Daily Distinctives, April 17, 2018 – Oh Well

Sometimes I think the men who wrote the Bible did it in such a way to trip me up and show me how little I really know. LOL. Just when I thought I was settled on something, I read further into the Bible and have to change my mind thinking. I am glad that the WORD of God is immutable because my mind surely isn’t. For instance, I have been wrestling with this idea of Abimelech and whether it was a title or a person’s name. I think the answer is “Yes.” From what I have surveyed so far, it would appear that Abraham’s first encounter with Abimelech was a man with the title Abimelech who possibly had the name Abimelech too? Not sure, but it would appear that the second meeting we see was with a different man. Now the reason I say this is because in our verses today we see Abimelech comes to Isaac, and this time he brings with him a character named Phicol. You will recall that this is the same name of the person that Abimelech brought to see and covenant with Abraham. So, my best guess would be that this Abimelech or king is the same king that comes to Isaac. If anyone has any thoughts on the subject please feel free to reach out to me for clarity.

And so coming to my devotional for today we run into a series of quarrels between Isaac and the Philistines over wells. And so if you wondered where I got the title for my devotional today, here you have it. I know I could have probably come up with a more fitting title, but as they say, “oh well.”

[Gen 26:15 NKJV] Now the Philistines had stopped up all the wells which his father’s servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father, and they had filled them with earth.

It would appear that Isaac, who we saw in the previous verses from my devotional yesterday, had done quite well for himself, or rather, the LORD had blessed him and multiplied his possessions and flocks. Now the livestock, like any other living creature had the need for water, and water, in these days, came from wells in the part of the land where Isaac dwelled. Abraham who had prospered in the land before Isaac had his servants dig wells, and now Isaac was reaping the blessings of having pre-dug wells. And he would have enjoyed the use of these wells had it not been for those pesky Philistines who filled up the wells with earth. To add to the troubles Isaac gets an eviction notice. Look at verse 16.

[Gen 26:16 NKJV] And Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we.”

As we saw in the last study, the Philistines saw that Isaac prospered and they envied him. It was out of envy, I believe, that Abimelech tells Isaac that he has to go. God had prospered Isaac to the point where he not only flourished in livestock but with servants. In those days the more servants you had the more soldiers you had. As Isaac grew and prospered, so did his own “army” of sorts.

[Gen 26:17 NKJV] Then Isaac departed from there and pitched his tent in the Valley of Gerar, and dwelt there.

So, Isaac packs up and he and his people move some distance away in the Valley of Gerar and pitch their tents there. This was no easy task. Having gone camping this last weekend with my family to the beautiful Huntsville State Park, I know what goes into camping. Getting everything packed up and loaded into the trunk of a sedan and loading up all the kids was a task in and of itself. Then there was the drive (I took my Harley so it wasn’t so bad on the cool spring morning) that took a couple hours mostly spent in Houston traffic. When we arrived at the campsite, I had to unload everything by myself and set up the camp by myself and then build a fire by myself (it is amazing how my kids forget how to function when they are not glued to an iPad). Then there was the “smores” challenge and the clean-up, and finally packing everything back up when we left the next morning. Quite a task, and we are only one family. Now imagine having a large number of people to move like Isaac, with no car and all of your worldly possessions. I know I wouldn’t want to be in his sandals.

[Gen 26:18 NKJV] And Isaac dug again the wells of water which they had dug in the days of Abraham his father, for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham. He called them by the names which his father had called them.

So, Isaac and his people dig up the wells again which Abraham’s servants had dug when Abraham was alive. Isaac commemorates them by naming them the same names that his father had named them previously. You will recall that the names of places and people at this time were important to remember historical events that took place at that location or important people who did extraordinary things.

[Gen 26:19 NKJV] Also Isaac’s servants dug in the valley, and found a well of running water there.

It would appear that they struck water. That high-quality H2O that was necessary for life. It was likely that they not only had the wells that Abraham had previously dug but they found new places to dig for water and scored. If you will recall, wells were kind of like deeds to a parcel of land. If you had a well, you were claiming the land that it sat on. But what made this well unique and quite the prize is that it tapped into an underwater spring of moving water. This would be far cleaner and ready to drink than a well that simply tapped into the water table below. It is no wonder why the herdsmen wanted it so badly.

[Gen 26:20 NKJV] But the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen, saying, “The water [is] ours.” So he called the name of the well Esek, because they quarreled with him.
[Gen 26:21 NKJV] Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that [one] also. So he called its name Sitnah.

And so the herdsmen of the area quarreled with Isaac over the wells that his servants had labored to dig. And in each instance, Isaac abandoned the well and names it. Now, the first well that he found he called Esek. This word means contention and was aptly named for the quarrelsome price at which the well came. The second well, he named Sitnah, which means opposition, and no doubt there was quite an opposition to Isaac being in the land competing for space and the water. While Isaac had amassed large numbers by this time he felt it in his best interest to move on than to go to war over a well. While costly and time-consuming to dig a well, Isaac though better to move along. And I think we can draw from this well of wisdom ourselves when it comes to contentions and opposition. As believers, it would do us “well” to choose our battles wisely. We read in Proverbs 22:10

Cast out the scoffer, and contention will leave;
Yes, strife and reproach will cease.

Sometimes it is not feasible to cast out the scoffer or the one who is causing trouble. In some cases, it is better to simply leave. The idea here is to put distance between the scoffer and yourself, sometimes this means that you have to be the one that leaves. Still, the end result is the same whether you cast out the scoffer or you separate yourself from them. The Bible tells us that contention, strife, and reproach will cease.

[Gen 26:22 NKJV] And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, because he said, “For now the LORD has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.”

And so Isaac moves again and digs another well. Apparently, this one was far enough away from the inhabitants of the land that he finally found a place where he was safe from quarrels. This well, Isaac names Rehoboth, which means, “roominess,” for he finally found space to breathe and grow without being upset by neighbors. Recently, my wife said that she thought perhaps we might consider moving our family into an apartment complex or town home (I am not sure what the difference is really) as it would cut down on the amount of space we have to manage and keep clean with three little ones who constantly make messes. Of course, my response was “no way” because I need Rehoboth. Having neighbors so close to me on either side is not ideal, but such is the life of a suburbanite I suppose. Give me a spread of land and a house on the side of a mountain and I think I would be as close to heaven on earth as possible.

[Gen 26:23 NKJV] Then he went up from there to Beersheba.

Now, I find it funny that the LORD chooses to use the contentions of his neighbors to essentially drive him back to the land where He caused Abraham to dwell. If you remember from one of my recent studies we talked about God commanding Isaac to go to the place in which He would determine for him to dwell. This was that place.

[Gen 26:24 NKJV] And the LORD appeared to him the same night and said, “I [am] the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I [am] with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham’s sake.”

Again, we see the LORD reiterating his promise to Isaac. I believe that the LORD did this on purpose in this particular place because it was a significant place and a reminder of the promise which He had promised Abraham.

[Gen 26:25 NKJV] So he built an altar there and called on the name of the LORD, and he pitched his tent there; and there Isaac’s servants dug a well.

You would think they would be tired of digging wells by now, right? But we see that Isaac builds an altar to the LORD and calls on His name and digs another well at that location. I think that Isaac had his servants dig another well in faith. You see, when God takes you out of one place and leads you to another it always seems like the water where He leads you is much sweeter than the water you had before. Of course, God does lead us into difficult situations too, but usually, this is for a far better purpose than we can imagine. But here, he digs a new well, and I have to believe that the water from this well was much sweeter than all of the others because Isaac was right where the LORD wanted him to be.

[Gen 26:26 NKJV] Then Abimelech came to him from Gerar with Ahuzzath, one of his friends, and Phichol the commander of his army.

Now, this is interesting. No matter where Isaac goes the LORD prospers him. This does not escape the notice of the king. And so just as he did when Abraham was alive, Abimelech comes with one of his friends and the commander of his army to strike up a covenant, this time with Isaac. Isn’t it funny how people want to be your friend when things are looking good for you and you are in the place where God wants you? That is what envy does. It causes people who would not have anything to do with you before to suddenly want to be your BFF.

[Gen 26:27 NKJV] And Isaac said to them, “Why have you come to me, since you hate me and have sent me away from you?”

Isaac doesn’t rebuke Abimelech like his father had, but he does call Abimelech to the mat and questions his sincerity. I suppose in a way this would serve as a rebuke because the facts are presented in such a way that they are undeniable by Abimelech. And so Abimelech has no choice but to come clean.

[Gen 26:28 NKJV] But they said, “We have certainly seen that the LORD is with you. So we said, ‘Let there now be an oath between us, between you and us; and let us make a covenant with you,
[Gen 26:29 NKJV] ‘that you will do us no harm, since we have not touched you, and since we have done nothing to you but good and have sent you away in peace. You [are] now the blessed of the LORD.’ ”
[Gen 26:30 NKJV] So he made them a feast, and they ate and drank.
[Gen 26:31 NKJV] Then they arose early in the morning and swore an oath with one another; and Isaac sent them away, and they departed from him in peace.

Now, I think that Isaac sets before us a good and godly principle that would do us well to take note of. It was certainly within Isaacs right to send Abimelech packing after he had shunned Isaac. He had the numbers now and would be a force to be reckoned with. But instead of doing what had been done to him, he blesses those who had previously persecuted and reviled him. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:44 that we should love our enemies, blessing those who curse us, doing good to those who hate us and praying for those who spitefully use and persecute us.

And so Isaac agrees to the covenant and prepares a feast for them to celebrate this peace treaty. In the next morning, he arose and makes an oath with Abimelech and they part ways. This was a smart move on Isaacs behalf for several reasons. First, he fulfilled a godly commandment that Jesus would one day command all of us, but he also secures peace in an otherwise hostile environment. But I think he also showed a good and godly testimony of how believers in the LORD should behave. Like his father, Isaac was a shrewd businessman, but in this case, he was also a godly businessman.

[Gen 26:32 NKJV] It came to pass the same day that Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well which they had dug, and said to him, “We have found water.”
[Gen 26:33 NKJV] So he called it Shebah. Therefore the name of the city [is] Beersheba to this day.

No sooner had the deal been struck, with the ink still wet on the deal, Isaac’s servant strike water again. Now I think it is interesting that he calls the name of the well Shebah. His father had dug a well and named it Shebah too. It may very well have been the very well that Abraham had dug so very well…well….seventy-five years or so before…lol. I am not sure but it wouldn’t surprise me at all. It must have been a significant find because a whole city is centered around it and we find the mention of the city in future passages.

Prayer: LORD, You do all things “well” (ahhh see what I did there). Thank You, LORD, for understanding me and my quirkiness. You have given me such joy in Your word. I have hidden it inside of me and treasure it above all things. Your word tells me to guard my heart with diligence for out of it springs life. It is like your WORD is a well, a fountain of living water from which I draw daily and it sustains me. Thank You, LORD for Your WORD. I praise You LORD for all that You are doing through Your WORD in my life. I look forward to seeing how it all unfolds. I pray that I am in Your will every day, and wherever I dig You will cause me to prosper. I love You LORD and praise Your name. It is in that name that I pray. –Amen

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