Following Father's Pattern
Dr. Joe Temple

Open your Bibles, please, to chapter 26 of the book of Genesis. We have been thinking about chapter 24, and of course you are automatically wondering what we are going to do with chapter 25. I want to make one or two statements so we will know exactly where we are going, or why we are going into chapter 26.

The first eleven verses of chapter 25 have to do with the death of Abraham, and we have already considered that. Then the paragraph which begins with verse 12 and continues through verse 18 is one which needs no particular comment, since it is more a record of genealogies than anything else. I would like to call your attention, however, to the outline which the Holy Spirit has placed in the book of Genesis and which we said we were going to follow. In verse 12 of chapter 25, we read:

Genesis 25:

12Now these are the generations of Ishmael,…

Whenever you see “Now these are the generations,” as we pointed out to you, a new division of the book is beginning. True, this is a very brief division, giving us only a word or two about Ishmael.

The section which we will begin to study now begins with verse 19 of chapter 25, where we see another point in the outline that the Holy Spirit has given.

Jacob the Son of Isaac

Genesis 25:

19And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham's son: Abraham begat Isaac:

This particular section is going to last through chapter 36, verse 1. We are skipping the remaining portion of chapter 25 because, though it is related to Isaac, it is primarily concerned with Jacob. Since we have told you that the book of Genesis is built around the lives of men, we thought it would be better to consider the latter part of chapter 25 when we consider the life of Jacob.

The Life of Isaac

That brings us to chapter 26, which is going to introduce to us the historical record of the life of Isaac. Notice what I said,…the historical record of the life of Isaac. This is not the first time we have had reference to Isaac, but at the other times when we have had any reference to Isaac, other people were predominant.

For example, we had quite a discussion about the birth of Isaac, but the predominant thing about the birth of Isaac was the faith of Abraham and the lack of faith of Sarah. Then we noticed the so-called sacrifice of Isaac. There the predominant character was Abraham. Then in chapter 24 we noticed the marriage of Isaac, and there again the prodominant character was Abraham.

Someone has said that the life of Isaac was a life managed by someone else. Until he was forty years old his life was managed by his father, and from his 41st year until the day that he died, his life was managed by his wife. If you notice very carefully the record given in the book of Genesis, you will find that this is true.

Perhaps that is the reason we have comparatively little said about Isaac in the book of Genesis. You will notice I said, “comparatively little.” For example, we have twelve chapters dealing with the life of Abraham. We have twelve chapters dealing with the life of Jacob. We have twelve chapters dealing with the life of Joseph. We have one chapter dealing with the life of Isaac outside of the passages to which I have just referred where other people are predominant.

Meekness Without Weakness

I would like to mention several things to you, and then we will watch for them as we go through chapter 26. One of them is that the chief characteristic of Isaac was meekness. He was a meek man. But at no time should we confuse this meekness of Isaac with weakness. Many times we do confuse the two. Many times when we speak of a meek man, what we mean is that he is a man who is too weak to do anything about it. We will notice as we go through the experience of Isaac that he was not a weak man even though he was a meek one.

Then you will notice that Isaac was essentially a man of the well. Seven times over in this one chapter is Isaac mentioned as related to wells which he dug or re-dug, as the case may be. Keep in mind as you notice these particular instances that, for the most part, each well was related to some spiritual experience which Isaac had.

A Fear of God

Isaac was noted for two very definite things that commend him to us and commend him to people of all times. One was his fear of God. You will notice later on that when Jacob was talking about his dealing with God, he said one of the reasons he dealt with God as he did was because of the fear of God which his father, Isaac, had. This fear, of course, is not the kind of fear that makes you run and hide in a corner. It is that reverential awe of God that causes you to place your trust in Him reverently and discreetly. There was no light talking in relation to God as far as Isaac was concerned…no jesting about sacred things. He had an awesome fear of God.

A Man of Prayer

Another thing we will notice about Isaac is that he was very definitely a man of prayer. For example, he was married to Rebekah…incidentally, he had the unusual experience of being married to one woman for his whole lifetime…and he needed children and wanted children, and he sought the Lord for children. He waited on the Lord, and the Lord graciously answered his prayers, not by sending him one child, but by sending him two. His life was marked by prayer.

Those are general things. As we look at chapter 26, which presents the historical account of the life of Isaac, be prepared to find the facts about Isaac. The reason I suggest that is that you may be a bit discouraged if you are not prepared to find the facts. One of the wonderful things about the Word of God is that it does present the facts, the true things, about every one of the characters it presents. Sometimes it makes them appear unlovely in our eyes, because it tells the bad things as well as the good.

You may have an opinion about your own spirituality, or you may have an opinion about someone whom you know, and you may be very thankful for the close walk that he apparently has with God. But did you ever stop to think how you would feel if all the things that God knows about that individual were put down on paper as it is in the Word of God? There might not be as great a halo about his head as there seems to be, or you might not have such a good opinion of your own relationship with the Lord if you were as cognizant of the facts as God is…as you are of the facts about Isaac as they are recorded in Genesis, chapter 26.

Kept Out of Egypt

Will you notice Genesis, chapter 26, verse 1:

Genesis 26:

1And there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar.
2And the Lord appeared unto him, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of:
3Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for 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;
4And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;
5Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.
6And Isaac dwelt in Gerar:

We are going to stop our reading there, because here is the first historical occurrence in the life of Isaac that has some significance in our meditation. History repeats itself. The Devil, though he is adept, seldom has any new ideas. He has found that a temptation which works with one man will usually work with another, and that is the reason that the Word of God says, “There is no temptation taken you but such as is common to man.” We may get the idea that we are sorely tempted. We may get the idea that some unusual temptation has come our way. But it might be wise to remember that the same thing has been tried before, and the Devil has succeeded in most cases.

Getting Out of Fellowship

Do you remember that back in chapter 20 there came a famine in the life of Abraham, the father of Isaac? And do you remember that Abraham did exactly what Isaac, his son, found himself doing…leaving the promised land and going down into the land of Egypt?

Herein lies the difference. Abraham went down into the land of Egypt because of the famine that was in the promised land, and that was in direct disobedience to the divine will of God. God had given a promise, saying, “If you will stay in the promised land, I will keep you,” famine or no famine. That was the promise that God gave. But the famine came and crowded out the Word of God, so Abraham made his journey down to Egypt. God let him get all the way down to Egypt.

But notice here in chapter 26 that his son Isaac, many years later, was faced with the same temptation…a famine…and he started to do the very same thing that his father had done. He started down to the land of Egypt. But this time God interrupted. He did not let him get all the way to Egypt. He appeared to Isaac. This is one of the two times that God appeared to Isaac.

The other time was in this chapter, and we are going to anticipate for the sake of discussion and say that the second time God appeared to Isaac was when Isaac returned to fellowship. As Isaac was leaving fellowship, God appeared to him and pled with him not to go on the way he was going. God made no more appearances to Isaac until Isaac returned to fellowship.

Our Fellowship

This is a perfect illustration of the fellowship that is offered to the saints of God today. When Isaac started down toward Egypt and got to Gerar, which was the border land…the border land just between the promised land and the world , or Egypt, the place of disobedience…God interrupted him and said, “Isaac, stop! Go back to the land I told you of. Go back to the land I promised you. That is where you need to be. Just sojourn in this land. Do not do any more than spend the night here.” God is not unreasonable. He knew that Isaac could not pick up and fly back, so He said, “Don't do any more than spend the night here. Sojourn here. Don't stay here. Go back, Isaac, to the land I have promised you.”

Then as we read on in the Word of God you will notice what happened. Isaac dwelt in the land of Gerar. He stayed there. He stayed in the border land of the world. When he did, his fellowship with the Lord was broken.

In New Testament language, when he did, the Holy Spirit was grieved. In chapter 4 of the book of Ephesians, verse 30, we are told not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God, whereby we are sealed into the day of redemption. Then in chapter 4 are listed all the things that grieve the Holy Spirit of God. One of the things that is suggested is giving place to the Devil. In Romans, chapter 13, verse 14, we are told not to make provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof. That is just another way of saying you ought not to dwell in the border land. You ought not to see how close you can get to the precipice. You ought to stay as far away from the precipice as you can.

Isaac was in the border land, out of fellowship with God, and what happened? What do you think happens when people are out of fellowship, when people break their fellowship with the Lord by what they might call a simple act of disobedience?

For example, if I were to say to you, “Is there anything so greatly wrong with getting something to eat when you are hungry?”, you would say, “There is nothing wrong with getting something to eat when you are hungry. Of course not.” Well, it all depends upon where you get what you are going to eat. There is nothing wrong with eating when you are hungry if you eat at the table that God sets. If you turn your back on the table that God sets and sit down at a table of your own making, then you are grieving the Holy Spirit if God, and you are breaking fellowship. That is what Isaac did. He broke fellowship with the Lord over a seemingly innocent little thing.

From Broken Fellowship to Deeper Sin

Then what happened? He became guilty of a very grievous sin. Will you notice chapter 26, verse 6:

Genesis 26:

6And Isaac dwelt in Gerar:
7And the men of the place asked him of his wife; and he said, She is my sister: for he feared to say, She is my wife; lest, said he, the men of the place should kill me for Rebekah; because she was fair to look upon.

Does this sound familiar? So-called higher critics who do not believe in the inspiration of the Bible and who do not understand the manner in which God deals with the human heart, tell us that this is a feeble attempt to copy chapter 20 of the book of Genesis, because the same king is mentioned, Abimelech. Abimelech is really a title, not a name. It is the same place, Gerar, and the same idea…a man's taking a beautiful woman into the land of Gerar and being so afraid for his own life that he would lie and say she was his sister. They say this is just a feeble attempt to repeat a story that was told a long time ago and handed down rather incorrectly by word of mouth.

We who believe in the inspiration of the Bible, we who are familiar with the manner in which the Devil acts, we who are familiar with the sinfulness of sin, know that this is not a feeble attempt to copy a story from somewhere else. It is just a matter of several things occurring.

For example, it is a matter of a father's setting a beautiful example in so many righteous things before his childrem but failing in one thing, and the Devil's taking that one thing and emphasizing it out of all proportion to the good things so that the child falls into the fault instead of emulating the good things.

As parents, we need to be very much on our guard, because that is the way the Devil works. We may set every kind of good example, give every kind of good precept and instruction to our children. We may find it very difficult to pound into their heads and into their hearts. One failure on our part, one that we may even forget because we may have slipped into it so unconsciously, becomes a glaring thing in their eyes. That one failure blocks out all the good examples that have been set, and the children follow the failure instead of the good things.

I am sure that Isaac knew about his father's failure when many years ago he had gone down into the land of Gerar. He said to himself in so many words, “If my dad got out of this situation by lying, why can't I?” So he lied, and he committed the horrible sin of lying before unbelievers and of having unbelievers rebuke him for a testimony that he did not live. As we notice in the rest of the chapter, Abimelech discovered that Rebekah was really the wife of Isaac, and he rebuked Isaac soundly for this duplicity, reminding him that even some greater sin could have occurred because of the failure of Isaac in this one thing.

May we learn a lesson from this. The initial sin in itself is bad enough, but what it leads other people to do is much worse. Oh, the responsibility we have as the children of God!

Isaac was rebuked by Abimelech, a heathen king, for this thing that he had done. Notice, now, that it happened while he was out of fellowship. I want to pause long enough to emphasize something to you. I have said it before, but I want to emphasize it again. I am afraid for people who are out of fellowship with God. I am afraid for them.

Dangers of Being Out of Fellowship

I have often said a thing, and people have not been able to understand it in some instances, but I say it again, and a few more people understand it each time. I had rather my daughters would go with unsaved boys, I would rather they would keep company with unsaved boys, than to keep company with Christians who are out of fellowship. If I can do anything about it, they are not going to keep company with unsaved boys. But if there has to be a choice, I would rather they keep company with the unsaved than with Christians who are out of fellowship. This is the reason. God deals with the unsaved in mercy. He does not always let drastic things happen to them. He lets them go their way, as the Scripture says, filling up their cup of iniquity until the day of judgment. But the very moment a person becomes a child of God, at that very moment it becomes God's responsibility to deal with him as His child. When the child becomes disobedient, God has to do something. Drastic things happen to the children of God who are out of fellowship. Drastic things happen to the children of God who are disobedient, and if you keep company with them, you are likely to get involved, too.

I had an old preacher say to me one time that he never got in the way when God was disciplining one of His children, because if he did he might get a slap that was intended for the disobedient child. That is very possible. Very possible! God deals with His children who are disobedient. Will you remember that? Some people say, “Well, if you are saved one time, then you can do anything in the world you want to do and God is not going to do anything about it.” People who say that and think that do not understand the Word of God. God lets sinners get away with a whole lot more that He lets Christians get away with. Christians are His children, and He has to deal with them.

I have no right to go around spanking your children, but I have every right in the world to go around spanking my own. If you are unsaved, you belong to the Devil, and God is not going to spank you. He is going to judge you, but He is not going to discipline you. But if you belong to God and are disobedient, you can expect the disciplining hand of God, and sometimes that discipline is very drastic.

Material Blessings for Isaac

I have said all of that because we run into a problem here in Genesis, chapter 26, and maybe some of you have noticed it already. The commentators have had a problem with this. In the various commentaries that are written on the book of Genesis they beat this around quite a bit trying to explain how in the world it could be as it actually is. It should not be too much of a problem. If you will look at verse 12, you have the problem presented:

Genesis 26:

12Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the LORD blessed him.
13And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great:
14For he had possession of flocks, and possession of herds, and great store of servants: and the Philistines envied him.

Did you notice what those verses tell? They say that God blessed this man who was out of fellowship. He blessed him materially, blessed him financially. He blessed him so much that he got to be so great in a physical and material way that everyone in the country envied him! Later on in the chapter you are going to find that they say to him, “Fellow, you go off and leave us. You are bigger than any of us.” All of it was while he was out of fellowship with God.

This is what presents the problem. Commentators say, “We just cannot explain why God would bless a man who was out of fellowship.” There has been no problem to me in these verses of Scripture. I do not suggest to you that I know all the exact things God had in mind with Isaac, because the exact things are not given, but I can tell you several things that God had in mind with Isaac. I have learned these things through the years, and they are verified in other portions of the Word of God.

Discipline In Private

For example, I have learned that God does not always discipline his children publicly. Isaac could very well have been an astute, thrift man and multiplied his goods by hard work and thriftiness, and God permitted him to do it. But in private, God did discipline Isaac, we are quite sure, if the multiplication of wealth was not discipline. No sin on the part of a Christian goes without discipline. Remember that. Isaac could very well have been disciplined privately. May I suggest to you from experience and from what is suggested in the Word of God, that private disciplining is sometimes the hardest kind of discipline to bear? Maybe some of you remember back to the days when you were in school and you disobeyed some rule, and they believed more in the rod than they do now. The principal might say to you, “I am going to give you a choice. You can take a whipping right here before the class or…,” and he gave you a choice of staying after school or writing a theme in private…some special thing that you had to do in private in relation to discipline. If you had never had the experience, you would do anything to avoid that whipping, but that private discipline was something. You learned your lesson, and the next time it happened and he gave you that choice, you said, “Whip me and get it over with.” When the public whipping was over, it was over as far as you were concerned, and you were satisfied.

No human illustration is perfect, but that is exactly what I am talking about. Private discipline on the part of God can sometimes be a long, long drawn out, bitter thing. The thing I want to suggest to you is, do not judge a man's relationship to God on the basis of his material wealth. Do not judge a man's relationship to God on the basis of his material prosperity. Time and time again I have heard people say, “Why, that man could not be very far out of the will of God. Look how God has blessed him materially.”

I think of the Israelites to whom God gave what they wanted…material prosperity. It sent leanness into their souls. There are many people today enjoying material prosperity, and you and I feel as if it is the blessing of God. But they could tell you, if they would take the veil back from their hearts, that they are suffering sorely under the hand of God.

Another reason this presents no problem to me is that…maybe to those of us who are not particularly prosperous this seems a bit fantastic…prosperity can be one of the worst punishments that God can bring into a person's life.

I heard a man say not too long ago, “I have made my million, but I would like to say to you young men who are present that it is not worth it. It is the greatest burden I bear.” I knew that man when his wife was cutting corners to buy a new commode for a bathroom because the one they had did not work right. I knew him then. He has made his million since, but that is his own testimony. His spiritual life was on the same level as was the testimony he gave. What he was saying was, “The blessings I had spiritually before the prosperity came I wish I had now, because the riches have become a burden.”

So Isaac was dealt with very sorely by God, even though he did prosper, and the Philistines, we are told in verse 14, envied him. They showed that envy in verse 15 by stopping up all the wells that he dug. Abimelech knew there was going to be trouble, so he asked him to leave, not to stay around where they were, and Isaac departed and pitched his tent in the valley of Gerar and dwelt there. In chapter 26, verse 17:

Genesis 26:

17And Isaac departed thence, and pitched his tent in the valley of Gerar, and dwelt there.
18And Isaac digged again the wells of water, which they had digged in the days of Abraham his father; for the Philistines had stopped them after the death of Abraham: and he called their names after the names by which his father had called them.
19And Isaac's servants digged in the valley, and found there a well of springing water.
20And the herdmen of Gerar did strive with Isaac's herdmen, saying, The water is ours: and he called the name of the well Esek; because they strove with him.
21And they digged another well, and strove for that also: and he called the name of it Sitnah.
22And he removed from thence, and digged another well;…

What is your feeling as we read these verses? Isn't it a feeling of restlessness, dissatisfaction, nothing certain, nothing sure? It was because Isaac was out of fellowship with the Lord.

Peace Through Restored Fellowship

Do you know how we know that? Because when Isaac got back into fellowship we see that these people who stopped up the wells that he had dug, begged for his approval. The Scripture says, “When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” As long as Isaac was out of fellowship with God, nothing went right, no one liked him, and he had trouble on every hand.

May I pause in our discussion long enough to suggest to you that if you are having trouble with people, before you pass sentence on them as unlovely and sorry and all the rest of it, check your relationship with the Lord. There is a very good possibility that you are out of fellowship with the Lord, and that is why they do not like you. That is why you are having a hard time. God says in His Word that when your ways please the Lord, He makes even your enemies to be at peace with you. That was true in the life of Isaac, because finally, if you will notice in verse 23, he finally got tired of all this restlessness, moving about from place to place, digging one well after another, and we read:

Genesis 26:

23And he went up from thence to Beersheba.

That is the place where he left fellowship. That is the place where he got back. Beer-sheba is another well. It means the well of the oath . He went back to where God made the promise. Notice in verse 24 what happened the second time God appeared to him:

Genesis 26:

24And the LORD appeared unto him the same night, and said, I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham's sake.

You see, when he was going away from God, out of fellowship, the Lord appeared to him and said, “Don't do it.” But he went on, and God had no more to do with him until he came back and was restored to fellowship at Beer-sheba. Will you notice this significant statement, because I do not think it is a mistake, in verse 25:

Genesis 26:

25And he builded an altar there, and called upon the name of the LORD…

Did you notice he did not build an altar down there in Gerar? He did not build an altar in the border land. Did you notice that? While he was out of fellowship there was no worship. Will you keep that in mind? But now that he was back in fellowship, he built an altar. He pitched his tent, and his servants dug a well. No more digging a well here and a well there and a well somewhere else. He was settled now. He was back in fellowship. Notice what happened, how the Lord vindicated his testimony in verse 26:

Genesis 26:

26Then Abimelech went to him from Gerar, and Ahuzzath one of his friends, and Phichol the chief captain of his army.
27And Isaac said unto them, Wherefore come ye to me, seeing ye hate me, and have sent me away from you?
28And they said, We saw certainly that the LORD was with thee: and we said, Let there be now an oath betwixt us, even betwixt us and thee, and let us make a covenant with thee;
29That thou wilt do us no hurt, as we have not touched thee, and as we have done unto thee nothing but good, and have sent thee away in peace: thou art now the blessed of the LORD.

Notice that before, when he was out of fellowship, there was nothing but fussing and fighting and feuding. Now, when he was back in fellowship, they came to him and said, “We know that God is with you. Let us be friends and let's not fight any more. Let's not have any more trouble.” You will notice in verse 32:

Genesis 26:

32And it came to pass the same day, that Isaac's servants came, and told him concerning the well which they had digged, and said unto him, We have found water.
33And he called it Shebah: therefore the name of the city is Beersheba unto this day.

Notice what they said: “We have found water. We are back where we ought to be.”

This story of Isaac, of leaving fellowship, living out of fellowship and coming back into fellowship, should be a lesson to every one of us. The place of blessing is the place of fellowship.

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