Would you turn in your Bibles tonight to Genesis 26 and I did contemplate going through two chapters tonight but I thought I might be rushing it if I did and since there's not many chapters devoted to Isaac, this is really it, I thought we should at least give him the honor of spending a night talking about him. By the way, our camera man right up front here is named Isaac. That's Isaac right there. We also have one that works upstairs named Moses. So we don't quite have all of the patriarchs, but we're working on it, we hire those with biblical names and Isaac is one of them. Did I embarrass you Isaac? Good! I'm glad I did. There's a story about a father and a son who were walking up a mountain, taking a walk. The mountain got more dangerous and steeper and as Dad was navigating his way and he came to the place where he had to make a decision which way to go, which might be the safest route, he heard behind him his son saying simply, "Choose the right way, Daddy. I'm coming right behind you."
Tonight we read about the man who came right behind Abraham. That was his son, Isaac. He was, unfortunately, following in his father's footsteps--the wrong footsteps. Abraham was a man of faith. Isaac, I suppose, was as well, for God does speak to him and promised to bless him, but the footsteps that Isaac follows from Abraham were not the best choices. You've heard the old axiom 'like father, like son'. And we're going to see how he was like his father in two respects, two failures that are familiar to us by now. Number one, he ran away at a time of famine to a place he thought would provide better for him than the place God told him to be in--the land of promise. Abraham did that. Twice. And interestingly he lies about his wife, calling his wife his sister. Rings a bell? Dad did that twice. Once in chapter 12 when there was a famine and he went down to Egypt and once in chapter 20 when there was a famine and he went down to Gerar where the Philistines dwelt and that is where his son goes. Following in his father's footsteps. Following in the bad, wrong example of his father. Now I want to clear up an issue because it seems to be an issue every few years that surfaces in the Christian church about this idea of generational curses. And those in certain pockets of Christendom seem to gravitate toward the false doctrine of, if your parents did something you have a curse and it's generational and there's only certain kind of incantational things that can break that curse. And it stems from originally the second commandment and I want you to turn to the second commandment for just a moment and that is Exodus chapter 20. Exodus chapter 20. I know you're thinking, wait a minute, you said Genesis 26 tonight, now you're starting us off in Exodus 20. Well you're used to that by now. The second commandment is verse 4: "You shall not make for yourself a carved image--any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments." First of all, you'll notice something. That God is referring to unbelievers. Those who hate Me is the curse promised to, not to his children who are believers. A believer in God, a follower of Christ, could hardly be under the category of those who hate God. So the curse is to those who hate Me. But, verse 6; showing mercy to thousands, I'll reserve that for later tonight, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
Now certainly children will feel the negative impact of a parent's decision. That is, and in the context here of idolatry, if a parent exposes the family to idolatry via his or her own practice of idolatry, whatever a child sees reinforced in the behavior patterns of mom and dad, that child is more likely to commit that same kind of sin from one generation to the next, because they're exposed. Now here's the greater lesson. We never sin in isolation. When Abraham sinned, when he failed to obey and failed to believe God on a couple of those occasions by running away and then subsequently by lying, he just didn't sin in isolation. It wasn't just him sinning against God. It affected his family. It affected certainly Sarah, his wife. But his kids would find out eventually, about the shenanigans of pop's. And how he lapsed in faith and they who looked up to their father, this would certainly have an impact upon them. So simply put, a disobedient believer is a menace to everyone. As Abraham was and as Isaac is.
So there's certain things that your parents did that they passed down to you. Are you affected by your parent's choices and behavior? Certainly. Could you have a propensity to do the same kinds of things? Absolutely. But do you have to do them because there's some generational curse? Absolutely not! That curse or pattern of sin is broken by the power of God in your life. Let God's power break it. Now my parents had certain behaviors, all of our parents do, and perhaps that instilled certain inclination and proclivities in myself to do the same kinds of things. For instance, whenever my dad got frustrated, he had a short fuse, and he got angry very quickly. He'd blow up. And when he'd blow up, he'd swear. We all heard it. I had three older brothers who also saw that and they also did that. I'm not saying they did it and I didn't--I did it as well. They simply reinforced that it was okay to swear when you're frustrated and you get angry. But when I came to Christ, I watched God deal with that area of my life. I no longer get frustrated or angered easily and when I do get angered, I don't swear. My mother was a smoker when I was younger. Always had a cigarette in her hand. That made an impression on me so that when I was 10 years of age I had my first cigarette and I kept smoking until I was 20. When I came to Christ, I quit. The behaviors of your parents or the environment in which you were raised does not necessitate a stronghold upon your life. If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new.
But unfortunately you live in a culture that is enabling you to label behaviors as, well, it's a disease, or it's co-dependency, or you're the adult-child of a left-handed cigar smoking golfer. So chances are you're going to be a left-handed cigar smoking golfer, too. Isaac did not have to; in fact 90 years have passed between Abraham's foray into Gerar and over 100 years when he sauntered down to Egypt to disbelieve God. A long time had passed. There really was no excuse for him at all. So we go now to chapter 26 of Genesis and we watch his first failure in the first few verses: "There was a famine in the land," the land being the land God promised to Abraham and now Isaac and later Jacob, "besides the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Abimelech king of the Philistines, in Gerar." That's his first failure. "Then the Lord appeared to him and said: "Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land of which I shall tell you." You discover that twice in Isaac's life the Lord appeared to him. Now that's significant. I've never had the Lord really appear to me. Twice the Lord appeared to him: once at the beginning of this chapter and later on once toward the end of the chapter. But with Abraham, the Lord appeared 8 different times, on 8 different occasions the Lord appeared to Abraham. Now there's something to make a note of. Isaac is one of the great patriarchs but he's not a remarkable person. What I mean by that is if you go simply by real estate in the Bible, there's not a whole lot said about him. There's a lot said about Abraham--14 chapters. There's a lot said about Jacob--11 chapters. But just about everything that Isaac did is in one chapter. This is it! Oh there's a little bit in chapter 25 about him praying for his wife and about the kids that they had, but really it's incidental to the main story of the two kids, Jacob and Esau, which we'll follow in chapter 27. This is sort of a parenthetical statement to show you the two failures of this man's life. So just about everything he did is in one chapter. 14 for Abraham, 11 for Jacob.
As Griffith Thomas said of him, "Isaac was the ordinary son of a great father and the ordinary father of a great son." Yet he is still to be respected and honored because he was one of the patriarchs. By the way, one of God's names is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, so I'm not saying he's a lightweight, at all. But in comparison to the others, he just doesn't have the real estate that is given to him. Well evidently Isaac is on his way to Egypt. How do I know that? Because God says don't go down to? Egypt! Which would indicate he's on his way down to? Egypt! Exactly. So he's on the way down to Egypt because there's a famine in the land, much like what Abraham did in chapter 12 of Genesis, 100 plus years before this. Because there's a famine and he must not believe that God is able to take care of him in the land of Canaan. By the way, if you wonder why would he go down to Egypt, why would he go down South if there's a famine in that region wouldn't there be a famine down in Egypt as well as Canaan? Well, yes, but Egypt was better equipped. It was the bread basket of the ancient world. And here was the difference: they had a big river. The Nile River. And it emptied at the Nile River delta into the ocean and so that water provided a lush basis for agriculture that did not necessarily depend on rainfall. Whereas the land of Canaan was almost solely dependent on rainfall. Even its lake, the Galilean, and its river, the Jordan, needed to be yearly replenished and still does, with rainwater. That's why in Deuteronomy, the eleventh chapter, God tells the children of Israel, the land that I am taking you into is not like the land of Egypt where you had plenty of water, the Nile River. But the land that I bring you into is a land of hills and valleys that drinks in the water from the rain of heaven and if you obey Me and trust Me, I will give you the early rain as well as the latter rain. The whole winter season, at the early part and the latter part, what they call in Hebrew, the early and the latter rain, I'll bless you with that. So to be in the land of Canaan was a place of faith. You couldn't just go down to the river and pump the water into your vegetable garden; you had to trust that the Lord was going to bring it from heaven. Well, it hadn't rained for a long time. There's a famine in the land. What do you do? Do what Dad did. Dad went down to Egypt. He survived. But Egypt is always seen as a negative move in the Bible. It would be sort of like equating it to the world--going back to the world to get your provision rather than trusting the Lord in your new place, the new life. Looking to the world. Now unfortunately a lot of us believers begin the Christian life with these unrealistic expectations and we leave the prayer room and we think what they told us was, happily ever after. Well true. Ultimately, that is true. But in the meantime, there's hills and valleys and places of trust and places of blessing and places of famine. But because they have the happily ever after white picket fence everything's gonna be perfect, I'll never struggle ever, ever again, the first struggle that happens in their life, they want to run back to Egypt. This isn't what I expected! This is hard! Oh that's a good enough reason just sort of to bag the whole Christian thing and go back to what? The path to hell? Not a good idea. But that's how a lot of us think.
So it brings up this question. If there's famine in the Promised Land, why? If that's the land God said I'll bless you in, why would God allow there to be a famine in the land God told them to go to? Here's God telling them to go to this land. As soon as they get there? Famine. And then later on? More famine. And now? More famine. Why? Well the answer is pretty easy. Because your faith in God is really worthless unless it's tested. How do you know if your faith is really valuable, if it really works? Do you think your faith only grows by a steady diet of blessing after blessing after blessing? I'm under the spout where the glory comes out 24/7, that's the Christian life? Your best life now? Takes no faith for that. I'll tell you what takes faith is when you look at your cupboards and there's nothing in them and your bank account and there's oh boy nothing there, in fact, negative balance, and you say as you close it, God is good! All the time! He'll take care of me no matter what! This is the land He brought me into, if I die, I die. What's the worst that can happen? I die, I lose a few pounds, or I die and I go to heaven?
God says, "Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father." Stay in the land. Now he was in Gerar; that's where God stopped him. Gerar is where the Philistines, the early Philistine encampments, settled in Gerar, before it became known as Philistia later on in David's time. But this is really in the land of Canaan but on the border. That threshold as you go down to Egypt. God tells him to stay. God tells him He would bless him. And look at verse 4: "And I will make your descendants," now listen how this sounds so much like the promise God gave to Abraham, it's a reiteration of it, "I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed." Because you're such a wonderful person. Because you're such a man of faith and I couldn't resist you. No. "Because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws."
This blows my mind. I gotta tell you why. Here's a disobedient patriarch. Like father, like son, going down to Gerar, actually going down to Egypt. God stops him and when God appears to him and speaks to him, notice what God doesn't say. He doesn't say what is the deal with you stupid patriarchs? Every time there's a famine you go rushing down to Egypt! I'm sick of this! No. What God does is pronounce a blessing upon him. A blessing upon him. The disobedient patriarch God reiterates the grand blessing that He gave to Abraham. This is called mercy. And oh how we love it! The merciful, great God. Ok. I know we're in Genesis 26 barely but I want to direct your attention one more time if you don't mind to Psalm 103. Psalm 103 is David's synopsis of the history of his people, going all the way back through Moses up to the present time. And it's all about how God dealt with them. And I want you to get this under your belt tonight because you just may be in a place where you need to experience God's mercy and favor and grace. Psalm 103, I could just read it, but you know, it was fun a couple weeks ago when on a Sunday we did a responsive reading, do you remember that? So I'm going to read verse 1 and the odd-numbered verses, and then you, out loud, read verse 2 and the even-numbered verses and you go down to verse 10 and I'll close with verse 11. Got it?
"Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name!" "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits." "Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases," "Who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies," "Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's." "The Lord executes righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed." "He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel." "The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy." "He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever." "He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities." "For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him".
Isn't that great? That's where we stop. Now here's the point. Our faults and there's a lot of those, right? Our faults are like a grain of sand next to the high mountain of God's mercy. That's how those last few verses render if I were to spin it the poetic kind of a spin. It's like a grain of sand next to the mountain of God's mercy. Paul, in Ephesians 2, said God who is rich in mercy. Jeremiah was looking at the destruction of Jerusalem but the saving of a few and he said in Lamentations 3 it's through the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed. His mercy. Because His compassions they fail not, he went on to say, they are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness. So don't be too surprised when you find people like Isaac doing all of the stupid things that one does as they fumble and bumble their way on the pathway of their journey of faith. Don't be surprised when God, who is merciful, blesses. Again, not because of Isaac, but because God made a promise to Abraham, as He said in chapter 26, verse 5, "Because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws."
Ok now verse 6: "So Isaac dwelt in Gerar." Now watch. Here's the second failure, the second sin: "And the men of the place asked about his wife." Now you remember Rebekah, right? Remember when in chapter 24 Abraham's servant saw Rebekah at the well and he noticed she's a knockout. That's my rendering. She was beautiful, the Bible says, she was noteworthy, she was gorgeous. And her beauty is noted a few times in the Bible as it will be in a moment. "And the men of the place asked about his wife. And he said, "She is my sister";" Just like Dad--twice. "For he was afraid to say, "She is my wife," because he thought, "lest the men of the place kill me for Rebekah, because she is beautiful to behold." Now it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked through a window, and saw, and there was Isaac, showing endearment to Rebekah his wife." Ok, back up. Do you find it a bit amazing that immediately after God pronounces a blessing and appears to him pronouncing a blessing, that immediately after he degenerates to lying about his wife. Wouldn't you think that if God appeared to you, physically, you saw something, you heard Him, that that would like motivate you to be really spiritual, at least for awhile? At least for a week? Immediately after this great blessing he's afraid. Now why should he be afraid that God would somehow preserve his life when God just said I'm gonna bless you and your descendants, you gotta have descendants, you gotta live to see that blessing for that to happen, why would he get all freaked out that God wouldn't preserve his life after God just said he had nothing to worry about? I'm gonna bless you. And gave that same promise. It's amazing, isn't it? Sort of. It's amazing only theologically. It is not amazing personally. Because we all know we're prone to that. We're prone to hear, we're prone to hear God's promises, we're prone to see great things God has done and then quickly degenerate into an old pattern of sinfulness. I think of Peter. Peter was never higher in his spiritual career than when they were up north at Caesarea of Philippi and when Jesus asked the question, "Who do men say that I am?" And they banter back and forth with different answers. It was Peter that said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." Now Jesus turned to Peter, now how would this feel to you if you were Peter, and He said, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, flesh and blood didn't reveal this to you but My Father who is in heaven." You'd feel pretty good if Jesus said that about you. Blessed are you. You're right on! You have the right answer! You kind of at least be tempted to go, "I am a little more spiritual than John or Andrew." Just a wee bit. He didn't say that to them, but He said it to me. He was at the very peak of his career; it was like the high point spiritually. But immediately after that he took it upon himself to rebuke the Lord when Jesus talked about the cross and going to Jerusalem to die. And then our Lord had to turn to Peter and say, "Get behind Me, Satan!" From blessed are you Simon son of Jonah to, 'You're talking from the devil, dude.' Also very prone to do that.
Isaac was very prone to do that. He was so afraid. This is what I want to talk about tonight because I do run into believers, precious saints of God, some of you who are so fearful about your future. You have nothing to be afraid of. Nothing! Because you have a Shepherd. David said, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want." Now if we were in Israel, and if we lived 2-4,000 years ago, and I referred to you as a bunch of sheep, you might not take that as a compliment because sheep were stupid. Sheep couldn't think for themselves, they perpetually get lose, they perpetually get into trouble, they need to be led by a shepherd. So you could either take that as an insult, the Lord is my Shepherd, and you're God's sheep and He should be your Shepherd, or you take it as a point for bragging rights because you're saying, hey, I don't know who your shepherd is, but let me tell you who my Shepherd is--the Lord is my Shepherd! Here's the analogy I often like to think about at that particular juncture of Scripture. Have you ever met a dog owner who so pampers the animal that it's as if the animal is a child in the family? Little sweaters are knit for the puppy and she goes, oh I know what he's thinking when he looks like that, he's really thinking… he's not. He's a dog. He's not thinking that at all. He's not thinking at all! He's living in a whole different… but oh, no, no, you don't understand, and they pamper this little one and little booties for the wintertime. And you think it's pathetic. You know the doghouse says 'Fido' but it's spelled in the Euro way: Phydeaux. Phydeaux. And again you go, this is over the top, crazy, pathetic. But of all of the dogs in your neighborhood, if you had to be one dog, would you want to be the dog that is never walked and barks in the backyard or the dog who is pampered? You'd say I'll take, I'll be that dog. Here's David, "The Lord is my Shepherd." Look who my Shepherd is--Yahweh, the Lord. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for My name's sake. Now you know this verse very well: Yea though I walk through the? Valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for You are with me, for Your rod and staff they comfort me. Why is it then that we are afraid of the valleys? Oh no, Lord. I can't face that. Don't let me go through that valley! I like the mountain top experiences. In fact, I would love it, Lord, if in my life, You could just airlift me from mountain peak to mountain peak to mountain peak. That's the victorious Christian life. Do you know that in the Middle East when a shepherd leads his sheep down into the ravines, and by the way, you know why they do it? In the summer time it's very hot and the wool, even if it's shorn, it's still very hot on that animal, and so the shepherd, to cool down his sheep, will move the sheep into the cooler, dark ravines where the shadows are and it's just better for them to hang out. But sheep hate going down into valleys. They hate ravines. They can't see very well. It's dark. It's unpredictable. So the shepherd has to lead them through the valley. But at the very bottom of the ravine, guess what's there? Water. That's where the rainwater, they call them in Israel, wadis, and if you're going from Jericho to Jerusalem and it's barren, there's this little wadi and I always see shepherds leading sheep around there. But at the bottom of that wadi, at the bottom of that ravine, there's flowers growing, there's vegetation growing, because the rainwater, or the springs, are down at the bottom of the valley. So often it is the dark valley that you hate the most that is the very path of God's blessing and green pastures. God's saying, I'm trying to lead you to green pastures. I don't want to go! But I'm talking about refreshment. No, I don't want to be refreshed! You just got to know who your Shepherd is.
Well, he's freaked out. He's scared--doesn't want to go through this valley. He's afraid about his wife so he says she's my sister, now it came to pass, we're not making very good time, are we? "It came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked through a window, and saw, and there was Isaac, showing endearment to Rebekah his wife." The King James says sporting with her. Flirting with her would be the idea. "Then Abimelech called Isaac and said, "Quite obviously she is your wife; so how could you say, 'She is my sister'?" Isaac said to him, "Uhhhhhhhhh…" "Because I said, 'Lest I die on account of her." And Abimelech said, "What is this you have done to us? One of the people might soon have lain with your wife, and you would have brought guilt on us." Now just a little historical note on the name Abimelech. The name Abimelech means 'my father is king.' Abimelech. My father is king. It is thought that that is either a family name, that is, it's obviously not the same Abimelech when Abraham was around. It's a different one. Or it's a dynastic name. It's either a throne name or a dynastic name; a throne name like Pharaoh or a dynastic name like the Herod family. You'd have several Herods, but they're all different people. So it's one of the relatives of the Abimelech with Abraham but a completely different person. Now what's sad in verse 11, let's finish off verse 11, "So Abimelech charged all his people, saying, "He who touches this man or his wife shall surely be put to death."
Boy it's a sad day when the world rebukes the believer. That's a very, very, very sad day when the testimony gets so low that the world is rebuking the believer. Jesus said let your light so shine among men that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Isaac isn't doing much of that these days. The irony of this story is that the pagan king of Gerar seems to have better morals than the man of God, the patriarch Isaac. This man of the world understands that men and women of God should be honest, faithful, have lives filled with integrity, and so here is the unbelieving king rebuking this man of God. It's sort of similar to the prophet Nathan after David sinned, you remember the story. 2 Samuel, when Nathan came in after David committed adultery with Bathsheba and said you are the man but then he said because you have done this thing you have given great occasion for the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme or literally, show utter contempt. You've given unbelievers fuel for them to mock the believer because you've done this, David. And I would say the same thing for this man Isaac.
"So Abimelech charged all his people," I read that, now, verse 12, "Then Isaac sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year a hundredfold," now again watch this, "and the Lord blessed him." I'm baffled! He blows it once, God says, I'm gonna bless you. Here's the promise of Abraham! He blows it again. God a hundredfold! Now it's one thing to get a hundred times what you expect in a harvest; it's another thing to get it in a place where it's a borderland, where you don't get very much moisture at all, it's arid, it's desert, and there's not much water. And obviously the blessing of God is upon him. "The man began to prosper, and continued prospering until he became very prosperous; for he had possessions of flocks and possessions of herds and a great number of servants. So the Philistines envied him." God blessed him once; God blessed him twice. God did not bless him because he was Mr. Wonderful but because He made a promise to Abraham. Now listen carefully. God doesn't bless you because you're Mr. or Mrs. Wonderful, though you might be a wonderful person, but that's not why He would ever bless you. God knows the truth about you and I. But He blesses you because of His wonderful Son, the Lord Jesus Christ and the covenant that has been made through His blood that allows us to become children of God. That's the reason. It's not our merits--it's His merit alone. Because of that covenant God has blessed us.
And you'll also notice that, verse 14, he had possessions of flocks, herds, great numbers of servants, so the Philistines envied him. So the material blessings proved to be a problem in and of themselves. Whenever you are blessed materially, you should just take it for granted that people around you will envy you. You shouldn't be blessed in their opinion. They should be blessed. And they're angry and envious because they are, they think, much better a person than you are. But God doesn't seem to be blessing them like He's blessing you and it ticks them off. They were envious. And so look what happens. "Now the Philistines had stopped up all the wells which his father's servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father," we read about that a few chapters ago. "And they filled them with earth. And Abimelech said to Isaac, "Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we." Then Isaac departed from there and pitched his tent in the Valley of Gerar, and dwelt there. And Isaac dug again the wells of water which they had dug in the days of Abraham his father, for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham. He called them by the names which his father had called them."
Now the rest of this chapter you could title it "Oh well" because it's all about wells, it's all about water. Ok sorry. Again, water was so precious because it was so scarce that whenever it would rain they sought to collect the water either in wells or in cisterns. It wasn't like the Tigris Euphrates river valley over in Iraq, Mesopotamia, where Abraham had come from and Rebekah grew up in. It wasn't like Egypt where Isaac wanted to go down to. So water was precious. In fact today some Bedouins would just as soon give you their milk that they milk from their goats than give you their water because water is more scarce and more precious. I was watching a special last night; I forget which channel, History Channel or National Geographic, about the Somalis and the Horn of Africa. The people in the Horn of Africa where water is scarce. Water is so scarce that there are armed militiamen, guys with guns, to protect water sources because others with guns will seek to steal the water source and divert it for themselves. So it's in those countries it's very tentative. Life is very harsh. Now the land, any land, can support life, but you have to dig down or you have to have an abundance of water. California is experiencing right now a huge water crisis. And I believe the world in the next several years will experience a huge water crisis because of the population. Now a long time ago there was a visionary named William Mulholland. He was an Irishman. And he decided, he thought that he would take Los Angeles Basin and plant things in it. I don't know if you've ever seen ancient pictures, or old pictures, of California. My Dad was a real-estate guy so he had all these aerial… California was a desert. Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, unless you plant something there it is a barren desert. But it's been called the Cadillac Desert because whatever you plant there thrives from the dew and if you divert water. So William Mulholland was brilliant. He took water from the Owens Valley 230 miles away and brought it into the Los Angeles Basin and that's why the population could be sustained because a man, years ago, had that kind of vision. But that vision can only last awhile. When you overpopulate an area, not enough water. Even with the Owens River Project. Ok, I'm getting off that has nothing to do with this. Let's see.
19: "Isaac's servants dug in the valley, and found a well of," notice, what? "Running water". Ok this is different; this is something that is bubbling up. It's always fresh. It's a unique source of water, like an Artesian well. "But the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac's herdsmen, saying, "The water is ours." So he called the name of the well Esek," which means contention, "because they quarreled with him. Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that one also. So he called its name Sitnah," which means opposition. "And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth," which means roominess or there's room for us, "because he said, "For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land." I see an interesting difference between Isaac's personality and his father Abraham's personality. If you will recall when there was a dispute in the same territory with Abraham between his herdsmen and the herdsmen of the Philistines, Abraham always got involved and would confront the people who were arguing to settle it. It's like, ok, look. You've got a beef with me? What? Tell me. And they would talk it out. He would confront it; he wouldn't avoid it. And they would deal with it. Isaac seems to want to avoid all confrontation. You want my well? Ok. Let me just name it first. And then there's another one. You want that one? Ok. Well let me just name that one. And then he goes on and goes, there's no argument. He just rolls over. So one was a contender--that's Abraham. One was a peacemaker. I'm not, I'm not saying it's bad. Both are good. We need the discernment from God to know which one to use at what time. The Bible does say in Romans chapter 12, as much as lies in you be at peace with all people, as much as is possible be at peace with all people. Amen. Now I'm glad it says as much as is possible. Sometimes it's not possible. You try but it's not possible. Here it was possible. He made peace and he moved on.
Verse 23: "Then he went up from there to Beersheba." Do you remember what that means? Well of the oath. Remember Abraham called that because of the oath that Abraham made with the people of the Philistine country? Well of the oath. This was the place Abraham lived for awhile and prospered. You might say this is home for Isaac. Here he goes down to Egypt, God stops him, he stays in Gerar, he stays there a long time, even plants a garden there, so he's there for awhile. Finally he goes back home and he's gonna build an altar to God there. Here's my question. What will it take to get you back home to Beersheba, to the place of worship, to the place of communion with God? It might take grief. It might take bitterness. It might take anxiety. It might take all sorts of things that are unpleasant. But if they drive you back home to God, they are blessings. He finally comes back to Beersheba. The well of the oath. "And the Lord appeared to him the same night and said, "I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham's sake." So he built an altar there and called on the name of the Lord, and he pitched his tent there; and there Isaac's servants dug a well." Then Abimelech came to him from Gerar with Ahuzzath, one of his friends, and Phichol the commander of his army. And Isaac said to them, "Why have you come to me, since you hate me and have sent me away from you?" But they said, "We have certainly seen that the Lord is with you. So we said, 'Let there now be an oath between us, between you and us; and let us make a covenant with you, that you will do us no harm, since we have not touched you, and since we have done nothing to you but good and have sent you away in peace. You are now the blessed of [Yahweh] the Lord.'" So he made them a feast, and they ate and drank. Then they arose early in the morning and swore an oath with one another; and Isaac sent them away, and they departed from him in peace." It came to pass the same day that Isaac's servants came and told him about the well which they had dug, and said to him, "We have found water." So he called it Shebah." Oath. "Therefore the name of the city is Beersheba to this day. When Esau was forty years old," Esau now that's the firstborn son of Isaac, we talked about him last week, we'll really go into depth with him and his brother next week because that is really the central issue of this story, "When Esau was forty years old, he took as wives," already that's a red flag. I know there was in that culture many wives sometimes but God did say originally in Genesis, for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife, singular, he marries two wives. Their names "Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite." So they're two Canaanite wives. And notice how it ends, the chapter: "And they were a grief of mind to Isaac and Rebekah."
There are some parents here that can relate to that. I'm not gonna ask you to nod your head of which. Others are blessed because the Lord brought into your child's life somebody really great who will care for them and love them. I am so blessed as such to have a wonderful daughter-in-law. But here they weren't so blessed because Abraham was the one that set the precedent. You remember in chapter 24 when he said to Eliezer his servant, 'Go from here, don't get any wife from here for my son Isaac. Go to my country, my relatives. Somebody who has a closer worldview than the one that we have here in Canaan.' But they were a grief of soul because they were not of the covenant, they were unbelievers. Whenever you get married, you bring the families and cultures and values along into the family that you're marrying. So as Warren Wiersbe says there was peace with his neighbors but there was war in his home. A grief of mind.
Chapter 26 could be viewed a couple of different ways. Number one, it could be viewed as a huge disappointment. What a disappointment to see Isaac not very noteworthy. The only thing he's really known for is two stupid things: running away in a famine and saying my wife isn't my wife, she's my sister, so he wouldn't die--not trusting God. A great disappointment. Now it is a disappointment if you view it horizontally, from the human perspective. But if you view it from the divine, that is, from the vertical, it's a great encouragement. It's a story not just of the faithlessness of Isaac but the faithfulness of God in blessing and reiterating promises to unfaithful Isaac. So just as faithful God faithfully promised to unfaithful Abraham, so faithful God does to unfaithful Isaac. It's a story of God's faithfulness. God's mercy. God's grace. That's why I love reading through the Scriptures. All of its heroes are flawed and the Bible points out those flaws, doesn't cover them up, doesn't spin it a certain way, tells us the truth. I had you turn to the very beginning to Exodus chapter 20, I think I'll have you turn there once again just to close off, to tie a bow on the evening, to notice something we quickly skipped over. In Exodus chapter 20 where God said He's a jealous God visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me. And there's where people stop and get hung up on that dumb thing called generational curses. And they neglect the very next verse: "But showing mercy to thousands to those who love Me and keep My commandments." I find it interesting that sin, according to God, would affect three or four generations but God's mercy would affect thousands of generations. I love God's math. It's great math. Whatever blessing your disobedience takes away from you, God's mercy is able to multiply back to you. Thousands it says. To those who keep My commandments.
You want a real legacy? You want something to pass on to your children and your children's children? You want to perpetuate a good cycle instead of an evil cycle? Have a covenant with the Living God. Walk with the Living God. And when you fall and you fail, you be honest about the faults and the failures and you tell your son or your daughter, 'Daddy blew it. That was wrong. God forgave him. Will you?' And you let that transparent honesty and that covenant reality guide you and your family. And whatever family you have come from, maybe you have been dealt like, you know, you are the adult child of a left-handed cigar smoking golfer or your parents were drug abusers or physical abusers or alcoholics, you have a heavenly Father now. He's perfect. Emulate Him. Follow Him. Let Him restore those three or four generations and give you thousands upon thousands of blessings. That's His math. I've watched Him do it.