Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Letting Go and Starting All Over -- Genesis 26:18-22

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. But when Isaac's servants dug in the valley and found there a well of flowing water, the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with the herdsmen of Isaac, saying, "The water is ours!" So he named the well Esek, because they contended with him. Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over it too, so he named it Sitnah. He moved away from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it; so he named it Rehoboth, for he said, "At last the LORD has made room for us, and we will be fruitful in the land."

In his new location, Isaac found the wells that had been dug when his father Abraham inhabited the area. After Abraham had died, the Philistines had made them non-functional, likely by filling them in. Perhaps this was for purposes of safety or in order to save the underground water allowing it to flow more readily towards their own wells. Isaac’s servants dug the wells again and he named them by the same names that his father had used. What an act of respect and honor to his father’s memory and to the family history.

My wife and I, along with my second daughter, her husband, and three children just moved in to our new combined house on the very property where my father and mother’s home was built in 1953. Almost fifty-six years later, I find myself looking out on views I used to see when I was five years old. I can still picture in my mind my father and mother working around the house and in their huge vegetable garden. I can see my father climbing the fruit trees to prune them. I can see my mother hanging out the washed clothes to dry (something we would not think of doing with today’s modern clothes dryers). As a family, we are doing what we can to keep the memory of my parents alive for us their children, and for their grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Isaac was doing likewise.

So Isaac’s men are digging out the old wells and perhaps some new ones. In the process, they find a strong-flowing artesian well. The well’s potential was soon realized by the herdsmen of the area and they fought with Isaac’s people for possession, claiming the well and its water as theirs. Because of this argument, Isaac names this well Esek, transliterated as Eseq in the Hebrew and translated to mean ‘contention’ in English.

Although the text at this very point does not say so, it appears from verse 22 that Isaac would rather ‘switch than fight’ and he had his men dig a second well, conceding the one named Esek over to the Philistine herdsmen. But they did not seem to be satisfied, arguing over the second well as well. As a result, Isaac calls this well Sitnah, translated from the Hebrew to mean ‘strife’.

There come times in our lives when we do experience both contention and strife even though we are doing what we believe is well within our understanding of what we can and are indeed to do as we follow and serve God. Unfortunately, others will not always see it that way, or even care about our desire to serve Him. So, contention and strife arises. Sometimes, it is necessary for us to do what Isaac did – to move away from the situation. Sometimes we need to put the quarreling behind us, let the issue go, and move on. Isaac moves away from that area of the valley and he starts all over again, digging yet another well. This is very similar to how his father Abraham dealt with the issue that arose between him and Lot. Abraham was always a peacemaker, not a compromiser. And Isaac followed that model. There were no quarrels over this third well. He named it Rehoboth (Rechobowth in Hebrew), meaning “wide places or streets”.

Isaac had finally got the desired freedom he had sought. God had finally made room for him and his household, providing him with a large expanse of land in which he could be successful. That should be the dream of every believer – not so much that we should own land necessarily, but that we should be free to succeed in our service and life for God. Admittedly, that can look very different for each of us. For some of our brothers and sisters, that could mean having great wealth and power and influence. For others, it could mean spending years in prison for their belief in God. What really matters is what we do with what God blesses us with.

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