On my drive to school each morning there is one particular tree that always catches my attention – it is at the edge of the park where I stop at a T-junction. I don’t know what variety of tree it is but the thing I love about it is that it does each season spectacularly well. In summer it is covered in thick foliage, vivid green. In Autumn its leaves progress through a demi-rainbow of shades, until it looks like has caught fire, before shedding and becoming a stark skeleton against the winter sky. Then this morning, whilst the weather was miserably grey and damp, the tree was vocal in its pronouncement of spring – suddenly it was covered in fresh, pale pink blossom that there had been no sign of at the end of last week! I have been driving this route daily for many years now and I am learning from this tree – I applaud the way it embraces each season with such gusto and I enjoy each one but I know that they are not permanent – in a few weeks the tree will transform again declaring change once more. Life, just like nature, has seasons. As I get older I am growing increasingly appreciative of the seasons of sunshine and fruitfulness while they are with me but at the same time less despairing during the times when things are tougher going and tedious because I know from experience; this too will pass.
Isaac has it good. He is born into a family as the answer to prayers – wanted, anticipated, receiving all of the blessing and legacy of a covenant. God has provided him with a beautiful wife and answered their prayers for family with twins! But now he faces a new season – there is a famine in the land! What should he do? Should he leave the land in which he has lived all his life – the land God promised to his father?
‘The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.”‘ Genesis 26:2-5
It would seem that the key to Abraham’s success was the fact he obeyed God. This inheritance of favour and promise that Isaac lived under was due to his father’s choices to follow God’s voice – would Isaac now prove God for himself and stay and face this new season even though it looked like famine?
“So Isaac stayed in Gerar.” v6
Yes! He stayed and he sowed crops in the land of the Philistines and God gave him a hundred-fold return on his seed within the same year! Now that would be miraculous in any season but in the midst of a famine where all those around him were seeing virtually no return?! Trusting God despite our circumstances is not always easy but obedience to His voice is always the safe bet. Like Jeremiah 17 says;
“Blessed is the man who trust’s in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
So the famine battle is fought and won by trusting in God but now his neighbours are unhappy. Handling God’s favour and blessing on someone is else is not easy for anyone – the Philistines become very jealous. Isaac has prospered to the point of extremely wealthy and now has so many flocks and herds that his neighbours are beyond envious. They decide to try to sabotage his success by blocking up the wells which Abraham had dug (isn’t that just like envy? Not only does it stop us from rejoicing in our neighbour’s blessing but it wants to cut off its source and bring them down to our place of lack). In the end it is more than they can bear so the king suggests that maybe Isaac should perhaps move on.
So Isaac sets out and on his way he re-digs the wells his father had dug but had been filled in – I love this picture the bible gives us of a man living under the favour of God – he is not petty but willing to restore and forgive. He leaves behind a path of blessing. But he doesn’t stop there – he goes on to dig a new well. It would seem the envious Philistines are following him because they start a fight over this new well so Isaac names it “Disputed”, leaves them to it and moves on. Again his servants dig a new well, and again the locals quarrel over it – Isaac names it “Opposition” and again leaves them to it. Eventually they dig a well that no one fights over and he calls it “Room” because God had given them room to flourish. Flourish – now that’s a word that reminds me of a tree covered in blossom!
That night the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.” ch 26:24
Eventually king Abimelech catches up with Isaac at yet another newly dug well. He recognises that the reason Isaac is so blessed is because God is with him and he wants to make a friendship treaty with him because, let’s be honest, being friends with God’s friends is smart! Isaac doesn’t require an apology, he isn’t stingy with his favour but generously shares it. When you are living under a covenant of favour with God you have more than plenty to give away. He names this well “Oath”.
Things I took from this story? Trusting God means you bear fruit even in the season of famine. Favour can sometimes make you unpopular. Digging is hard work but you can’t live without living water! Living in the good of a legacy can mean we need to re-dig some things that are blocked up but we don’t just stop there – we have new wells to dig too. Sometimes you dig stuff out and someone else gets the benefit. Eventually God will give you room to flourish! When we live under a covenant of favour, which we do because of Jesus, we can forgive and be generous – we have more than enough.
I know this has been a bit of a long post but on a personal note it feels like the Holy Spirit has been using his highlighter pen all over this story for me today. I hope He does the same for you too. Happy digging. Much love Rach x