Thursday, August 13, 2009

Isaac in Gerar -- Genesis 26:1-6


Genesis 26:1-6: Now there was a famine in the land, besides the previous famine that had occurred in the days of Abraham. So Isaac went to Gerar, to Abimelech king of the Philistines. The LORD appeared to him and said, "Do not go down to Egypt; stay in the land of which I shall tell you. Sojourn in this land and I will be with you and bless you, for to you and to your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath which I swore to your father Abraham. I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws." So Isaac lived in Gerar.

In this section we read of a famine in the land where Isaac and his family lived. The Bible is very careful to point out that this had happened before in the times of Abraham partly to distinguish the current famine from that one and perhaps partly to set the stage for Isaac’s actions that were in some ways learned from his father’s experience. In Genesis 12:10 we read about Abraham going down to Egypt in order to escape the famine in his own country. Likewise, Isaac goes to Gerar. This is a lodging place or town south of Gaza. Gerar, a Philistine town, had been mentioned previously in Scripture. In Genesis 10:19 we learn that this was were the Canaanites settled, Canaan being the son of Ham who was the son of Noah. In Genesis 20:1 we learn of Abraham and Sarah lying to Abimelech, the king at Gerar, about their relationship.

So Isaac journeys there and the land is still ruled by an Abimelech. This title implying “father king” was a common title given to the kings of the Philistines over a considerable period of time. Thus we do not know for certain from this passage that his father had dealt with the same identical person although that is a real possibility. It was there that the Lord appears to Isaac and tells him not to go to Egypt but instead to remain in a place that God will tell him. And then God proceeds to tell him to stay in Gerar and that God would be there with him and bless him. In fact, God, for the first time, goes so far as to share His covenant to Abraham with Isaac, personally. He tells him that He will give all these lands to him and his descendants. God restates His promise to Abraham and tells Isaac that He’ll bring it about for him. He reiterates the details of the Covenant He made with Abraham.

But most importantly, God explains why He will do all this for Isaac and his descendants. God lays it out very clearly, “…because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws.” Perhaps the only word that may need some explaining is the word ‘charge’ or in Hebrew mishmereth, which is translated as guard, function, obligation, service, watch; a keeping or preserving; an office or ceremonial function (as in the priesthood).

It seems to me that this is the foundational formula for success in the life of any child of God’s. We are to obey Him, serve Him by looking after what He has entrusted to us, and keeping His commandments, statutes, and laws that are still applicable to us in accordance with the work accomplished by His Son, Jesus Christ. That is a pretty complete formula in that it entails all of what we are to do.

The section ends by simply telling us that Isaac dwelled in Gerar. He could count on God to “establish” His oath that was made with his father. What a joy that must have been to realize that God’s favor on one’s life is partially due to the relationship that one’s father had with God. What an incentive that is for us who are parents as we live our lives today. The very thought of knowing that God may very well bless my daughters and son and my grandchildren partially on the basis of how well I obey Him, serve Him, and keep His commandments, is reason enough to do so. Finally, what a reason that provides for us to lead our children to a personal relationship with God in order that this blessing will continue in the generations that come after them. Besides our personal relationship with God, that is the greatest responsibility of any parent.

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