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Sunday, February 2, 2020

posted Feb 2, 2020, 7:23 PM by Site Administrator



Genesis 26:1-35

Key Verse 26:3


Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham.


First, "Stay in this land and I will bless you" (1-6)Look at verse 1 in chapter 26. "Now there was a famine in the land-besides the earlier famine of Abraham's time-and Isaac went to Abimelech king of the Philistines in Gerar." The famine means, in modern term, "lack of job opportunity," and as a result, suffering from the financial difficulty. Isaac's family was established by God and for God. We expect that everything would go very smooth with this family, and that they should be blessed. But instead, they were challenged even from the beginning of their marriage, and now after 20 years' struggle, they had the famine. When Abraham started his life of faith, God trained him through the famine also. It is interesting to notice that God trained both Abraham and Isaac through this financial difficulty. It is, probably, because the matter of financial security is the fundamental problem all mankind face, and through this very practical matter, God's people can learn the secret of relying on God. It is easy to say, "I believe in God," but it is not easy to trust in God in the practical matters like finance. It requires true faith in God. 


When the famine attacked the land, Isaac came to Gerar, modern day, Gaza strip, the gateway to Egypt. Like his father before him, Isaac calculated that going to Egypt was the best way to secure his life in such a difficult situation. He was going to leave the promised land because of practical difficulty. But God intervened into the situation. Look at verses 2 and 3. Let's read these verses together:


2The LORD appeared to Isaac and said, "Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. 3Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. 


God told him not to go down to Egypt. Instead, God asked him to stay in Canaan, promising him that, if he stayed there despite the famine, God would be with him and bless him. God offered Isaac his deal, his covenant. Isaac grew up in a believing environment, attending worship service with his father Abraham, learning of God from him; actually, he was a man of prayer. Yet, it did not mean that he was automatically God's covenant person. Instead, becoming God's covenant person is a personal matter; it is not conceptual but real. If Isaac accepted that offer by doing what God asked him to do, then, he would enter into a binding contract relationship with God - God would be his God, and he would be God's covenant person. My children grew up in a believing environment; in that sense, they were blessed; from their birth; they studied the Bible, attended worship service and served God's work through music and dance. Yet, it does not mean that they are automatically God's covenant people. When God offers them his deal, when God makes clear in their hearts what He wants them to do, when God's word touches their hearts, when God's love becomes clear in their eyes, they must respond to God personally and enter into a real binding contract relationship with God by doing what God wants them to do. 


What was the terms and conditions of this covenant offered to Isaac? God said to him, "Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and bless you." For Abraham, the condition God asked him to fulfill was to leave his country, his people and his father's household and go to the land God had planned for him - God's promised land. Now, since Isaac was already living in the promised land, the only condition God asked him to do was to stay in the promised land no matter what. Right now, in the promised land, there was an economic crisis; Isaac had difficulty to find a job; he had difficulty to support his family; he got eviction letters from his landlord; he could not afford his sons' baby sitting fee. Yet, he had to stay there if he wanted to live as God's covenant person - the only condition he had to fulfill. What if he really did not like the people around him? Yet, still he had to stay there. What if he really liked the lifestyle and culture and music and even weather in Egypt? Or what if his business partner invited him to come down to Egypt? No matter what, he had to stay in the promised land; he must not leave the promised land no matter what - that was the only condition God asked him.


Entering into a binding contract relationship with God is not conceptual; it is not like doing religious things all the time either. Instead, there is a specific thing God wants people to do,even where to live, and by doing so, they become God's covenant people. If you are not in the promised land yet, God asks you to leave that old life and start a new life in the promised land as God's covenant people. Now as you live in the promised land, then, God wants you to stay there continually - this is God's calling, this is God's mission assignment. As you stay there, you may have many challenges, difficulties and temptations such as job matter or financial matter as Isaac had, or someone who seems very desirable for marriage shows interest in you. For me, the most difficult one was conflict with other coworker in the church. Should we leave the promised land and go to Egypt only because of those difficulties and challenges? What will you say in heaven, when he asks you, "Did you do what I commanded you to do?" Should we say, "I wanted, but because of that person, I could not," or "I wanted, but because of that difficulty, I could not." In this covenant relationship with God, everything, eventually isbetween God and each of us. In this covenant relationship, even our father or mother has no place; even our son or daughter, even Ishmael or Isaac has no place; even our husband or wife has no place; even life or death has no place. Eventually, it is whether I obeyed him or not, whether I stayed in the place he called me or not. Jesus says, "He who has my commands and obeys them is the one who loves me." What God wants you to do is to stay in the promised land, the very place God has guided you for his own plan and purpose. It is the place where you experienced God's grace, the very place where you were healed of your wounds and scars - that's why the apostle Paul says, "Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship" - two things "grace and apostleship" at the same time. It is the place specially designed and prepared for you to grow up in Jesus for God's good and wonderful plan for you. This is what God's calling is about. God's covenant is very personal, and it is very real: There is a specific place, specific mission, and we must hold onto it absolutely by staying there no matter what, so that God's plan for us may be done in our life. Thus, in our Christian life, we have a clear direction, that is, to obey God's will by staying in the place God called us to be - that becomes Christians' real struggle, no longer hitting into the air, no longer just doing all kinds of religious things here and there, even attending 3 churches, or no longer trying to be nice to others,... The apostle Peter says, "Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall,  11  and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.(2Pe 1:10-11)  


God gave Isaac his promise of blessings that would be fulfilled in his life, if he obeyed God's direction and stayed in the promised land. God's promises had three parts and they are progressive. The first promise was, "I will be with you." If Isaac stayed in the promised land, God would not leave him alone, but be with him, meaning that He would take care of him, protecting him from dangers and providing him with what he needed. So, Isaac didn't need to worry about being a loser in the promised land or dying for starvation. God would be with him and take care of him. The next promise was, "I will bless you."This meant that, if Isaac stayed in the promised land in obedience to God's command, he would not just barely survive by God's help. No, instead, God would bless him so that he would be prosperous and successful in his career, in his business, and in his family life. He would live a blessed, fruitful and successful life. Then, lastly, God would fulfill his covenant promises in regard to the land, his children and bringing his blessing to all peoples on earth through his offspring. 


This is how God treats anyone who honors him by obeying his command and remaining in God's calling - He will be with them, bless them, and fulfill His covenant vision for them.When God is with you in your day to day life, blesses you in everything you do, at work, at home, in your career, in your business, and when God fulfills His great covenant visions upon your life, how will you be? You will be really happy and your life will be really fulfilling, and so many people will be blessed through you! Indeed, you will enjoy a successful life. This is what God promises us when we obey Him. His blessings are far better than a great dream job offer or a romantic marriage dream - don't be deceived by what the world promises - you never know when you will be fired; you never know when your business will go downhill, and even you never know how your family life will really go in the world when God's protection is removed. Only our God is trustworthy. Put your trust in God and obey His command; stay in the promised land, and God will be with you, bless you and fulfill his covenant vision for your life.


Look at verse 5. Let's read this verse together:


5because Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and my laws."


God wanted to bless Isaac. God wanted to pour out his blessing on Isaac. But God did not say, "Because you are a man of prayer," but he said, "because Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and my laws." God was so touched by Abraham's obedience that even if many years had passed, still, he was so happy whenever He thought about what Abraham had done for him. He still appreciated how Abraham had responded to his requirements, commands, decrees and laws. And out of appreciation, God wanted to pour out his blessing upon his son, Isaac. Our God is such a pure-hearted person that, if anyone loves him by obeying his command, he remembers that person for a thousand years and pours out his love and blessing on his or her descendants generation after generation. Don't you want to love this beautiful God? Don't you want to really please Him? Then, obey his command, even though it costs you a lot; keep his requirements, his commands, his decrees and his laws.


What was Isaac's response? Verse 6 reads: "So Isaac stayed in Gerar." Indeed, by faith, Isaac accepted God's covenant call, signed on the contract paper and became God's covenant person by obeying his command, by staying in the land God called him to live. Then, what about his job matter? What about supporting his family? He was determined that he would endure any related sufferings and pains; at the same time, he trusted that God would take care of him and bless him in the promised land. By faith, he stayed in Gerar.


Second, "Isaac became very rich" (7-13). Verses 7 through 13 describes what happened to Isaac as he stayed in Gerar in obedience to God's command. As he stayed in Gerar, he had two major challenges. One was his sense of insecurity. Now he was living among the Philistines in Gerar. They were war-like people; they were warriors with big muscles and tattoos all over their body. It was like living among gangsters. Isaac felt insecure. Especially, when some of them asked him about his wife's name, he was really freaked out. He thought that they would kill him so that they would take Rebekah. So, in order to protect his life, he said that Rebekah was his sister. Indeed, staying in the promised land was not easy. He was afraid; he was fearful. But trembling terribly, he still remained in the promised land; embracing such terrible fear, even the fear of death, he was struggling hard to obey God and do what God wanted him to do. Indeed, despite such fear and danger, Isaac was making his desperate struggle to obey God - indeed, he obeyed God wholeheartedly. 


When we think about Isaac's desperate struggle of obedience despite such fear and sense of insecurity, we are reminded of our own struggle of faith. We struggle hard to live by faith doing what God wants us to do. But certainly, it is not easy. Sometimes, due to our struggle to do God's work, our grade suffers terribly - how scared we are when we find D's in our report card; how scared and discouraged we are when we sense that our boss is going to fire us. We are scared thinking, "How can I pay the bills? How can I support my family?"Sometimes, with such great burdens and fear in our hearts, we still struggle to do God's work, fishing new students and teaching them the word of God. Indeed, we really desperately make all our efforts to love God and obey his commands. Many Christians who do not have this kind of real struggle, who do not live the life of obeying God's command, casually say, "I do everything God wants me to do." They are really blind. Despite such fear, despite such sense of insecurity, we still remain in the promised land, doing what God wants us to do today and tomorrow, rain or snow. Indeed, we make a desperate struggle to love God by obeying his command. That's what Christian life is about, struggling to live according to God's commands absolutely. But in this struggle, we are not alone. God promisesus that he will be with us when we stay in the promised land. When Isaac struggled to obey God that way despite such fear, God did not leave him alone. Instead, God was with him. One day, king Abimelech happened to see Isaac caressing Rebekah and realized that Rebekah was his wife. So, he called in Isaac, rebuked him, and declared his edict in regard to Isaac and Rebekah, saying, "Anyone who molests this man or his wife shall surely be put to death." Now Isaac and Rebekah were protected by king's order. Isaac must have been greatly comforted and encouraged at this. In this way, God protected and comforted Isaac as he struggled to obey God's command. As we struggle to  obey God despite challenges, from time to time, God comforts and strengthens us by showing his helping hands - suddenly our professors show favor to us, or our boss become friendly.


The other challenge Isaac had was, of course, the financial difficulty. He had no means to support his family in the land of famine. If it was for or by himself, he could just survive even on the street; but now he had his wife with two sons - he had to provide them with food. With such burden in his heart, he struggled hard to solve his financial problem. But nothing worked well. The passage says that he planted crops in the field. Genesis suggests that Abraham and Isaac were not farmers, but most likely shepherds. That's why whenever they became rich, the Bible did not say that they purchased a lot of fields for the crops, but it said that they came to have a lot of flocks and herds, menservants and maidservants. But this time, we see Isaac planting the crops in the field. What happened to all his flocks and herds? It seemed that he had used them all or sold them all to support his family. Now he was doing this - planting the crops in the field, willing to do anything to support his family, showing that he was really pushed to the limit financially and thereby, he was  desperate. He tried this - totally new area, new business, hoping that it would help him financially. Then, it turned out to be a great success - he reaped a hundredfold, because the LORD blessed him. And his wealth continued to grow until Isaac became very wealthy.  


The God of Isaac is the God who blesses us when we obey his commands. Many Christians believe that if they really dedicate themselves to God, they will be losers in the world. So, they are hesitant to make real commitment to God. So, even when they make commitment, still they try to keep a backdoor, for just in case; or while they put one foot in God's mission, they put the other foot in the world. It is indeed, their unbelief; it is their mistrust; and it is wickedness in God's eyes. Of course, God does not bless them; of course, God cannot use them for his work. Hebrews 11:6 says, "Without faith it is impossible to please God. For whoever comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."We must believe that God blesses us and that when we live for Him, He will bless us and grant us success. That's what I experienced, and that's what I have witnessed in the life of many servants of God. Put your trust in God and you will not be put to shame. You will be successful in your career building, in your family life, and in your mission life. God's blessing will be in your field, in your basket, on your bread, and on your sons and daughters. When you are victorious, we will shout for joy. The only thing we need to do is to earnestly seek him.


Modern generation is called the generation of commitment to non-commitment. People have an allergic reaction to the word, "commitment." Why? Fundamentally, it is because of the fear of losing everything. This is true even with many church-going people. They just want to enjoy good things of this church or that church, by putting one foot in God and the other in the world. But when they have to make true commitment, when they have to sacrifice, they calculate and run away. As a result, they are like single seeds that are never planted, but roll here and there on the ground. They never bear any good fruit. God commands us, "Do not go down to Egypt. Stay in this land, and I will be with you and bless you." God does not want us to live according to the ever changing situation, but according to his words. God does not want us to live by our calculation, but by faith in him. God wants us to trust in him, because he is going to bless us. "Stay in this land, and I will bless you."


Third, "Isaac's well-digging life" (14-35). Look at verses 14 through 16. Isaac became very wealthy. He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him. So all the wells that his father's servants had dug in the time of his father Abraham, the Philistines stopped up, filling them with earth. This cut off the water supply that all his crops and flocks and herds depended on; it was a blunt attack from the Philistines. In addition, Abimelech king of Gerar, told Isaac, "Move away from us; you have become too powerful for us."At this, Isaac did not fight for his human right, or for his material possession. Instead, without saying a word, he left the town and moved to the Valley of Gerar - no more city life, but like a nomad, camping in the Valley. But God was with him wherever he went, and God blessed him in everything he did.  Isaac first reopened the wells that his father Abraham had dug, which the Philistines had stopped up, and his servants even dug a newly discovered well of fresh water. But the shepherds there quarreled with Isaac's herdsmen claiming that the water was theirs. Wells in those days in the Middle East were very essential for people, animals, and crops – very important and valuable assets like modern day oil wells. Isaac could have hired a dream team of lawyers and fought for his rights. But how did he respond? He simply gave in. He simply named this well Esek, which means dispute, and moved on. Then they dug another well, but the same thing happened; the Philistines demanded that too. So Isaac, again, gave in. He named this one Sitnah, which means opposition. He moved on a third time and dug another well, which no one quarreled over. He named this well Rehoboth, which means room, saying, "Now the LORD has given us room and we will flourish in the land."

When Isaac was treated unjustly, He did not fight for his rights. And when he encountered opposition time after time, he humbly gave in without a word. If he fought for his rights, there might be a lot of quarrels and strife, or it could turn out bloody. But because he gave in time after time, everything was smooth, and everybody was blessed. How could he do that? How could he give up such important and valuable assets that were like modern day oil wells or newly launched fortune 100 business? He could do so because he believed in the God who would blesshim when he stayed in the promised land. Because of his belief in God, he did not need to fight to secure those blessings. Instead, when he was pushed to the right, he gave in and there he dug a well, and when he was pushed to the left, he gave in again, and there he dug another well. And wherever he moved to, a spring of fresh water would well up, which watered all his household, flocks and herds. He was a blessing to everybody around him, wherever he went. When Isaac obeyed God's command and stayed in the land despite such difficulties, God poured out his blessing on whatever he did, and made him a source of blessing. 


Look at verses 23 through 25. When Isaac came up to Beersheba, God appeared to him and said, "I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham." Even though Isaac gave in, willing to lose his wells over and over, when it happened repeatedly, he felt weary, maybe, worrying about how long things should go that way; he was even afraid that, as the Philistines forcefully claimed the ownership of the wells he had dug, one day, they might harm himGod knew this very well and assured that He was with him, protecting him, and that He would bless him. This shows that God did not take Isaac's good struggle for granted; instead, He recognized it and encouraged him to do so continually. Our God knows what we have been doing for Him; our God appreciates it. What is more, while we perform well in spirit, God understands the difficulty we have and comforts us. Praise God!


At this, Isaac was so happy and thankful that he built an altar there and called on the name of the LORD. Now his spirit was renewed. With a new spirit, there, he dug another well. One day, Abimelech came to him, with his two of high officials, and said, "We saw clearly that the LORD was with you; so we said, 'There ought to be a sworn agreement between us'—between us and you. Let us make a treaty." Isaac then made a feast for them and early the next morning they swore an oath to each other. Through being willing to suffer loss, through giving in, Isaac witnessed to godless and unbelieving men, the fact that God is a living God and showed himself to be a child of God. He won the victory by giving in time after time. When he had such a good spirit, his servants came and said to him, "We have found water!"


Isaac's life can be summarized with two things - giving in and digging the wells. He did not fight for the material possession, but gave in over and over. That's how he bore God's blessing - he did not cling to God's blessings, but he held onto God who would bless him. Through this struggle, he won the victory. And by digging wells, he brought great joy to many, including animals, the Philistines, and his family members. Wherever he went, he dug wells and quenched the thirst of many. In this way, by digging wells, he became a source of blessing for many.   


About 16 years ago, God sent me to El Camino College, and there, I dug a well, and many quenched their thirst and became happy; there was great joy. Later, we sent John Boos to CSULB, and there, he dug another well, and many people were overjoyed and grew up as beautiful children of God. It is our prayer and vision that wherever we go, there we may dig wells in each and every campus in California so that all Californian college students may taste the living water and rejoice in Jesus Christ. When we are refreshed, then, with a new spirit, we dig wells. When we are discouraged and depressed, we have nothing else to do, but we go and dig wells. Not just barely one or two wells, but numerous wells, everywhere, here and there, in every campus. In the book of Amos, the Sovereign LORD declares: "The days are coming when I will send a famine through the land-- not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD." Let's pray that we may dig the well of God's word so that many thirsty college students may quench their thirst through our one to one Bible studies. Those who dig the spring of living water in the word of God become a source of blessing for all people.   


The God of Isaac is the God who blesses those who trust and obey Him. By faith, Isaac obeyed God, stayed in the land, and so lived a truly blessed life. Those who trust in the God of Isaac, the God of blessing, give their whole life to God's purpose, and they stay in the promised land. Through them, God's blessing flows to many people.


One Word:God Says, "Stay In This Land, And I Will Be With You And Bless You."