pause a moment to reconsider his oath but heads off on his way.

Both men were in the wrong that day, but at least Jacob had his eye on receiving the blessing of God. His methods were clearly improper, but his objectives were at least commendable. As his grandfather Abraham had done so long ago when he sought to take matters into his own hands and conceive a son through Hagar (Genesis 16), Jacob sought to circumvent the timing and methods of God by resorting to trusting in his own ingenuity to bring about the promise of God. Never is it necessary to rely on our own strength in order to bring about the promises of God in our lives, especially when it involves dishonesty, trickery, and taking advantage of those who are unspiritual. God had promised that Jacob would obtain the birthright when He assured his mother that “The elder shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23). We can be certain that this maneuver on Jacob’s part was not God’s intended manner for the birthright to be transferred.

Esau, on the other hand, was guilty of being a faithless and carnal man; placing no worth on the things of God. By man’s standards, it might seem that he was the nobler of the two brothers at this point in time, but God knows the heart of man. Lest we are too rash to pass judgment on Esau, however, we must ask ourselves at what price we have been willing to sacrifice our own relationship with God? Our position with God in Christ is secured and upheld by Him alone, that is without question, but have we not at times behaved much like Esau: preferring the momentary pleasures of this world to our eternal “birthright” in Christ Jesus? We smell the stew of sin’s gratification and are so often willing in that moment to forsake the precious priesthood to which God has called us (1 Peter 2:9) that we might partake of it. Esau sold his position with God for the price of a bowl of soup, what are we willing to take for it?

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published May 7, 2010]

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

*English Standard Version (ESV)The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

Which Bible Version Do You Prefer?

A few weeks ago, I purchased a copy of the new Spurgeon Study Bible published by Holman Bible Publishers. This Bible uses the text of the Christian Standard Bible, a recent update of the Holman Christian Standard Bible, produced by the same publisher. My thoughts so far on this particular version is that it is an excellent English rendering of the Scriptures that seeks to blend the accuracy of a strict word-for-word translation with a clearer thought-for-thought wording where the original meaning might not be as readily understood by the 21st Century English speaker. They have labeled this approach “Optimal Equivalency” and it seems like a very good translation strategy, particularly for younger readers or new Christians.

Personally, I really enjoy reading a lot of the newer Bible versions that have hit the shelves in the past decade or two, although I do concur with the thoughts of many that we might be getting a little excessive with just how many new versions and constant updates of these versions are continuing to flood the market. And every time I see a new translation or update, I am reminded of just how passionate people can be about which Bible versions are superior to others. Some go so far as to be very dogmatic and rigid about which versions are indeed valid at all and which ones are corrupt, heretical, or outright perversions intentionally designed to lead people away from God. While most of us would never be so adamant about defending one translation over another, I believe that a lot of Christians have a particular version or versions that they certainly feel more comfortable with and maybe trust a little bit more because it is a version with which they are more familiar.

Having experimented with using several different versions on this website for Scripture quotations, going forward I would like to reference primarily one translation in order to remain consistent and avoid confusion (especially my own confusion!). I praise God that this website has gained quite a few regular readers recently and I really want to proceed carefully and prayerfully in deciding which version to choose for this. In articles that I have read in my own research, some have commented that they will not even read a blog or listen to a preacher that doesn’t use, for instance, the King James Version while others feel just as strongly opposed to those who do. It would be truly sad to alienate readers by using a version that they do not trust. In my opinion, there are several very good translations that would work nicely for the purpose of this website, but I would be very interested to know how those of you who take the time to read these posts feel before deciding. Below you will find a poll asking which, if any, Bible version you prefer and would most like to see quoted and referred to in these Bible studies.

Even if you are not a regular visitor, I would greatly appreciate your opinion. Please feel free to share any detailed thoughts in the comments section if you would like. Lord willing, in the coming weeks we will conclude the reposting of our Genesis study and will move over into a new study in the Gospel of Matthew. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any of the new posts as they come out. As always, may the Lord richly bless you in the study of His Word and thanks for reading!

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

 

Isaac Intreated The Lord

“And Isaac intreated the LORD for his wife, because she was barren: and the LORD was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.” (Genesis 25:21 KJV)

As Sarah before her, Rebekah was barren and unable to conceive a child. But there is a remarkable distinction between Abraham’s response to Sarah’s infertility and Isaac’s response to Rebekah’s infertility. Back in Genesis 16, we read about Sarah’s scheme to employ her handmaiden, Hagar, as a surrogate through which Abraham could produce offspring for their family:

“So Sarai said to Abram, “The Lord has prevented me from having children. Go and sleep with my servant. Perhaps I can have children through her.” And Abram agreed with Sarai’s proposal.” (Genesis 16:2 NLT)

But what did Isaac do when his wife was unable to conceive? He went to the Lord in prayer. We know that Abraham was a great man of faith, so we naturally assume that he had prayed and petitioned God about his wife’s barrenness a great deal before resorting to the plan of using Hagar to bear a son. But perhaps we assume too much. We see in Genesis 15:2-3 that Abraham asked God about who his heir would be, but we do not see him asking God to give him a son by Sarah. Would this have made any difference in the time frame in which his son would be born? Only God knows. But we do know that it pleases the Lord when we specifically ask Him for those things which we desire.

How often do we neglect to ask the Lord for those things which we desire? We go about our daily lives without pausing to take the time to petition the Lord for those things of which we are in need. We know for certain that God is not ignorant of those things which we need and desire, although we are also aware that He delights in our taking the time to acknowledge those needs to Him. And so we forgo the formality of bringing our requests to Him in prayer and hope that He will grant them anyway. It seems such a simple point to remember, but so often we overlook it. James penned a timeless axiom in regard to this reason for unmet needs:

“…You do not have because you do not ask.” (James 4:2)

Who can know but God what heartache, what suffering, what needless pain that Isaac avoided by going straight to the Lord in prayer when he and Rebekah were unable to conceive? Unlike his parents before him, Isaac did not seek to take matters into his own hands. We learned in the life of Abraham that God can cause His will to come to pass regardless of our own failures and frailties. Abraham’s mistake of going to Hagar in order to conceive a son in no way frustrated the plan of God to bring about a line of descendants through Isaac, a line through which the Lord Jesus Christ Himself would ultimately come. But at what cost was this mistake to Abraham? At what cost to his descendants? To this day, the sons of Ishmael (the Arabs) afflict the sons of Isaac (the Jews) and there is a never-ending strife between them.

Without any doubt,  Abraham must have surely told Isaac of all that God had promised him. He must have related to him many times how a multitude of descendants would come from them and that their seed would be too vast to number. Yet when Rebekah was unable to conceive, Isaac did not sit idly by, supposing that his petition to the Lord was unnecessary. No, he took his request to God and intreated Him for her. What a great reminder that we should do the same.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published May 4, 2010]

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

Scriptures marked (CSB) are taken from the Christian Standard Bible  (CSB) Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible®, and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers, all rights reserved.

Scriptures marked (NLT) are taken from the New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible,New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scriptures marked (KJV) are taken from the King James Version of the Holy Bible, Public Domain.

Positioned To Hear From God

“It came about after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac lived by Beer-lahai-roi. (Genesis 25:11)

In Genesis 24:62 and in Genesis 25:11, we are told that Isaac lived near Beer Lahai-roi, or the Well of Him that lives and sees. He lived in the “South Country”, or what is referred to as The Negev. This section of Southeastern Palestine was a desolate and arid region (Negev literally means “Dry”). It bordered on the Arabian Desert. So why of all places was Isaac living here?

Beer Lahai-roi was undoubtedly a special place for the people in Abraham’s household. The first instance where we are told about the Well is when the Angel of the Lord appears to Hagar after she flees from her mistress, Sarah (Gen. 16:7-16). It was there that Hagar had a revelation of the love and concern that God has for even the outcast and broken-hearted. It was at this spot that Hagar heard the voice of God speaking to her.

Obviously, the relationship between Isaac, the son of Sarah, and Hagar, his father Abraham’s concubine, was not the most amicable. But it seems that Hagar must have shared her account of what happened at Beer Lahai-roi that day since the Well came to be commonly known by the name she had given it. Perhaps Isaac was so impressed by what had happened that he headed for that very spot when he set out on his own.

What better place is there to go than that place where God has spoken? What destination is preferable to that where the Lord has revealed Himself? We know that God is not bound by the confines of any particular location; He is omnipresent. But we are wise to look for Him where we know He has been and to seek Him in the last place we saw Him. So often we plead with God to go with us to where we are moving when we would do better to go where He already is. Isaac did just that. Eager to have the hand of God leading his own life, as He had led Abraham’s, Isaac went to the place where God had moved before.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published May 1, 2010]

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

Scriptures marked (CSB) are taken from the Christian Standard Bible  (CSB) Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible®, and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers, all rights reserved.

Scriptures marked (NLT) are taken from the New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible,New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scriptures marked (KJV) are taken from the King James Version of the Holy Bible, Public Domain.

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