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There was a famine in the land
Here the first thing that suggests itself is the apparent contradiction of the promise given to Abraham, for instead of the land of abundance and rest Isaac found famine and unrest. Let us endeavour to understand that, and then we shall better understand this life of ours; for our life is to us a Canaan, a land of abundant promises, and especially so in youth. But we have not been long in this land of promise before we begin to discover that it falsifies itself, and then there arises in our mind the question that must have presented itself to Isaac, Has God broken His promise? We say God’s promise, because the promises of life are all permitted by Him. The expectation of happiness is God’s creation; the things which minister to happiness are scattered through the world by God. But if we look deeper into it we shall perceive that God does not deceive us. True it is, that Isaac was disappointed; he got no bread, but he did get perseverance. He did want comforts, but with this want came content--the habit of soul-communion with God. Which was best, bread or faith? Which was best, to have abundance or to have God? Tell us, then, had God broken His promise? Was He not giving a double blessing, far more than He promised? And so it is with us. Every famine of the soul has its corresponding blessing; for, in truth, our blessed hours are not those which seem so at first; and the hours of disappointment, which we are tempted to look upon as dark, are the ones in which we learn to possess our souls. If, in the worst trial earth has, there does not grow out of it an honour which could not else have been, a strength, a sanctity, an elevation; if we do not get new strength, or old strength restored, the fault is ours, not God’s. In truth, the blessed spots of earth are not those which at first sight seem so. The land of olive and vine is often the land of sensuality and indolence. Wealth accumulates and engenders sloth and the evils which follow in the train of luxury. The land of clouds and fogs and unkindly soil, which will not yield its fruit unless to hard toil, is the land of perseverance, manhood, domestic virtue, and stately and pure manners. Want of food and of the necessaries of life, I had well nigh said that these things are not an ill, when I see what they teach: I had well nigh said I do not pity the poor man. There are evils worse than famine. What is the real misfortune of life? Sin, or want of food? Sickness, or selfishness? And when I see Isaac gaining from his want of food the heart to bear up and bear right onward, I can understand that the land of famine may be the land of promise, and just because it is the land of famine.
2. And, secondly, we observe, respecting this famine, that the command given to Isaac differed from that given to Abraham and Jacob. Isaac evidently wished to go down to Egypt; but God forbade him (Genesis 26:2), although He permitted Abraham and commanded Jacob to go thither. The reason for this variety is to be found in the different character and circumstances of these men. In the New Testament we find the same adaptation of command to character. The man of warm feelings who came to Jesus was told “ that the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head.” When the man from whom the legion of devils was cast out besought Jesus that he might be with Him, he received a similar rebuff; but the man of lukewarmness, who wanted to return to bury his father and mother, was not permitted for an instant to go back. The reason of the difference is this--that the man of impetuosity and forwardness needed to be restrained, while the lingering and slow man needed some active measure to stir him forward. It is almost certain that Abraham, being a wise man and a man of faith, was permitted by God to judge for himself, and that Isaac was required to turn back that he might learn the duty of trust; and that Jacob was commanded to go forth in order to cure his love of the world, and to teach him that life is but a pilgrimage. Hence we arrive at a doctrine: duties vary according to differences of character. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
1. Fruitful lands are made barren for the sins of the inhabitants.
2. Multiplied famine God sends upon multiplied abominations.
3. In common judgments on nations God’s saints have special afflictions.
4. God provides a place of refreshing for His in times of straits.
5. Saints may avoid public judgments in the way which God shows them. In the day of such a public calamity they may retire from place of judgments, especially when God points them out places of safety. (G. Hughes, B. D.)
Unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father.
The covenant renewed to Isaac
I. IT WAS RENEWED TO HIM IN A TIME OF TRIAL. Divine help comes when all human efforts are exhausted.
II. IT WAS RENEWED TO HIM IN THE OLD TERMS, BUT RESTING ON NEW GROUNDS. Abraham was the beginning of the Church, and therefore God, in speaking to His servant whom He had called, rested upon His own Almightiness (Genesis 17:1). But the Church had already commenced a history in the time of Jacob. There was a past to fall back upon. There was an example to stimulate and encourage. There was some one in whom the power of God was manifested, and who had proved the truth of His Word. Therefore to Isaac God rests His promises on the ground of his father’s obedience. Thus the Lord would teach Isaac that His attributes are on the side of the saints; that they possess Him only so far as they are obedient; that he must not regard the promised blessings as a matter of course, to be given irrespective of conduct, but rather as, by their very terms, demanding obedience; and that the greatness of his people could only arise from that piety and practical trust in God of which Abraham was such an illustrious example (Genesis 26:5). But while obedience, as a general principle, was commended to Isaac, yet regard is had to duty as it is special and peculiar to the individual (Genesis 26:2). (T. H. Leale.)
The renewed covenant
Two things are observable in this solemn renewal of the covenant with Isaac.
1. The good things promised. The sum of these blessings is the land of Canaan, a numerous progeny, and, what is greatest of all, the Messiah, in whom the nations should be blessed. On these precious promises Isaac is to live. God provided him with bread in the day of famine; but he “lived not on bread only, but on the words which proceeded from the mouth of God.”
2. Their being given for Abraham’s sake. We are expressly informed in what manner this patriarch was accepted of God, namely, as “believing on Him who justifieth the ungodly”; and this accounts for the acceptance of his works. The most “spiritual sacrifices” being offered by a sinful creature, can no otherwise be acceptable to God than by Jesus Christ; for, as President Edwards justly remarks, “It does not consist with the honour of the majesty of the king of heaven and earth to accept of any thing from a condemned malefactor, condemned by the justice of his own holy law, till that condemnation be removed.” But a sinner being accepted as believing in Jesus, his works also are accepted for his sake, and become rewardable. It was in this way, and not of works, that Abraham’s obedience was honoured with so great a reward. To this may be added that every degree of Divine respect to the obedience of the patriarchs was, in fact, no other than respect to the obedience of Christ, in whom they believed, and through whom their obedience, like ours, became acceptable. The light of the moon which is derived from its looking, as it were, on the face of the sun, is no other than the light of the sun itself reflected. (A. Fuller.)
Charles Dickens, in those younger days which he spent in the town of Rochester, used sometimes, in his country walks, to pass a large house standing in its own grounds, called Cad’s Hill Place. It was his boyish dream that some day he would be a rich man, and when he became so that he would buy that house and make it his home. Castles in the air of this kind are not uncommon, and nay readers have doubtless indulged in many of them. But what is uncommon is their fulfilment. In Dickens’ case it actually came to pass. He not only grew rich, as many do, but he dwelt in his latter years, and at length died, at Cad’s Hill Place. I refer to this well-known incident merely to illustrate the difference between the hope of possessing something and the actual possession of it. In Dickens’ case, indeed, the feeling could scarcely be called a hope. It was but a wild dream. Nervy, in the Book of Genesis, we have before us the case of men whose eyes, day by day, beheld a domain which they hoped would one day be their home; who not merely beheld it, but actually dwelt in it--only not as owners, but merely as guests; and whose hopes were built, not on boyish imaginations, but on the promise of an almighty and faithful God. And yet they never came into possession l Of Abraham we are told, in Hebrews 11:1-40., that he “sojourned in the land of promise as in a strange country”; and of all the patriarchs, that they “died in faith “--still trusting--yet “not having received the promises.” In what way, then, were the promises fulfilled? As the progenitors of a people, the patriarchs were to obtain the fulfilment in their descendants, hundreds of years after. As individuals, they obtained it, not on earth, but in heaven. They “desired a better country, that is, an heavenly”; and they got it--something far beyond their most exalted anticipations. (E. Stock.)
He said, She is my sister: for he feared to say, She is my wife
Isaac’s false expedient
THE TEMPTATION COMES AFTER A TIME OF GREAT BLESSING. We are wise and happy if we can use the time of great blessing so as to gather strength for future trials.
II. HE DID NOT THRUST HIMSELF IN THE WAY OF TEMPTATION. He was in the way of Providence and duty.
III. HE REPEATED THE SIN OF HIS FATHER, BUT INCURRED GREATER GUILT,
IV. THE TREATMENT HE RECEIVED PLACES HEATHEN VIRTUE IN A FAVOURABLE LIGHT.
V. HIS DELIVERANCE SHOWS THAT GOD PROTECTS HIS SAINTS FROM THE EVILS WHICH THEY BRING UPON THEMSELVES. (T. H. Leale.)
Isaac’s temptation and sin
Isaac had generally lived in solitude; but now he is called into company, and company becomes a snare. “The men of the place asked him of his wife.” These questions excited his apprehensions, and put him upon measures for self-preservation that involved him in sin. Observe--
1. He did not sin by thrusting himself into the way of temptation; for he was necessitated, and directed of God, to go to Gerar. Even the calls of necessity and duty may, if we be not on our watch, prove ensnaring; and if so, what must these situations be in which we have no call to be found?
2. The temptation of Isaac is the same as that which had overcome his father, and that in two instances. This rendered his conduct the greater sin. The falls of them that have gone before us are so many rocks on which others have split; and the recording of them is like placing buoys over them, for the security of future mariners.
3. It was a temptation that arose from the beauty of Rebekah. There is a vanity which attaches to all earthly good. Beauty has often been a snare both to those who possess it and to others. (A. Fuller.)
Here we have--
I. A. sin COMMITTED. Cowardly fear led to it, and fear kept it up. There are three faults in Isaac’s character exposed by it--
3. Want of reliance on God.
II. A. sin DETECTED. Every sin will be some day found out.
III. A. sin REPROVED. Abimelech, although reproving Isaac, does so with great forbearance, and follows up his reproof with an act of great kindness. Learn:
1. Avoid deceit--“be sure your sin will find you out.”
2. Reprove sin with kindness; be merciful to those who err. (J. H. Smith.)
Isaac sowed . . . and the Lord blessed him
The prosperity of Isaac
In this narrative it is Isaac the prosperous man who comes to view.
Examine the sources and circumstances of his remarkable, unequalled prosperity.
I. ISAAC HAD A GOOD FATHER. Happy the son whose father was chosen partner with God in a divine covenant, and twice blessed the son whose father had this testimony that he pleased God in the fulfilment of such a covenant, Not only great favour rests upon the head of such a father, but the richest blessings are pledged to his posterity.
II. ISAAC HAD TRAITS OF HIS OWN TO WHICH HIS PROSPERITY WAS LARGELY INDEBTED. His very name indicates that he was “a son of laughter and joy.” True to his name, his nature was of the sunny and hopeful type. The value of this disposition in the successful conduct of life is simply incalculable. It is more than capital, for capital will perish. It is more than friends, for friends die. It is more than success, for it outlives success. When everything is gone, the man who has hope has all he needs. Thus Isaac went from well to well. He was envied at Gerar, and he moved to Esek. Esek was captured by the enemy. He hopefully journeyed to Sitnah, and dug again. But Sitnah was claimed. Should he give up now? No; all these choked wells were leading him to the broader valleys of Rehoboth, where was “room”--room for his still multiplying flocks and growing wealth.
III. The third secret of Isaac’s prosperity was HIS EXTREME PEACEABLENESS. The spirit of the beatitudes dwelt in this man more than in any other man of his times.
IV. But there remains a fourth and final element to be noticed in the prosperity of Isaac. I have said that he had a good father behind him, a brave heart within him, a good will to men about him; but he put the crown upon his success by owning and seeking THE FAVOUR OF GOD ABOVE HIM. (J. B. Clark.)
The prosperity of Isaac
I. HIS PROSPERITY WAS EVIDENTLY DUE TO THE DIVINE BLESSING. His prosperity was wonderful. “Thirty, sixty, and a hundred fold,” is the range of fertility in that land. Thus the yield of Isaac’s land reaches the highest degree of productiveness.
1. Such was the position of the sacred historian. He who relates this story, after describing the prosperity of this man, adds, “And the Lord blessed him” (Genesis 26:12).
2. It was evident to Isaac himself. His prosperity, the rest he enjoyed from his enemies, and room to enlarge in, he ascribed all to God (Genesis 26:22).
3. It was evident to his enemies. They were constrained to acknowledge that God was with him.
II. HIS PROSPERITY MADE HIM A MARK FOR ENVY. We are told that “the Philistines envied him.” His prosperity was not without alloy. Every blessing of this world is accompanied by some disadvantage or evil. We have to pay a price for every earthly good.
III. HIS PROSPERITY SERVED TO DEVELOP THE VIRTUES OF HIS CHARACTER. Bacon has said that “ Prosperity doth best discover vice, but adversity doth best discover virtue.” And human experience shows that such are the usual effects of “these conditions. But in the case of Isaac there were virtues that shined out in his prosperity.
1. The virtue of patience. The Philistines carried their envy into action. They stopped up the wells which he had inherited from his father (Genesis 26:15).
But he met all this envy by patience. When persecuted in one place he fled to another. He removed from well to well (Genesis 26:18-22).
(1) His patience was victorious. It won upon his enemies. The Philistines were at length wearied out. They came round, and asked for a treaty (Genesis 26:28-30).
(2) His patience won the Divine approval. The Lord appeared to him and renewed the old promises. He was assured of perpetual protection and guidance.
2. The virtue of forgiveness. He had suffered a grievous wrong, but he forgave it on the entreaty of Abimelech. This was not the easy virtue of a man who has no strong feelings and who is soon won over. It was principle, and not a weak feeling, that made him forgive.
3. The virtue of reverence. He set up an altar for the worship of God, and pitched his tent there as if he would dwell in the Lord’s house (Genesis 26:25). He bears a public testimony to the obligation of religion. Many a man forgets God with increasing prosperity, but it was not so with Isaac. With him it served to deepen the feeling of reverence and to strengthen every duty of piety. (T. H. Leale.)
I. ISAAC IN HIS BUSINESS RELATIONS.
1. He was active and enterprising (Genesis 26:12-13).
2. His industry and enterprise under the blessing of God resulted in immense wealth.
II. ISAAC IN SOCIETY.
1. As tried by society (Genesis 26:14; Genesis 26:16; Genesis 26:19-21).
2. His bearing under these trials.
(1) He bore envy and strife and hatred with perfect patience.
(2) He separated himself from those around him rather than contend with them.
(3) He recognized God’s hand in all (Genesis 26:22).
(4) This example of Isaac, both in business and in society, is worthy of all commendation and imitation.
III. ISAAC IN HIS RELIGIOUS LIFE.
1. He was honoured with personal communications from God (Genesis 26:24).
(1) This proves that his conduct was approved by God.
(2) This approval signified God’s encouragement to him in view of future trials.
2. Isaac evinced his appreciation of these Divine promises and privileges by a renewed consecration of himself to God (Genesis 26:25).
1. Prosperity is as real a test of faith as adversity.
2. The test of prosperity is more severe than that of adversity.
3. Peace has ever been the choice of true believers.
4. Such a choice has ever met with the Divine approval.
5. Let Isaac’s example be ours--in business, industrious and enterprizing; in society, peace-loving and yielding; in religion, ever prepared for communion with God, and ever yielding ourselves in consecration to God. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
I. ISAAC’S PATIENCE. An example of those who endure, instead of murmuring, rebelling, or despairing.
II. ISAAC’S PROTECTOR.
1. God directed Isaac.
2. God exhorted Isaac.
3. God encouraged Isaac.
III. ISAAC’S PROSPERITY.
1. “The man waxed great.” He grew very prosperous, and his prosperity was continuous.
2. “The Lord blessed him.” God’s blessing makes rich, whether it be in temporal or in spiritual things.
3. The Lord made room for him (Genesis 26:22).
4. The Lord made his enemies to be at peace with him. (W. S. Smith, B. D.)
The Philistines envied him
The prosperous are subject to envy
Great estates subject the best of men to envy.
2. Philistine spirits envy all increase of good to the Church of God (Genesis 26:14).
3. Men fearless of God make no scruple of doing the greatest injuries to His servants.
4. All the saints right, persuades not the wicked from doing wrong.
5. A malicious spirit destroyeth that which itself needeth, only to mischief the righteous man.
6. Water-mercies are very great, therefore would the wicked take them from the just (Genesis 26:15). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
1. Powers as well as peasants join together to afflict the saints.
2. Worldly men in power would not suffer the godly to prosper by them.
3. Exilement is the best which wicked powers allow to saints.
4. God’s greatning of His saints causeth the powers of the world to diminish them (Genesis 26:16). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
No worldly blessing is unalloyed
Isaac’s prosperity was not unalloyed. He suffered from envy. Be sure of this, that for every blessing man pays a price. If the world has gained in medical skill, it has lost that simple life which made it unnecessary. If we heap possessions round us we lose quiet, we get anxiety. Every man pays a price for his advantages, for talents, for property, for high station; he bids adieu to rest, being public property. It was so with Isaac. He had great possessions, “and the Philistines envied him.” We are told that he met the envy with patience, and removed from well to well. At last the Philistines desisted. Thus patience wears the world out. Endurance, meekness, the gospel spirit, this is the only true weapon against the world. Hence, Christianity can have no addition. It is final. There is nothing beyond this--“Love your enemies.” Isaac like Christ had conquered by meekness; and then it was that there was shed abroad in his heart that deep peace which is most profound in the midst of storm, “the peace of God which passeth all understanding.” (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
Isaac digged again the wells of water
These four names are the names (Genesis 26:20-22; Genesis 26:33) of four wells of springing water, dug in a valley, to feed families and flocks.
“Esek” means Strife; “Sitnah,” Hatred; “Rehoboth,” Room; “Shebah,” Oath. Have you not been at them all?
I. When you began life you found people trying to put you down by saying that the well was theirs, and that you were crowding yourself upon their ground. If they did not try to put you down, you tried to put them down. The well is there in life--strife, contention, debate--you must find it in your life somewhere.
II. If you drive people off the ground they may strive with you no more. They will hate you; your name will be the signal for abuse. First you are opposed, then you are hated; so you call it Sitnah, Hatred--the second well.
III. Then you come to the third stage, if you are not killed. You are hated, but you keep digging away, and at last room is made for you--Rehoboth. You are recognized, looked for, and missed if you do not come.
IV. If you have got to Rehoboth is there anything to hinder you from going on? The next step is easy: confidence--rest. Be not discouraged: move on honestly, laboriously, religiously. Go on: that is your duty in two words. Life is full of difficulty. It is through tribulation that you get into any kingdom worth anything. In Christ we are called to strife. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Generations united by common labour and joy
I. THE EXISTING GENERATIONS SUCCEED TO THE LABOURS OF THOSE WHO ARE GONE. Divine benevolence is to be seen in this arrangement.
1. It serves to weld all generations in a common interest.
2. It serves as a guarantee of progress in the quality of human productions.
II. THE EXISTING GENERATIONS ENTER ON THE ENJOYMENTS OF THOSE THAT ARE GONE.
1. The well of sensuous enjoyment.
2. The well of intellectual enjoyment.
3. The well of social enjoyment.
4. The well of religious enjoyment. (Homilist.)
Contrasts in character
What a detestable man Isaac is when he tells lies to the king of the Philistines! Then he goes out well-hunting, as if he deserved to find water in the earth; and, secondly, calls the wells after the names which his father Abraham had given them. What contradictions we are!--telling lies to a living king, and sentimentally honouring a dead father. Mean man! has Isaac left any posterity upon the earth? Do we look upon him as an ancient character, or as a modern instance? We are doing the same thing ourselves in some form or way. What if in the very middle of our life there be just one great black lie, and lying outside two or three beautiful touches of sentiment--quite a skill in the drawing up of epitaphs, and quite a tearful and watery way of talking about old fathers and old associations? All these speeches make the lie the worse; when we see how little good we might be and might do, it aggravates the central evil of the life into overpowering and intolerable proportions. We never know how profane is the blasphemy until we catch ourselves in prayer. To think that the tongue blackened by that profanity could have also uttered that same prayer! Why, in the contrast is a new accusation and a fresh reproach. But let us follow Isaac in his well-digging. Man must have wells; man must go out of himself and pray to God in digging, if he will not pray in liturgy and uttered hymn and psalm in words. God lays His hand upon us at unexpected places: if we will not fall down upon our knees, we must still bend the proud back and dig in His earth in quest of water. At best we are dependants, seekers, always in quest of something which another hand alone can give us. Oh that men were wise! that in these true and inevitable providences we might see the beginning of inward and spiritual revelations, and that, knowing the goodness of God in the gift of water and of bread, we might proceed to know that ineffable goodness which expressed itself in sacrificial and propitiatory blood. From the lower to the higher, I charge thee to go, or else thy reasoning is a base sophism and the beginning of an awful crime. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Justice warrants the saints to recover their just possessions left them from their fathers.
2. Malice and treachery of wicked men would put out the name and possessions of saints after decease.
3. Providence sometimes orders a restitution of outward comforts to the Church, which have been spoiled by wicked men (Genesis 26:18). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
1. Wicked servants prosecute the quarrel of wicked masters against the Church.
2. Persecuting enemies, if in their power, would not spare a little water to the saints.
3. The wicked double their strife to destroy the life of the saints.
4. Saints give way to the malice of adversaries, but leave a brand of their hateful carriages (Genesis 26:21) in what they yield to them. Sitnah.
5. All the envy and malice of the wicked will stand up as a monument against them, when God shall call them to account (Genesis 26:21). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
1. God sojourners voluntarily translate themselves from such places where enemies under Providence do afflict them.
2. Wherever saints come as sojourners, they must labour under Providence to get necessary supports.
3. Where some wells of comfort are denied by enemies, saints may seek to find out others.
4. Wells of strife and hatred among men may be turned into wells of enlargement and ease by God to His people.
5. God’s mercies are fit to be named, published, and recorded among His saints. (G. Hughes, B. D.)
Old wells dug out
In Oriental lands a well of water is a fortune. If a king dug one, he became as famous as though he had built a pyramid or conquered a province. Great battles were fought for the conquest or defence of wells of water; castles and towers were erected to secure permanent possession of them. The traveller to-day finds the well of Jacob dug one hundred feet through a solid rock of limestone. These ancient wells of water were surrounded by walls of rock. This wall of rock was covered up with a great slab. In the centre of the slab there was a hole, through which the leathern bottle or earthen jar was let down. This opening was covered by a stone. It was considered one of the greatest calamities that could happen to a nation when these wells of water were stopped. Isaac, you see, in the text, found out that the wells of water that had been dug out by his father Abraham, at great expense and care, had been filled up by the spiteful Philistines. Immediately Isaac orders them all opened again. He was very careful to call all the wells by the same names which his father had called them by; and if this well was called “The Well in the Valley,” or “The Well by the Rock,” or “The Well of Bubbles,” Isaac baptized it with the same nomenclature. You have noticed, friends, that many of the old Gospel wells that our fathers dug have been dug up by the modern Philistine. They have thrown in their scepticisms and their philosophies, until the well is almost filled up, and it is nigh impossible to get one drop of the clear water. You will not think it strange, then, if the Isaac who speaks to you this morning tries to dig open some of the old wells made by Abraham, his father, nor will you be surprised if he call them by the same old names.
1. Bring your shovel and pickaxe, and crowbar, and the first well we will open is the glorious well of the Atonement. It is nearly filled up with the chips and debris of old philosophies that were worn out in the time of Confucius and Zeno, but which smart men in our day unwrap from their mummy-bandages, and try to make us believe are original with themselves. I plunge the shovel to the very bottom of the well, and I find the clear water starting. Glorious well of the Atonement. Perhaps there are people here who do not know what “atonement” means, it is so long since you have heard the definition. The word itself, if you give it a peculiar pronunciation, will show the meaning--at-one-ment. Man is a sinner and deserves to die. Jesus comes in and bears His punishments and weeps His griefs. I was lost once, but now I am found. Cowper, overborne with his sin, threw himself into a chair by the window, picked up a New Testament, and his eye lighted upon this: “Whom God hath set forth as a propitiation through faith in His blood”; and instantly he was free. Unless Christ pays our debts, we go to eternal jail. Unless our Joseph opens the King’s corn-crib, we die of famine. One sacrifice for all. A heathen got worried about his sins, and came to a priest and asked how he might be cured. The priest said: “If you will drive spikes into your shoes and walk five hundred miles, you will get over it.” So he drove spikes in his shoes and began the pilgrimage, trembling, tottering, agonizing on the way, until he came about twenty miles, and sat down under a tree, exhausted. Near by, a missionary was preaching Christ, the Saviour of all men. When the heathen heard it, he pulled off his sandals, threw them as far as he could, and cried: “That’s what I want: give me Jesus! give me Jesus!” O ye who have been convicted and worn of sin, trudging on all your days to reap eternal woe, will you not, this morning, at the announcement of a full and glorious Atonement, throw your torturing transgressions to the winds? “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin”; that was the very passage that came to the tent of Hedley Vicars, the brave English soldier, and changed him into a hero for the Lord.
2. Now, bring your shovels and your pickaxes, and we will try to open another well. I call it the well of Christian comfort. You have noticed that there are a good many new ways of comforting. Your father dies. Your neighbour comes in and he says: “It is only a natural law that your father should die. The machinery is merely worn out”; and before he leaves you, he makes some other excellent remarks about the coagulation of blood, and the difference between respiratory and nitrogenized food. Your child dies, and your philosophic neighbour comes, and for your soothing tells you that it was impossible the child should live with such a state of mucous membrane! Out with your chemistry and physiology when I have trouble, and give me a plain new Testament! I would rather have an illiterate man from the back-woods, who knows Christ, talk with me when I am in trouble than the profoundest Worldling who does not know Him. The Gospel, without telling you anything about mucous membrane, or gastric juice, or hydrochloric acid, comes and says: “All things together work for good to those who love God,” and that if your child is gone, it is only because Jesus has folded it in His arms, and that the judgment-day will explain things that are now inexplicable. Oh! let us dig out this Gospel well of comfort.
3. Now, bring your shovels and pickaxes, and we will dig out another well--a well opened by our father Abraham, but which the Philistines havefilled up. It is the well of Gospel invitation. Do you know why more men do not come to Christ? It is because men are not invited that they do not come. You get a general invitation from your friend. “Come around some time to my house and dine with me.” You do not go. But he says: “Come around to-day at four o’clock and bring your family, and we’ll dine together.” And you say: “I don’t know that I have any engagement: I will come.” “I expect you at four o’clock.” And you go. The world feels it is a general invitation to come around some time ,rid sit at the Gospel feast, and men do not come because they are not specially invited. It is because you do not take hold of them and say: “My brother, come to Christ; come now, come now!” (Dr. Talmage.)
Malice overcome by zeal
The conflict still continues between good and evil. Every town, every village, every congregation, every heart, feels this conflict being carried on. Often we go a long way to see the site of some famous battle-field. We stand and muse over the spot. Here, we say, was the standard fixed; down yonder slope the charge of the cavalry madly rushed. Yet we seldom stop to reflect on the fight that goes on within our souls, on the result of which hang eternal consequences. To this scene, to this struggle so close at hand, let us turn our eyes. If religion is not practical it is worthless--if it is always seeking distant spheres of operation, it is mistaken, for its first mission is at home. Yet how cold is our interest in our religious progress! How half-hearted our feelings on the subject! How ready we are to place the easy cushions of self-satisfaction under our conscience, and to allow only a very little of our time, and still less of our thoughts, to be devoted to religious matters. A quaint writer offers the prescription, “To produce spiritual indifference, add to five minutes only of prayer fourteen hours of worldliness, and nearly ten of torpor.” Since then the cares of this world have, like the Philistines, filled up and choked those cool and pleasant wells which Abraham dug in the old time. Perhaps much of this arises from a dangerous habit of always letting the things of religion take a second place. But it would have been useless for Isaac and his servants to stand idly grieving over the choked-up wells and the want of water. There was nothing to be done but to labour diligently at the work and “dig the wells again.” So if we would strive to renew the withered and damaged plants of spiritual life--if we would be hearty, active, sincere Christians, we must rouse ourselves to prayer, watchfulness and activity! (W. Hardman, LL. D.)
The permanence of the helpful
The old Hebrew wells are flowing to-day. The monuments men build to their own pride and prowess--Pyramids, Bisen, Nimroud, Palaces, &c.
are triturated by the passing centuries; the forces of nature preserve, and in some instances enlarge, the wells. Mahomet when asked, “What monument shall I build to my friend?” replied, “Dig a well.”
Isaac’s peace-loving nature
Few things are more pleasing than the picture of this gentle patriarch, yielding everything and finding everything; as if his history was an antique pictorial illustration of the very words, “Give, and it shall be given unto you.” He yields his life on the altar on Moriah, and he finds it. In the strife he always gives up. A lamb among wolves, he conquers the wolves. By patience he is successful. And so “the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great,” illustrating, so far back, the Hebrew saying, that to the good man “ the very stones of the field shall be at peace.” Ah! that our striving, grieved hearts, standing on our points of pride or interest, would cry, “Sitnah” (hate), and go away, though we lose the precious well, forgiving the worst injustice by remembering the love and pity of God our Saviour towards us! (A. G. Mercer, D. D.)
Old and new wells to be dug
Many of our enjoyments, both civil and religious, are the sweeter for being the fruits of the labour of our fathers; and if they have been corrupted by adversaries since their days, we must restore them to their former purity. Isaac’s servants also digged new wells, and which occasioned new strife. While we avail ourselves of the labours of our forefathers, we ought not to rest in them, without making further progress, even though it expose us to many unpleasant disputes. Envy and strife may be expected to follow those whose researches are really beneficial, provided they go a step beyond their forefathers. But let them not be discouraged: the wells of salvation are worth striving for; and after a few conflicts, they may enjoy the fruits of their labours in peace. Isaac’s servants dug two wells, which, from the bitter strife they occasioned, were called Esek and Sitnah, contention and hatred; but peaceably removing from these scenes of wrangle, he at length digged a well for which “they strove not.” This he called Rehoboth, saying, “Now the Lord hath made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.” (A. Fuller.)
Fear not, for I am with thee
The return from exilement to their own, God giveth to His sojourners as He pleaseth.
2. Beer-sheba is is more desirable to Isaac than Gerar. The place by covenant allotted, than the place envied by others (Genesis 26:23).
3. God’s gracious appearance unto souls is usually in the time of their hardships, and where He calls them.
4. God’s special care of His in times of persecution from men, is to keep them from fear.
5. God’s relation to Abraham is a good ground to secure Abraham’s seed from fears.
6. God’s gracious presence, revealed and believed, is security against fear of men.
7. God’s blessing of the faithful may justly set them above all affrightments from men.
8. God’s multiplying His Church is sufficient security against the fear of the world’s diminishing it (Genesis 26:24).
9. God’s appearance to troubled souls requireth speedy and true worship from them to Him again.
10. Gracious souls are careful to give unto God right worship by right means.
11. Saints desire to have God dwell with them that they may dwell with God.
12. Where God dwelleth with His servants, they serve His providence in all honest labour for subsistence (Genesis 26:25). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
Thou art now the blessed of the Lord
The favoured one
THE BEING WHO BLESSED ISAAC.
1. It was “the Lord,” the omniscient and omnipresent Jehovah.
2. “The Lord” who blessed Isaac is omnipotent.
3. Isaac’s God is infinite in wisdom.
4. The Being who blessed Isaac is a God of unspeakable goodness and mercy.
5. The God who blessed Isaac is immutable.
II. THE PERSON BLESSED. Isaac.
1. One excellent and early trait in his character was youthful piety.
2. He was an obedient son.
3. He possessed a tranquil and contemplative mind, and lived in the spirit of meditation and prayer.
III. CONSIDER SOME OF THE BLESSINGS OF WHICH ISAAC WAS THE RECIPIENT.
(1) With God.
(2) With conscience.
(3) With his passions.
(4) With all men.
2. Worldly prosperity.
3. The special presence and protection of God.
4. He was blessed in his death. (Benson Bailey.)
1. God maketh evident to the wicked sometimes His presence with His saints, that they confess it.
2. The sight of God’s presence with His people maketh enemies to seek to them.
3. Oaths and covenants are sacred bonds even in the account of natural men without the Church (Genesis 26:28).
4. God makes aliens sometimes desire confederacy with His Church.
5. Enemies sometimes fear evil and desire good from the Church of God whom they have wronged.
6. Saints are the blessed of Jehovah in the confession of the wicked; therefore they seek after them (Genesis 26:29). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
1. It is not unbeseeming saints, in the day of peace and good events, to feast and rejoice.
2. Mutual rejoicing among parties reconciled and confederate is but equal and rational (Genesis 26:30).
3. It beseemeth saints to yield all readiness unto a just peace with their enemies.
4. Swearing matters of peace between the Church and its enemies is warrantable.
5. Oaths are prudently and distinctly to be taken on just occasions from man to man.
6. It is but just to send away in peace those who come to seek it (Genesis 26:31). (G. Hughes, B. D)
And Esau was forty years old when he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite: which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah.
I. Esau was forty years old when he married. A sin is aggravated sometimes by the age of the sinner. Some men learn nothing by age: they are forty years old on the books of the registrar; they are no age at all in the books of wisdom.
II. Esau’s wives were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah. Sin has consequences. Actions are not solitary and uninfluential; they have relations to other actions and to influences simply innumerable and incalculable.
III. A sin does not confine itself to one line of punishment. Esau went against the law of his country and his people in marrying Canaanitish women. What was the punishment? Endless, ubiquitous, complete--
(1) Esau was alienated from his family;
(2) he was a rebel against the laws of organised society;
(3) he forfeited his hereditary rights. The law of the land was: To marry a Canaanitish woman is to lose your primogeniture. Esau supplanted himself. Find out the roots and beginnings of things, and you will always discover that a man is his own supplanter, his own enemy. (J. Parker, D. D.)
I. IT WAS IN ACCORDANCE WITH HIS CHARACTER. Prodigal, and careless of consequences.
II. IT WAS IRRELIGIOUS.
1. Against the interests of the Church of God.
2. A transgression of duty towards his parents. (T. H. Leale.)
1. Wicked children usually increase sin with their age.
2. Reprobate spirits take all the wage of sin, to put away blessing and bring on the curse.
3. Idolatrous wives and multiplicity of them hasten ruin to them who take them. Lust loves idolatrous yoke-fellows.
4. Bigamy and unholy matches prove greatest griefs to gracious parents. (G. Hughes, B. D.)
Esau supplants himself
To marry thus was to drop out of the entail, to forfeit position, and to commit hereditary suicide. It was then that Esau sold his birthright. How we have felt for him as an injured man I How often we have sentimentally said we prefer Esau to Jacob, the child of the mountains to the plain man dwelling in tents, the rough shaggy hunter to the hairless man who stayed at home! It was too bad of Jacob to treat his brother so. Find out the roots and beginnings of things, and you will always discover that a man is his own supplanter: his own enemy. You will find far back--ten years ago, twenty, and more, yea, a quarter of a century--that a man did something which has been following him all the time. When the crises come that the public can look at, they pity him within the four corners of the visible crisis itself: they do not know how judgment has been tracking the man, watching him with pitiless, critical eye, waiting for its turn to come. We read over such little verses as these as though they were related to an ancient anecdote, and have really no immediate concern to the public of our own century. We come upon a second line, and say, “Poor Esau! that was too bad!” Let us be just! No man can injure you so much as you can injure yourself. If you have not injured yourself you may defy the world; the world will come round you in due time. Keep substantially right--that is, right in purpose, right in motive, right in the centre of the mind;and slips and misadventures notwithstanding, God will have regard to the uppermost meaning of your life, and if you have been true to Him in the intent of your heart, the world cannot take your birthright, cannot break your spiritual primogeniture. An awful thing is this searching into the past. Long ago, in some unsuspected way, we sold our birthright. When we omitted, in the first instance, our religious duty, the whole battle was lost; when we shortened the prayer by two minutes, the birthright was gone; when we haggled with the enemy, instead of smiting him in the face with the lightning of God, our birthright passed from us; when we first lost standing in our mother’s heart we slipped away from the hand of God. Verily, in such instances, the mother and the God are very close to one another. When the mother lets us go for moral reasons, I do not see how God can help us. (J. Parker, D. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Genesis 26". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14