Even God’s Heir - Genesis 26:1-33

October 16, 2022 Preacher: Rev. Stacey Severance Series: Genesis

Scripture: Genesis 26:1–33

The Psalms of the OT are considered the songbook of ancient Israel. They span the whole spectrum of human emotion: good and bad, ups and downs. Psalm 42 begins with one of the more famous intros. It says, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Sounds like something a religious person should say. But then, the writer says this: “My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” If your God is real and your God loves you, why doesn’t He fix everything for you? Later on in the psalm, the writer goes so far as to cry out, “I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me?”

It’s natural, during difficult times, to wonder if God is with us or if He is for us. We question God’s presence with us or His pleasure with us. If God was happy with us, we wouldn’t go through these ups and downs, would we?

But that’s not what the Scriptures teach. Gen. 26 shows that even the heir of God’s covenant experienced both triumphs and trials. At times it seemed like there was trouble for no good reason. But because he was chosen by God, he was assured of God’s involvement in his life and God’s favor on his life. 

The heir of God’s covenant promises is the representative for the people of God. He’s a person like us, but a special person in the plans of God. Not just an example for us, but a unique individual through whom God accomplished His redemptive purposes. Understanding God’s heir helps us understand and be encouraged. And his ups and downs teach us how to see our own ups and downs.

How so? Well, notice the outline on page 6 in your WG. Normally, I bring a 2 or 3 point sermon. I’ve divided this into 6. It won’t result in more length, but hopefully more clarity. God’s heir experienced need and comfort (vv.1-5), danger and deliverance (vv.6-11), blessing and rejection (vv.12-17), conflict and resolution (vv.18-22), reassurance and reverence (vv.23-25), vindication and satisfaction (vv.26-33). So let’s look at the life of God’s heir together. 

In this chapter, Moses moves from discussing the brothers Jacob and Esau to describing the life and times of their father, Isaac. Isaac was the child of promise. His parents, Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years for his birth. Isaac was the chosen one. He was the golden child. He was the heir. God’s promises to Abraham were passed on to him. He would carry that mantle and pass it on to the next chosen one. You might think, “Well, if you’re God’s chosen one, life will be smooth sailing, right?” But as I said before, the Scriptures teach the opposite of that. 

This chapter begins with news of a famine. There’s a food shortage. And Moses specifically points out that this is a different famine than the one Abraham endured. Abraham also faced a food shortage. These were somewhat in the ancient world often due to a lack of rain.

So Isaac takes his household to the land of Gerar. The name of the king there is familiar - Abimelech, although it seems that this is a different, later Philistine king. Those ancient kings would often carry on the name of a predecessor. 

Notice first of all that God’s chosen heir is not immune to the famine. He feels the need; but look at the comfort God provides, verse [2] the LORD appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you. [3] Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. [4] I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, [5] because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” 

God reiterates to Isaac the promises made to his father. God comforts Isaac. God reassures him. God is committed to Isaac and He will complete what He has begun. But Isaac must be a sojourner. He must be a foreigner in the land, a stranger there. And yet God will be with Him. It’s interesting that God tells Isaac not to go to Egypt. 

The original audience of the book of Genesis was the nation of ancient Israel. Moses wrote these things down, first of all, for the people we call “the Israelites.” What might an Israelite in the time of Moses think when hearing this? Well, they knew what happened when Isaac’s descendants eventually went to Egypt. They became slaves. What would happen to the Israelites if they went back to Egypt? We would have to be slaves again. 

Incidentally, on more than one occasion, the Israelites did want to go to back to Egypt, because even though God delivered them from slavery, they still had to endure many ups and downs. Learning about Isaac’s life helped them understand God’s plans for their own lives. But back to Isaac, he must remain in this place, always with an abiding need, but with an abiding comfort.

Now, what happens next is interesting because many years earlier, Abraham also went to Gerar and interacted with these people and attempted this same trick. Afraid that the men of the region would want to kill him and take away his beautiful wife, Isaac devises the same foolish plan that his father Abraham tried not once, but twice. 

Abraham did this in Egypt and Gerar. It’s a lie and it puts the wife in harm's way. Isaac tells Rebecca to say she is his sister. And this is quickly sniffed out by the king and the king issues a decree of protection for them. God’s heir faces danger, resorts to sin, but receives deliverance.

God had just assured Isaac that he would care for him. But it can be difficult to trust God in hard situations. Doesn’t matter who you are. Isaac turns right around and walks by sight, but God delivers him from danger and now, He blesses him, verse [12] “And Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. The LORD blessed him, [13] and the man became rich, and gained more and more until he became very wealthy. [14] He had possessions of flocks and herds and many servants,” and all is great, right? 

Not quite. Notice the end of verse 14, “so that the Philistines envied him.” [15] (Now the Philistines had stopped and filled with earth all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father.) [16] And Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we.” There is one true God, and Isaac is His chosen one, and yet he has to move on again. Isaac has to live like a foreigner! You see, blessing and rejection go hand in hand for God’s heir. 

Do you ever feel like a ping pong ball, bounced back and forth in your life? Do you look at your circumstances and ask, within your heart, “Is God on my side or not?” I don’t know who was the first to say this, but it rings true: “Some days you’re the windshield, some days you’re the bug.” Ups and downs. Do you like me or not, God? Are you blessing me or not? Are you with me, or not? But such is life – even for God’s chosen one. Look at what else he endures:

Verse [18] Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham his father, which the Philistines had stopped after the death of Abraham. And he gave them the names that his father had given them. [19] But when Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and found there a well of spring water, [20] 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 contended with him.” Esek means “contention.” 

Water plays a special role in all of these events. There was a famine probably due to lack of rain. They fight over the claim to these wells. Look at verse [21] “Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that also, so he called its name Sitnah.” Sitnah means “hostility.” Verse [22] And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, saying, “For now the LORD has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.” Rehoboth means “room” or “big space.” It’s crystal clear: life holds both conflict and resolution, even for God’s heir. He had conflict even for a need as basic as water.

William M. Batten began his career as a part-time salesman for J.C. Penney. He eventually worked his way up to the roles of President and CEO of the company. He later served as the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange. He is said to have made this statement: “When I hear my friends say they hope their children don't have to experience the hardships they went through--I don't agree. Those hardships made us what we are. You can be disadvantaged in many ways, and one way may be not having had to struggle.” 

There are a host of problems that you face in securing your basic needs, but for those who never have to struggle for basic needs, there is another host of problems. If you live life, there are challenges - even for God’s chosen one.

Now look at verse [23] “From there he went up to Beersheba.” Isaac’s family had history at Beersheba. Abraham once made a covenant there with the king of Gerar, that Abraham’s family would be able to live and use these wells. The two parties even made an oath. So much for that, it seems. Men break their word, but God never does. 

Look at the reassurance God gives to Isaac, verse [24] And the LORD appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake.” And what follows this reassurance is worship, verse [25] “So he built an altar there and called upon the name of the LORD and pitched his tent there. And there Isaac’s servants dug a well.”  A reassured heart is a reverent heart and an obedient heart producing obedience rooted in that reassurance of God’s love and care. 

What we find in this life, just as God’s heir found to be the case, is that we need these times of reassurance. We need to know that God is with us and He is for us. The writer of Psalm 42, which I mentioned earlier, faced the question of God’s love for him, and he was reassured of that love, and he ends the psalm with these words: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Look at this final section in Genesis 26.

King Abimelech comes to Isaac the same way the king once approached Abraham. Isaac is puzzled. Look at verse [28] They said, “We see plainly that the LORD has been with you. So we said, let there be a sworn pact between us, between you and us, and let us make a covenant with you, [29] that you will do us no harm, just as we have not touched you and have done to you nothing but good and have sent you away in peace. You are now the blessed of the LORD. [30] So he made them a feast, and they ate and drank. [31] In the morning they rose early and exchanged oaths. And Isaac sent them on their way, and they departed from him in peace.” 

In God’s kindness, Isaac has the opportunity to receive vindication. Those who were against Isaac humble themselves. The reasons are not entirely clear; they are probably political. But the result is this renewed pact like the one Abraham made with the king. Isaac is still a sojourner, but God’s commitment to Him is made evident again. The implication is that Isaac will enjoy a time of peace, a time of satisfaction after many troubles. 

Look at verse [32] “That same day Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well that they had dug and said to him, “We have found water.” [33] He called it Shibah; therefore the name of the city is Beersheba to this day.” Back in Genesis chapter 21 we learn that Abraham had already named this place Beersheba. You see, Isaac is affirming the name given to the place by his father. What this signifies is more evidence that the covenant promises remain. Not only did God choose Isaac, but Isaac embraced God’s choosing, and that choosing included both ups and downs.

What encouragement should we take from Isaac’s life? Is it “Isaac endured ups and downs, and so can you too!” That is not the primary message of the Bible. That Bible is not primarily about what you must do. It is primarily about what God has done.

Notice in this short excerpt from Isaac’s life that there are blessings, and there are trials, but underneath it all is God’s abiding covenant commitment. God is accomplishing a purpose. God will remain devoted to the heir of His covenant. The covenant promises are fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ. He is the ultimate and final heir of the covenant. Isaac and the others like him point to and teach us about the Chosen One who was to come - Jesus Christ.

During His earthly life, Jesus experienced times of need and times of comfort. He knew the threat of danger and the relief of deliverance. Jesus enjoyed blessing and He endured rejection. He faced conflict and He found resolution. Jesus received reassurance and showed true reverence. And though He was unjustly accused, and illegitimately found guilty, and brutally mistreated and mocked, enduring great pain and finally, death, Jesus was awarded eternal vindication and satisfaction in His resurrection and ascension to heaven.

Even God’s heir faced the ups and downs, and He did so not just as your example, but as your representative. The good news - the gospel - is that God sent Jesus to do so in your place, on your behalf, to take away the guilt of your sin and award you with a righteous record and new life in Him. 

In Galatians 3, the apostle Paul writes, “If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” Those who repent of their sins and trust in Jesus are heirs of God in and through Him. As you endure the ups and downs of life, as the questions creep in, do you have this assurance that God is with you and for you? This is the hope of those who are born again. Come to Jesus.

Let’s bow in prayer.