Feb 8, 2007

The Lord Favors Isaac

Genesis 26:6–16

“Abimelech said to Isaac, ‘Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we’” (Gen. 26:16).

Moses usually arranges the Genesis account chronologically. Sometimes, however, he dischronologizes events to make a particular point. For example, we read of Abraham’s death (25:7–8) before the birth of Jacob and Esau (vv. 19–26a). But Abraham did not actually die until fifteen years after the birth of these twins when Isaac was sixty (v. 26b). Abraham was one hundred years old when Isaac was born, and he died at age 175 (21:5; see also 25:7). The events in this case were probably recorded out of sequence to emphasize Isaac and Jacob as those in whom God would move His plan forward.

In Genesis 26, Moses, for reasons unknown to us, probably does this again. It is hard to imagine Abimelech being deceived about Rebekah’s identity (v. 9) if her sons, showing her to be a mother and thus, married, were around when they lived in Gerar. Therefore, the events of Genesis 26 probably occurred before those of 25:19–28.

In any case, today’s passage confirms the Lord’s promise to Isaac and shows how a son may follow in the sinful footsteps of his father. God promised to be with Isaac in Gerar (26:3) and enabled him to dwell there securely for many years with great riches and blessings (vv. 8; 12–14). Yet like Abraham before him (chap. 20), this next-generation patriarch falls temporarily into fear and foolishly passes Rebekah off as his sister (vv. 6–8).

When God’s people make decisions from fear and not faith, they risk missing the fullness of His blessings. Fearing for Judah’s safety, King Hezekiah opened his treasury to Babylon in order to persuade them to align themselves with him against his enemies. Because he did not trust the Lord, God pledged to deliver these riches into the hands of others (2 Kings 20:12–21). Though believers cannot lose salvation, our fearful actions can jeopardize other covenant benefits.

Moreover, deception, whether or not it is motivated by fear, may put others at risk — just as Abimelech warns Isaac (Gen. 26:10–11). But as this story also shows us, God often intervenes to protect us and others when we make foolish choices, though we ought not take His rescue for granted.

Coram Deo

If you have made a foolish decision out of fear, know that God can redeem the situation for His glory if you repent and trust in Him. There is not one of us who will go through life without making at least one decision out of fear instead of faith. But just as the Lord used Isaac, an imperfect and timid disciple, so too will he use us even though we lack faith at times. Confess your fears to God and to others whom you trust so that your faith might be strengthened. For further study:

For Further Study