Written by Rev. Zheng translated by Ho Jia Ming 31 May 2020
The boy Jesus said to his parents, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” or “I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49). To be at home here means to concern yourself with your household. In the Life Bible Study this month, we have come together to learn to lead our family to live in unity, to fill our home with God’s love and to make our home a testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ during the Circuit Breaker period.
Our God is the “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”. Isaac was born to Abraham and Sarah after she had passed the age of childbearing. Clearly, he was a blessing from God.
Abraham had another son, Ishmael, who was 14 years older than Isaac. Ishmael was born to Abraham and Hagai, Sarah’s maidservant. However, God called Isaac Abraham’s “only son”:
Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” (Gen 22:2)
Evidently, God had a special plan for Isaac. He was the son which God had promised Abraham in His Covenant. At the same time, God used Isaac as a foreshadow of Christ.
In contrast to Abraham and Jacob, Isaac seemed to be ordinary in his faith and merits. However, reading the Bible carefully reveals that within Isaac’s ordinariness lay an extraordinary quality of character. Today we will look at how Isaac, under the oppression by the Philistines, displayed the character of “giving way” four consecutive times in Genesis 26:12-25.
Give Way #1
12 Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the Lord blessed him. 13 The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. 14 He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him. 15 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.
At that time, Isaac was living in the Philistine city of Gerar because the king of Gerar had amicable relations with Abraham. Gerar was a flourishing Philistine city located about 27km away from Beersheba.
Isaac was originally living in a southern region, Beer Lahai Roi. Due to a famine, he moved northwards to Gerar and stayed there according to the instruction of God (v1, 6). Abraham and the king of Gerar had previously signed a peace treaty at Beersheba, and Abraham himself had also stayed in Gerar for a period of time before (21:34). As such, the people of Gerar could accept Isaac staying with them. God blessed Isaac and he became rich, wealthy and had many livestock, and he became one of the richest people in Gerar. Isaac’s fortune made the Philistines jealous. Jealousy is evil and if left unchecked, will lead to evil deeds.
We as children of God must not let envy stay in our hearts. Once we find it budded, get rid of it with its roots immediately.
The people of Gerar intentionally filled all of Abraham’s wells with earth. This was in fact extremely provocative as the source of water was critical to everyone regardless of their profession. They did those things to drive Isaac away. How did Isaac respond? He gave way. He did not fight for his rights. He just quietly bore with it.
Giving Way #2
16 Then Abimelek said to Isaac, “Move away from us; you have become too powerful for us.”
Isaac’s giving way did not take away the hostility of the people of Gerar. The King of Gerar had to request for Isaac to leave directly. Their jealousy made them see Isaac’s wealth as a threat to them, rather than the blessings from God that his wealth had brought to Gerar.
Be careful! Jealousy can cause us to chase God’s blessings out of our lives!
How did Isaac respond?
17 So Isaac moved away from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar, where he settled. 18 Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them. 19 Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and discovered a well of fresh water there.
Brothers and sisters do you still remember that Abraham had an army which defeated the four kings of Canaan. It is clear that Isaac had enough military might to fight for his justice. However, he did not use it. Rather, he gave way again and brought his family and possessions out of Gerar into the Valley of Gerar and settled there (v. 17). Abraham had dug up wells there in the past, and Isaac dug them out once more. He still remembered the names of those wells, and he gave them the same name. This signifies that the wells belong to the family of Abraham. This was the second time Isaac gave way to the Philistinians.
Giving Way #3
20 But the herders of Gerar quarreled with those of Isaac and said, “The water is ours!” So he named the well Esek, because they disputed with him.
The jealousy of the people of Gerar did not go away even after Isaac had left Gerar. The herders of Gerar were herding at the Valley of Gerar as well. Every time Isaac’s servants dug up a well, the herders of Gerar would quarrel over it. Wells with freshwater was an incredibly valuable resource as there was a never-ending supply of water, allowing people to settle there for a long time.
If it were us in Isaac’s shoes, we would definitely not swallow this down. How did Isaac respond to the unreasonable dispute?
Isaac gave way. He refused to quarrel, but named the well Esek, which means ‘dispute’. Then, he left the well to them and left to find another place to dig his own wells. This was the third time Isaac gave way to them.
Dear brothers and sisters, do not fight for your own rights. It is better to give way and wait on the LORD’s wrath, “for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the LORD.” (Romans 12:19)
Giving Way #4
21 Then they dug another well, but they quarreled over that one also; so he named it Sitnah.
Isaac dug another well, but the people of Gerar came and quarreled over it again. We would surely think that there was no reason to give in to them anymore. How did Isaac respond?
He named the well Sitnah, which means ‘opposition’, indicating that the intensity of the quarrel had escalated. Even so, he persisted not to quarrel, he gave way. Then, he left the well to them and left to find another place to dig his own wells. This was Isaac’s fourth giving way.
22 He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarrelled over it. He named it Rehoboth, saying, “Now the Lord has given us room and we will flourish in the land.”
Isaac dug another well. This time, the people of Gerar did not come to claim it. Why? Because by now Isaac was very far away from Gerar.
Archaeologists had dug up an ancient city to the south of Beersheba whose name sounded very similar to Reheboth, ‘Rohebeh’. Outside the city, they dug up a large ancient well which was 12 feet wide in diameter, called Bir Rohebeh. This well was approximately 65km away from Gerar.
Just as Isaac had named the well Rohebeth means ‘room’. Isaac was finally free from the disturbance by the people of Gerar.
Christ’s Giving Way
Giving way was also God’s way of handling things. God kills out of judgment and not dispute. When Herod tried to kill baby Jesus out of envy, God did not fight against him directly. Rather, He brought Jesus to Egypt.
The Son of God was the same. He took every single step according to the timing of God. If it was not yet the time appointed by God, he would not confront the hostile provocation of the Jewish religious leaders nor concede to the chants of the people to crown Him as King no matter how passionate they were. Christ gave way often and avoided unnecessary disputes, focusing His efforts on spreading the word of God’s Kingdom. “He will not quarrel or cry aloud.” (Matthew 12:19 ESV)
Saints Ought to Give Way
As children of God, we ought to be like our heavenly Father and Jesus the Son of God to not only avoid starting disputes, but to give way whenever we can in the face of quarrels, seeking to ‘live at peace with everyone’ (Romans 12:18). The Bible has many teachings regarding this:
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)
To slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone. (Titus 3:2)
Not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. (1 Timothy 3:3)
How do we find the strength to give way?
The pushing force behind giving way is a person’s meekness and gentleness, just like Christ. If you have a heart of gentleness, not only will you not quarrel with those who oppress you, you will even pray earnestly for them who are about to receive the LORD’s wrath!
The pulling force of giving way is in trusting that God has a more beautiful plan for us. Take a look at Isaac:
23 From there he went up to Beersheba. 24 That night the Lord 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.” 25 Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the Lord. There he pitched his tent, and there his servants dug a well.
Isaac gave way four times consecutively, till the point where he had ended up in the divine bosom, full of blessings and promises!
Dear brothers and sisters, when you give way repeatedly, you will eventually end up in the embrace of our LORD! God did not instruct us to give way so that we would lose out. Rather, He wants us to enter His embrace of rest and blessings. We understand now: Giving way is not a sign of weakness, but strength. It is not retreating, but it is stepping up onto spiritual high ground. It will not make you small, but transforms you into a giant of faith. It will not make you lose out, but will bring you to a spacious and wide land. Since it is so, even if we need to give way seventy-seven times, we can always lay down our selfs and generously give way. Don’t you think so?
I invite you to join me in training to ‘Give Way’, to let the power of the gospel manifest through us.
Reflect on your squabbles, tensions, and quarrels with others during this period. How can you give way? Pray for yourself to learn how to give way.