Isaac is faced with difficulty; a famine in the land. This isn’t an unheard of thing, even in the land of plenty. During the last famine we saw Abram going to Egypt to wait it out. But God tells Isaac NOT to follow his example.
It’s strange. I have read my bible all the way through at least once but I didn’t remember this story or even the next one. I wonder why I didn’t take note of these stories. Whatever the reason, we will take notice of this one today.
I have often thought about Isaac and the story of his near sacrifice and wondered what long lasting impact it had on him. I wondered if he was angry with his father for not choosing his life above God. I considered it the event made him closer to God or more distant. Our story today leads me to believe that his relationship with God, even following his time on the altar, was strong.
Our story certainly takes place after Abraham’s death and burial. We don’t really know how old Esau and Jacob are but I’m guessing they are in adolescence to early adulthood. The family lives comfortably as Isaac inherited all of Abraham’s property. But this famine has put a strain on the people of the camp and even the herds of Isaac. Something has to be done.
Isaac moves his camp to Gerar where Abimelech ruled. This isn’t our first time meeting Abimelech as Abraham had interactions with him on occasion. Did Isaac know him from his youth? Did Abimelech remember Isaac? What kind of relationship did they have, if any? We will see more of their “relationship” in our next story. For today, we find Isaac settling near Abimelech’s kingdom to wait out the famine.
Our “why” he settled there though is of utmost importance. We don’t know what was in Isaac’s heart to do when he went to Gerar. Was he planning on going further? Was he planning on stopping here? Whatever his original plan, he chose to stay instead of journeying on.
God spoke directly to Isaac and told him not to go to Egypt. That was where Abram had gone during the previous famine and where Jacob would go during a future famine. But the timing wasn’t right yet. God was still imprinting this land onto the hearts of His chosen people. Isaac needed to be connected to this land as his father was. Isaac needed a personal promise from God.
Have you ever heard the saying, “God of my fathers”? Thinking about it just now I was struck by its multiple possible meanings. On meaning would refer to a legacy of believers. “My father knew God and he shared his faith with me and I too have a relationship with that same God.” This is an awesome legacy to leave your children with. Faith caught, by watching it lived out every day. A second meaning would be reaching back for something that was different between then and now. “I remember how ‘grandpa’ used to talk about his God. I wish I had that kind of faith/relationship in my life.” The last meaning that springs to my mind is the saddest one; where the younger generation totally rejects what the older one had. “Grandpa was crazy. I don’t need his ‘God’ in my life. I’m doing just fine on my own.”
Isaac’s relationship with the God of his father was the taught and caught kind. He had grown up at Abraham’s knee hearing the stories of God’s provision, including the incredible story of his own birth. Isaac knew the God of his father. And that same God gave him directions. He didn’t have to say, “Who are You?” Isaac recognized God speaking right away. And he obeyed. (We will see what else he “caught” in tomorrow’s story.)
Isaac trusted God to care for his family. He chose to obey Him, even in the face of the famine. The promise God gave Isaac concerning the land was based on Abraham’s relationship with Him. It was founded on that relationship but its fulfillment also required Isaac’s “buying into” that promise. Isaac could have “crimped the hose” the promise flowed through by not listening to God’s directions. But I don’t believe he could have negated that promise completely. God will ALWAYS find a way for His plan to come through. I have a feeling that Isaac’s decision to obey was based on his recognition of that. He had heard the stories of “helping God” and the disasters that came as well as the stories of following His will and the glory that resulted. Wise decision to be on the right side of the blessing!
Thank You Father for being the God of my father and mother. I’m so glad I met You through them. Thank You even more though for being MY God too. I pray that my children will return to the God of their mother. I know I didn’t always present the best example but I trust You with their lives in spite of my shortcomings.
Thank You for bringing Your stories alive for me. I don’t know how I read over the top of them before. I look forward to discovering more “new” stories with You.