A Journey Begins explains how Abraham inadvertently corrupted Isaac’s faith and how to discern when the flesh is directing us and when the Spirit is leading us. Isaac repeats his father’s mistake and learns God’s blessings follow an honest acknowledgement of our true character.
And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac dwelt by the well Lahai-roi. Genesis 25:8-11, KJV
The death of Abraham launched Isaac’s long and tumultuous journey that matured his faith. He was seventy-five when he buried his father, the same age as Abraham when he left Haran to follow God. Isaac already believed in one God, but even devils believe that God exists. Isaac possessed a heritage of great faith from his father, but he didn’t possess the kind of faith that pleases God.
Up to the time Abraham died, Isaac followed his father’s path and drank from the wells his father dug. He knew how to follow a man, but he did not know how to follow God. Anytime Isaac had a question, need, or problem, he could run to his father of flesh for an answer. Now that Abraham had died, Isaac must learn what every Christian must learn: how to walk in the Spirit. It is easier to walk in the flesh because we already understand how to communicate with people of flesh. Consequently, some Christians never learn this valuable lesson.
FOR A SEASON
Having a mentor for a season is profitable. They under gird us when we are at our weakest. A mentor can be your father, pastor, teacher, employer, or a friend. Jesus mentored the first twelve disciples. One of those disciples wrote that they heard Jesus speak, saw him, and their hands touched him. A man of flesh taught the disciples God’s ways. Then, much to their distress, Jesus left them after a mere three years of instruction.
Jesus knew it would be better to leave. He could not impart to his disciples the depth of God’s thoughts while he walked in a body of flesh. During Jesus’ life on earth, everyone, including his disciples, misunderstood him. After Jesus died, the Holy Spirit came to complete the work Jesus began.
But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. 1 John 2:27 KJV
If all of the teaching we receive comes from a man of flesh, we will inevitably add his or her foibles to our own and it will hinder us from growing in the knowledge of God. Human teachers are susceptible to believe a lie and unwittingly repeat a lie as God’s truth. Only God’s Holy Spirit can give us truth that is free from the distortion of human bias. Therefore, only the Holy Spirit can teach us how to abide in God.
However, we must never develop a doctrine from one scripture and abandon human teachers. When Jesus ascended on high, he gave us gifts: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. The writer of Hebrews rebuked the recipients of his letter for being slow to learn. They should have been teachers mentoring others in the things of God, but they still needed someone to teach them. We need human teachers to help us, but we must not let them become our sole source of information about God. God’s Holy Spirit is ready and willing to teach us as well.
God has not left us dependent on human teachers because human nature easily corrupts. God foreknew and warned his people though the Apostle Paul that wolves in sheep’s clothing would prowl the halls of churches. In addition to wolves, Paul warned, “Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.” Peter also warned us there would be false teachers among us. When God gave us an anointing to teach us, he gave us a way to navigate through wolves, ambitious Christians, and false teachers. The sooner we learn how to depend on the Spirit of truth to teach us, the better off we will be.
God rarely speaks to an individual. Most of the time, he sends a human messenger with the answer we need. If we are not able to discern when the flesh is speaking and when God is speaking through human flesh, our lives will move from disaster to disaster. Such was the experience of Lot. He never learned to walk in the wisdom of the Spirit, and became an example of the immense cost of walking in the wisdom of the flesh.
Abraham and Lot believed in and loved the same God, but their experiences were very different. Lot lost everything he owned, first in a war, then in a fire. After the fire consumed everything, he committed incest in a drunken stupor. Lot died in poverty leaving a legacy of shame. In contrast to Lot, Abraham died a wealthy man who had lived a long good life leaving a legacy of faith. The primary difference between Lot and Abraham was this; the Spirit taught Abraham the gospel and while the flesh taught Lot the gospel. Therefore, while Abraham followed the Spirit, Lot followed Abraham who followed the Spirit.
Mentors often fail to act in the best interest of those they mentor. Lot never learned to obey God’s instructions for his life because his mentor, Abraham, failed to obey God’s instructions regarding Lot. The Lord commanded Abraham to, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” Abraham partially obeyed the Lord’s command. He went to the land, but he did not separate from his father’s household. Contrary to God’s instructions, he allowed Lot to follow him everywhere he went. God prospered both of them until it was impossible for them to dwell together without strife. Abraham and Lot parted company to keep peace in the family, but not before Lot picked up the corruption in his mentor. When Lot fled from the destruction of Sodom, he also failed to obey God’s instructions for his family.
If a mentor will not encourage you to move on, separate yourself from your mentor. A mentor who refuses to let you leave may be exploiting you for his or her own profit. There is no need to sever friendship with a mentor, but you must stop calling upon him or her for the wisdom you need. The next time you have a problem that you cannot solve, don’t run to the telephone. Fall on your knees and call upon the all-wise eternal Spirit of a living God who knows the truth and cannot lie.
If you are not mature enough to discern the Lord’s voice, your best weapon is silence. The person you run to for help might be a wolf, ambitious Christian, or a false teacher. Walking in counsel that comes from a corrupt heart will corrupt your life. God alone knows whose heart is pure and whose heart is corrupt. Do not reveal your need to anyone but God. Then wait until God responds. If no one knows what you needed but God, you will know the answer came from God.
God speaks to us through a variety of ways. If we don’t know his ways, he will speak and we will miss important information. Sometimes a scripture is quickened to our hearts as we read the Bible. On rare occasions he will speak in an audible voice. Most of the time he simple gives a teacher the wisdom we need to hear.
A few years ago, I was very discouraged by the slow process of maturity. I knew I had a calling to teach, but it appeared I would never be mature enough to fulfill that calling. I could have made an appointment for counseling. Sometimes that is the best course of action, but I chose to pour my heart out to God alone. I didn’t even tell my husband.
The following week, I received a newsletter from a ministry that I supported. The newsletter contained a message titled “How Patient Are You?” The précis of the message was the importance of being patient with the work God is doing in your life. The message helped relieve the depression I was wrestling with, but God wasn’t finished.
The following Sunday my Pastor announced that the Lord had impressed him to depart from the series he was teaching about the life of Joshua. He promised to continue the series next Sunday. The Pastor titled his new message “Bearing Fruit.” He used the exact same scriptures and preached almost the exact same message that was in the newsletter. The newsletter and my Pastor’s message were clearly more than a coincidence. I discerned that God was speaking to me and was greatly encouraged.
On another occasion, my husband and I had invited a minister from our church to lunch. We intended to extend a hand of love and friendship, but the opposite happened. Midway through lunch the minister and I had a testy disagreement. The things I told him were true but spoken without love. He was humiliated. I was thoroughly disappointed with my behavior. On the way home, I informed my husband I wasn’t going to church that night, and I planned to stop teaching.
After my family left for the evening service, I settled in my favorite chair to watch TV. No sooner had I turned on the TV when the electricity was cut off. I wandered outside to see if my neighbors were having the same problem. They were. We were in the midst of an extremely hot summer. If the electricity didn’t come on soon, the house would quickly become an oven. I went back inside to ponder my next move.
As I debated attending the evening service, the fire alarm that had been strategically placed on a ten-foot ceiling began to buzz – loud and unceasing. I was too short to reach the alarm, and the ladder was too heavy to move. I grabbed the broom and proceeded to jab at the alarm to shut it off, but my jabbing availed nothing. The noise was deafening and the house growing hotter by the minute. Going to church suddenly became an appealing option, but not my church.
I slipped into a church my husband and I had visited in the past and settled on a seat in the back row hoping no one would notice me. The pastor started his sermon by saying he had spent all week working on a message for the evening service, but the Lord would not allow him to preach it. Shortly before the service started, the Lord gave this pastor another message.
The Pastor’s new message explained the cost of the anointing in graphic detail. He described how Jesus’ life was crushed and his suffering produced the anointing oil that brings healing. Without this anointing, the work of ministry would be ineffective. Therefore, anyone God had given this anointing to should embrace it as precious. He concluded his message with a rebuke to anyone who possessed an anointing to teach and took it lightly. Before I realized it, I was at the altar sobbing so loud everyone in the church could not help but notice me. It was impossible for this Pastor to know the events that had taken place that day and my reaction to them. Only God knew what I really needed. I did not need to stop teaching. I needed to repent for flippantly casting aside the precious gift he had given me.
FAITH WITHOUT LOVE
We can learn how to have faith in God from a mentor, but we may not learn how to love God. If we have the faith to remove mountains but have not love, the things we do avail nothing. Abraham taught Isaac how to have great faith but did not impart a love for God. Isaac’s decision to abandon his father’s altar revealed Isaac’s lack of love for God.
After Abraham cast out the law, represented by Hagar and Ishmael, King Abimelech and Captain Phichol perceived God favored Abraham. The king and his captain traveled to Beersheba and requested Abraham to enter into a covenant of honesty with them. Abraham consented to swear an oath that his family would not deal falsely with the king’s family and their descendants if they returned the well he dug at Beersheba to his family’s control. The covenant was established, the well restored, and Abraham gave Abimelech seven lambs as a witness that the well at Beersheba belonged to Abraham’s family. When the Philistines departed, Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba and called on the name of the eternal God. In other words, Abraham established an altar to worship an eternal God in the place he swore an eternal oath to deal honestly with King Abimlech’s family.
After Sarah, who represented grace, died Isaac strayed. He left Beersheba, where he daily drank from a well that reminded him to be honest, so he could pitch his tent by the Lahai-roi well. Lahai-roi means “well of the Living One that seeth me.” This well saved Hagar and Ishmael – who represent law – when Abraham sent them away. Isaac wanted the living God to see and acknowledge him, as God had acknowledged his brother Ishmael, so Isaac sought God’s favor by clinging to law.
Isaac felt slighted by his father’s God. God saw Abraham’s faith and spoke to him on Moriah. God acknowledged Ishmael when he heard him crying and spoke to Hagar. Isaac laid down his life, he was willing to die for his faith on Moriah, but God didn’t even acknowledge Isaac’s presence. Instead, Abraham was honored as the one who feared God. Isaac drank from the well founded on a covenant of honesty for many years to no avail. God never spoke to Isaac. To Isaac it appeared grace and truth would not gain God’s attention either, so he pitched his tent by the well that saved the law. Isaac was zealous for God, but he didn’t understand God’s righteousness and it hindered his walk with God.
For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. Romans 10:2-3 KJV
Foolish Isaac! Who bewitched him? Before his very eyes, Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified when Abraham put down the knife, unbound him and used a substitute. I would like to learn just one thing from Isaac. Did he receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what he heard? Was Isaac so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, was he now trying to attain his goal by human effort? That is exactly what Isaac attempted to do for the ten years he lived by the well at Lahai-roi. Drinking the water that saved the law so frustrated Isaac; he learned to hate what God loves.
The son Isaac chose to love is another clue that his faith lacked love for the things of God. Isaac’s eldest son, Esau, was an outdoorsman who liked to hunt. Isaac liked eating the meat Esau brought home, so he loved Esau. Isaac’s younger son, Jacob, liked to stay close to home and cook. Mother loved Jacob. God also had a preference. When the nation of Israel questioned how God had ever loved them, he said, “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?…Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated… “ Why did Isaac love who God hated? Isaac was a great man of faith with corruption in his heart.
… Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad-in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls – she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Romans 9:10-13, NIV
If we know what God told Rebekah, we can be sure Isaac knew what God said to his wife. God chose Jacob before the twins were born. Jacob had done nothing good or bad to influence God’s decision. Isaac did not understand God’s love because Isaac’s love was for sale. Esau bought his father’s love with a slab of beef roasting over an open fire. Isaac’s sacrifice and good deeds could not buy God’s love; consequently, he felt God had spurned him. God had not spurned him. God named him.
God loved Jacob simply because he chose to, but what about Esau? If God is the fair and impartial King of kings he claims to be, why did he love one man and hate another? He didn’t, but you won’t be able to see it unless you possess God’s thoughts. God did not choose Jacob to go to heaven and Esau to go to hell before they were born, as some believe. God saw two nations when he looked into Rebekah’s womb. He chose the nation Jacob would become through one seed meaning Jesus. In so doing, God left the door open for Esau to be included in the nation God loves.
Esau, famished from a hunting trip, and smelled Jacob’s stew boiling on an open fire. Jacob refused to give Esau his stew but offered to sell some at a high price, his birthright. “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?” Esau was hated because he became a bitter nation that failed to value the rights of a firstborn son.
Esau’s attitude that the rights of a firstborn son mean nothing after he died was profane. He cared nothing about God’s plan to save everyone by making Jesus the firstborn from the dead. When Isaac refused to give Esau the blessing of the firstborn (after Jacob stole it through deceit) Esau hated his brother without cause. Giving the rights of a firstborn son to Jacob created a way for all men from any nation, including Esau, to regain the blessing of the firstborn that Adam and everyone descended from him lost when he sinned.
Technically, God only has two sons. Everyone has a human father except Adam and Jesus. God’s hand fashioned Adam from the earth. Jesus was born of a virgin through the creative power of the Holy Spirit. Everyone else is a descendant of Adam, including Jesus though his mother Mary. Jesus is not the first son God created, but he is the firstborn from the dead. Hence, the profanity of Esau claiming a birthright means nothing after you die. If there is no resurrection from the dead, our faith is vain.
Jacob and Esau sat at the feet of Grandpa Abraham and heard the gospel until they were fifteen years old. Jacob loved the gospel so much he would lie, cheat and steal to obtain its promises. In contrast, Esau traded the promised blessing to satisfy his flesh. If Esau had embraced the faith of Grandpa Abraham, he would have regained what Jacob took through deceit. In Jesus, we are a nation that possesses the rights of a firstborn son.
What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. Romans 9:14-16, KJV
Can we lay a charge of unrighteousness at God’s feet for choosing to love Jacob and hate Esau? How can we say or even think God is unrighteous when he loved the things that created a way for the restoration of everything Adam lost?
What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath-prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory – even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? Romans 9:22-24, NIV
God endures the objects of his wrath so the objects of his mercy can understand his glory. Those who receive Jesus are the objects of God’s mercy. Who are the objects of God’s wrath that he is enduring so we can understand his mercy? We could guess, but it would be better to let the Bible tell us.
All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:3-5, NIV
All of are objects of God’s wrath until we choose to accept his mercy. In Adam, we had no choice, so God made a way to give us a choice. God knew if he allowed all of us to become objects of wrath, he could make all of us objects of his mercy. When we accepted his mercy, God made us alive with Christ that we might no longer be the objects of his wrath.
Jacob and Esau were objects of God’s wrath. God foreknew that one of Jacob’s descendants would multiply into a nation he could love and make the object of his mercy because Jesus, a sinless man would be its head. When God chose the nation Jesus would become, he made a way for Jacob and Esau to be objects of his mercy. All other nations, including the nation Israel, are objects of God’s wrath because they rejected his love and mercy.
Now there was a famine in the land – besides the earlier famine of Abraham’s time – and Isaac went to Abimelech king of the Philistines in Gerar. Genesis 26:1, NIV
Isaac did not love whom God loved but that didn’t stop God from loving Isaac. Isaac drank from the well that saved the law until a famine forced him to relocate to Gerar. A famine also sent Abraham to Egypt where he learned his worth. While living at Gerar, God finally spoke, not to Isaac’s father, not to his father’s slave wife, but to Isaac, a child of promise. Before Isaac left Gerar, he also learned his worth, just as Abraham did while living in Egypt.
And the LORD appeared unto him [Isaac], and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of: Sojourn 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; And 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; Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws. And Isaac dwelt in Gerar… Genesis 26:2-6, KJV
Abraham was eighty-five years old when God promised to give him and one of his descendants the land between the river of Egypt and the Euphrates River. God made the same promise to Isaac when he was eighty-five. If Isaac simply lived where God told him to, God would give the land between the river of Egypt and the Euphrates River to Isaac and one of his descendants as well. Slowly and methodically, God laid the foundations of a new nation through the family of Abraham. A nation needs law, but men of flesh are not strong enough to keep a covenant of law with God. That is why God kept promising to give the land to Abraham and one of his family’s descendants.
When the flesh children of Abraham failed to fulfill the covenant of law established at Sinai, at just the right time a child was born who could fulfill the law because he was more than a man. Isaiah called him, Immanuel which means “God with us.” When God raised Jesus from the dead and gave him an immortal body, he became the firstborn son of a new nation that would enforce law with kindness and love. God saw this nation when he looked at Jacob in Rebekah’s womb and that is why he loved Jacob.
When God commanded Isaac to remain in Gerar, he taught the child of promise the true meaning of grace. God promised to keep his word to Isaac because Abraham obeyed God. Not by Isaac’s works of righteousness but by Abraham’s obedience and the sacrifice of one of their descendants, Isaac would inherit the eternal kingdom God is building. God preached the gospel to Isaac, and like his father before him, Isaac believed God.
And the men of the place asked him [Isaac] 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. Genesis 26:7, KJV
Isaac believed God as his father had, but he committed worse blunders than his father did. Isaac had risen no higher than his mentor had. He went to the land of the Philistines and told King Abimelech the same lie Abraham told him for the same reason. When Isaac thought his sacrifice would “earn” him the eternal kingdom of God, he was willing to let his father offer him up as a burnt offering. Now that Isaac must depend on God’s grace, he was afraid to die.
Isaac’s did more than tell a lie. He broke the covenant Abraham and Abimelech established to tell one another the truth. When Abraham lied to Abimelech there wasn’t a covenant to break. Abraham’s lie caused Abimelech to unwittingly sin against God and God responded by striking Abimelech’s family with barrenness. The King tried to protect his family by a covenant that required Abraham’s family to be honest. If he thought a covenant made with God’s people would guarantee his family would always be told the truth, he was wrong.
When Isaac had been there a long time, Abimelech king of the Philistines looked down from a window and saw Isaac caressing his wife Rebekah. So Abimelech summoned Isaac and said, “She is really your wife! Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’?” Isaac answered him, “Because I thought I might lose my life on account of her.” Then Abimelech said, “What is this you have done to us? One of the men might well have slept with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.” Genesis 26:8-10, NIV
Isaac lived a lie for a long time before Abimelech looked out his window and saw the truth. Isaac’s family had a covenant with Abimelech, his son and his son’s sons not to deal falsely with them. Yet Isaac had lied to him just like Abraham did. The ensuing confrontation with Abimelech forced Isaac to face reality. If Isaac couldn’t keep a covenant made between two men of flesh (his father and Abimelech) how could he keep a covenant of law established with an eternal God? Jesus said, “whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” Isaac proved dishonest with very little. Therefore, Isaac was not worthy to be the seed from whom all others would inherit the promises of God.
Facing the truth is distasteful but it is profitable. When Isaac acknowledged he was a liar like his father, blessed him beyond his wildest imagination.
So Abimelech gave orders to all the people: “Anyone who molests this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.” Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the LORD blessed him. The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him. So all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the time of his father Abraham, the Philistines stopped up, filling them with earth. Genesis 26:11-15, NIV
God did not punish Isaac when his sin was exposed. To the contrary, God protected him with a king’s decree. After Isaac honored the covenant his father made with Abimelech and stopped dealing falsely with him, God gave Isaac a hundredfold return on the crops he planted.
If you are a frustrated Christian because you sow and reap a small harvest, ask God to expose the truth. Accepting who you really are is distasteful, facing those you have wronged humiliating, but reaping the rich rewards will take the sting out of the truth. Before you pray or God to shine his light on your life, beware! Jesus promised persecution to those who live right. The Philistines may become jealous and seek to hinder you. You might even become an unwelcome guest and asked to leave.
Then Abimelech said to Isaac, “Move away from us; you have become too powerful for us.” Genesis 26:16, NIV
Isaac learned two important lessons in Gerar. First, he must look to one of his descendants for salvation because a covenant of grace was the only covenant he could keep and be blessed. Second, God desires to bless honest men with wealth and power. However, Isaac’s education was not over and could not be completed in Gerar. Isaac has grown but remained unaware of the corruption in his heart, so God sent him a message through the king – it’s time to go home.
 1 John 1:1-3
 Acts 20:30, NIV
 2 Peter 2:1
 Genesis 12:1, NIV
 I Corinthians 13:2
 Genesis 21:23
 BEER-LAHAI-ROI “well of the Living One that seeth me”): “A fountain of water in the wilderness,” “the fountain in the way to Shur” (Gen 16:7-14). It was the scene of Hagar’s theophany, and here Isaac dwelt for some time (Gen 16:7 f; 24:62; 25:11). (from International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1996 by Biblesoft)
 Galatians 3:1-3
 Genesis 25:27-28
 Malachi 1:2-3, NIV
 Genesis 17:19
 Genesis 25:32, NIV
 Hebrews 12:16, KJV
 1 Corinthians 15:17
 The Reese Chronological Bible records the birth of Jacob and Esau in 1807 B.C. 15 years before Abraham died in 1792 B.C.
 Romans 5:18-19
 Genesis 21:22-24
 Luke 16:10