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Saturday, May 16, 2020

2020.05.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 26:1–11

Questions from the Scripture text: What happened in the land (Genesis 26:1)? When had this happened before? Where (to whom) did Isaac go? Who appeared to him in Genesis 26:2? What did He have to tell him not to do? What did He tell him to do (Genesis 26:3)? Whom does Yahweh say will be with Isaac? What does He say He will give to Isaac’s descendants? What does He say He will perform? What else will Yahweh do to Isaac’s descendants (Genesis 26:4)? What will He give them? What would happen in one of his seed? What reason does Yahweh give in Genesis 26:5 for making such promises? Where id Isaac dwell (Genesis 26:6)? Who ask about whom in Genesis 26:7? What does Isaac say? Why? How much time passes before his lie is exposed (Genesis 26:8)? Who sees him “Isaacing” Rebekah? What does Abimelech ask in Genesis 26:9? What reason does Isaac give? What does Abimelech say that Isaac might have done to them (Genesis 26:10)?
Our growth in grace comes in fits and starts, and sometimes with surprising backslidings, but God mercifully persists with us.

Even after God has graciously grown us for a time, we sometimes show a shocking capacity for reverting. We would expect Genesis 26:1 to say, “there was a famine in the land, and Isaac prayed to Yahweh.”

This is what we have seen him doing before. We meet him in the evening, and he is in the field meditating before God. For twenty years his wife is barren, and he pleads with Yahweh for her, and Yahweh grants his plea. So, when there is a famine in the land, we expect to Isaac take his hunger and doubt and uncertainty to the King of kings—not Abimelech king of the Philistines in Gerar.

In fact, from Yahweh’s opening line in Genesis 26:2, it seems that Isaac was even inclined to go further, down to Egypt. And even when he stays in the land (Genesis 26:3aGenesis 26:6a), because Yahweh mercifully accommodates him in telling him to do so (Genesis 26:2c), Isaac still operates out of fear. Perhaps he is concerned that, having fathered Jacob, his usefulness had expired. But, after the grand promises in Genesis 26:3-4, it is a deep disappointment to read in Genesis 26:6, “for he was afraid.”

Surely, Isaac knew the history of how Abraham had wound up receiving a mortifying rebuke from Pharaoh. Maybe Isaac remembered that Yahweh came to Abimelech’s ancestor in a vision and announcing, “You are a dead man.” Certainly, Abimelech seems to be concerned about having such an interview with the Lord (cf. end of Genesis 26:10).

Whatever he remembered or didn’t, Isaac had come to the wrong conclusion. Not only was he wrongly afraid of Abimelech, but he failed to fear Yahweh. He seems to have been wrong on both counts. Abimelech cares about being guilty before God (verse 10), and charges his people to treat them properly (Genesis 26:11). And, whether the Lord prevented the Philistines by fear or mere providence (cf. Genesis 20:6), after they had been there “a long time” (Genesis 26:8), and still no one had taken Rebekah.

Eventually, Isaac is himself with his wife; verse 8 literally says that Isaac was “Isaacing” Rebekah his wife. Because his name means laughter, some translations say he was “laughing” with her. The jig is up, and his lie is exposed. But by God’s mercy, even Abimelech is merciful, and Isaac is spared. May the Lord grant that fear of Him would drive out from us fear of man, and that even if we do backslide, He would be merciful to us and grant that others too would be merciful to us.
What are you currently tempted to fear? How might you sin, if that fear overcomes fear of God?
Suggested songs: ARP56B “You Have Recorded All My Ways” or TPH2B “Why Do Heathen Nations Rage?”

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