One day a man called Abimelech, king of Gerar, all familiar names surely made a statement that should characterise every child of God. This is the story. Isaac, son of Abraham was instructed by God at a time of famine to settle in Gerar. There, God took care of him and prospered him; when their crops were failing, Isaac had a bumper harvest and his flock multiplied. Well, the people of the land became envious and he quickly became persona non grata. The powers that be proceeded to give him an expulsion order, the alien was to be deported. There was also the small matter of persistent efforts made to drive him to bankruptcy as the locals had stopped up his wells (dug by his father) and filled them with dirt; which meant no water for his livestock, and ensuing dehydration and death.
So he left. Yet his troubles were not over. He camped nearby in the valley, re-dug his father’s wells, dug new ones and right away the people were back claiming his well for themselves. He dug again, and yet they claimed it, then he moved away and dug again, this time they let him be. The two previous wells he called ‘Quarrel’ and ‘Hostility’, an apt description of the atmosphere in which he lived, the third, ‘open spaces’. In the midst of all the brouhaha, God spoke to Isaac and reiterated His promise. And he responded by worshipping. And he continued to prosper.
Then the tide turned, Abimelech and his aides came to see him to make peace and sign a treaty. What they said is telling. Isaac asked, and rightly so ‘why have you come to me, you hated me and sent me away’? and they said “We now know for certain that the LORD is with you, and we have decided there needs to be a peace treaty between you and us. So let’s make a solemn agreement Gen 26:29 not to harm each other. Remember, we have never hurt you, and when we sent you away, we let you go in peace. The LORD has truly blessed you.” Isaac feasted and feted them and they left with the treaty in their pocket, the erstwhile enemies had reconciled. Mark that ‘We have seen clearly that God is with you’. Hostility, quarrel, ostracism, that is not the end of the story, the testimony of the goodness of God is.
- Note that God had purposed to bless Isaac and he did even in the most unfavourable circumstance, in a time of famine. Those who owned the land, those who were favoured in the natural suffered crop failure, but the tenant farmer reaped a hundredfold. Natural circumstances, favourable or unfavourable, can be eclipsed by God’s favour. So when the economy is plummeting and everyone is crying disaster, resist the temptation to join the chorus, remember Isaac, stay where God has put you and expect Him to move on your behalf.
- Human opposition did not hinder God’s provision. God was distinctly unimpressed with their attitude towards Isaac and it did not affect His decision to do him good in the least. The bottom line is, your wellbeing does not hinge on anyone else coming to their senses but on you coming to your God. Your hopes cannot be frustrated nor your future darkened by other people’s foolishness, if you are faithful to God; He will set a table before you in the presence of your enemies. Just ask David. You could not get more hostile than Saul, he tried it all, murder, necromancy, treason charges, cross country manhunt; yet David survived and Saul’s own people eventually came to make him king.
- When God shows you grace, be gracious. Isaac did not choose to rub Abimelech’s face in the mud. He accepted his overtures with grace, honoured him and reached an agreement with him. I cannot help thinking that the later discovery of water, the very thing in which he had suffered at the hands of Abimelech’s people was God’s way of saying ‘good job lad’.
- God has an ‘Abimelech declaration’ day for his children. Many of us don’t get there because we give too much importance to the ineffectual jeering of men. We grant them too much power over our well being. For those who stay the course, there is always a day when those who have mocked, jeered, derided, criticized, persecuted, lampooned you, at least some of them, will have to acknowledge that ‘God is with you’. There is always a day when they will turn around and pretend that all that hostility never happened, we never meant you any harm, it was all for your own good. There is always a day when former scoffers ask you for prayer and call a truce. If you continue to encounter and to worship God as Isaac did, he will bring you to that day.