In A Journey Ends, Isaac’s long journey to develop a personal relationship with God is examined. The reasons Isaac could not find satisfaction in his relationship with God are traced to a lack of submission, and perception of rejection that produced anger and unforgiveness. After Isaac forgives King Abimelech, God brings Isaac to maturity by exposing the impurity in his heart and Isaac learns to fear God.
So Isaac moved away from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar and settled there. Genesis 26:17, NIV
After God taught him the blessing of honesty, Isaac became so wealthy the Philistines he lived among envied him. Where there is envy, there is disorder and every evil practice. The Philistines’ evil practices were hindered because Isaac lived under the king’s protection, so the Philistines did the next best thing. They filled up the wells Isaac’s father had dug. When the King discerned the animosity his people felt for Isaac, he commanded Isaac to leave. Isaac had learned the value of honesty, but he had not learned to value submission. Isaac moved away as the king commanded, but he did not move far enough away to stop the quarreling. He relocated to the Valley of Gerar, a chief city of the Philistines.
God speaks to his people in many different ways. One of the most common ways is through governing authorities.
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. …. … For he is God’s servant to do you good… Romans 13:1-2,4, NIV
When Isaac refused to submit to King Abimelech’s command, he rebelled against the authority God had established. Even though Abimelech was a Philistine, he knew and feared Isaac’s God. God appeared to Abimelech in a dream when Abraham deceived him regarding Sarah. King Abimelech was God’s servant to do Isaac “good.” However, Isaac could not see anything good in the king’s command to leave. Leaving meant he would no longer have King Abimelech’s protection.
Isaac’s reluctance to leave indicated he had become too dependent upon a man of flesh. His relationship with Abimelech inhibited his spiritual growth. Isaac still had things to learn that he couldn’t learn in Gerar. He needed to understand that God protected and prospered him, not a human king.
God’s blessings exposed that prosperity was more important to Isaac than peace. Corrupt minds suppose that such gain is godliness. At this time in his life, Isaac was rich in corruptible things but not spiritual things. He had to return to Beersheba, the place he worshiped God with his father, and find his own water before God could perfect him. Isaac’s lack of submission to an earthly king was only a symptom of the real problem: his lack of submission to God.
THIRSTY FOR GOD
O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1, NIV
After the king asked Isaac to leave, Isaac pitched his tent in a nearby valley and commenced reopening the wells his father dug. He called each reopened well by the name his father had given it. Everything was fine until Isaac began looking for his own water. He was doing the right thing, but he was doing it in the wrong place. Isaac couldn’t develop a relationship with God while living in disobedience to the authority God established. Consequently, when Isaac found his own water, he also found trouble.
Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and discovered a well of fresh water there. But the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen and said, “The water is ours!” So he named the well Esek, because they disputed with him. Genesis 26:19-20, NIV
Isaac found his own water but quarreling herdsmen made keeping the well impossible. He named the well Esek, which means contention. Then Isaac proved to himself that he was a good man by allowing the herdsmen of Gerar to keep the well. As far as Isaac was concerned the king was wrong. He did not have to leave for peace to reign in the land. Unfortunately, our good deeds have a way of blinding us to the truth.
Then they dug another well, but they quarreled over that one also; so he named it Sitnah. Genesis 26:21, NIV
Sitnah means enmity or hatred. A rebellious man can be at peace with the people around him but it will profit him little. Isaac’s arrogance turned the Philistines’ jealously into hatred. Nothing Isaac did worked. It was time for him to go home, but Isaac was wise in his own eyes. Instead of acknowledging that King Abimelech was right and submitting to authority, Isaac compromised and then he deceived himself.
He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it. He named it Rehoboth, saying, “Now the LORD has given us room and we will flourish in the land.” Genesis 26:22, NIV
Isaac called the third well Rehoboth, which means broad places. The quarreling stopped, so Isaac assumed that the Lord had made a place for him where he would flourish. However, a man living in disobedience lacks discernment. Isaac’s conclusion cannot be trusted.
Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Isaac camped by a well whose name means “broad places” claiming the Lord had made room, but all Isaac really did was leave the narrow road to walk on the broad road. The Greek word euruchoros that was translated “destruction” in the gospels means ruin or loss. Jesus wasn’t talking about a road leading you to heaven or hell. Lot walked the broad road. If he missed heaven, there is a righteous and godly man in hell. The broad road Jesus spoke of leads us to ruin and loss in this life.
Many Christians suffer ruin and loss because it is easier to walk the broad road. Abraham’s and Lot’s servants quarreled when God made them wealthy. In an effort to keep peace, Abraham asked Lot to leave. When Lot chose the broad road, the well-watered wide and spacious fields of Sodom, he repeatedly suffered ruin and loss. If not for Abraham’s intercession for the righteous, Lot would have lost his life in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Isaac was dangerously close to making the same mistake as Lot, when he camped in a broad place thinking he would flourish. The only thing that flourished was his grief.
While Isaac lived in the broad place, Esau married Judith and Basemath. Isaac and Rebekah’s new daughters-in-law became a constant source of grief to their family. Ten years later, for reasons the Bible does not disclose, Isaac packed his bags and returned to Beersheba – the place his father worshiped God. When he reached a place of obedience, God preached the gospel to Isaac just as he had preached the gospel to Isaac’s father.
From there he went up to Beersheba. 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.” Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the LORD. There he pitched his tent, and there his servants dug a well. Genesis 26:23-25, NIV
The Lord had been waiting twenty-five years for Isaac to return to Beersheba, so he could quench Isaac’s thirst for God. “Do not be afraid for I am with you,” God assured Isaac with a mild rebuke. Why was Isaac afraid to leave the protection of an earthly king when God was with him? Isaac had great faith but his faith was sensual. He had more confidence in a king he could see than in a king he could not see.
For the second time God confirmed the gospel when he promised to increase the number of Isaac’s descendants, not for anything good or bad Isaac had done but for the sake of his father’s obedience. Jesus and his family will become a blessed nation founded upon God’s law. The only way Isaac could have an inheritance in God’s eternal kingdom is to believe in Jesus like his father did.
Isaac had grown in his relationship with his father’s God and desired to find his own water. After Isaac pitched his tent in Beersheba, he abandoned Abraham’s altar and established his own, then he began digging for water again. He didn’t find water, so he drank from the well Abraham obtained when he swore an oath to be honest. Isaac would be digging for a long time, because he still had a problem that hindered his relationship with God.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peace makers for they shall be called the children of God.” Abraham had circumcised Isaac’s flesh, but Isaac’s heart was uncircumcised. Isaac had a covenant with God, but he didn’t act like God’s child. First, he went to the land of the Philistines and broke the covenant to deal honestly with the king and his family. Then he resented the king’s order to leave. He finally obeyed the King, but he was not at peace with the governing authorities. Isaac’s resentment against a king who desired truth and peace was resentment against God’s Prince of Peace! Isaac had to learn that his resentment against King Abimelech was without cause, and forgive the Philistines before he would find life-giving water.
When Isaac returned to Beersheba, God told him two specific things: I will be with you and I will bless you. God had told him the same two things when he commanded Isaac to remain in Gerar during the famine. If Isaac had truly believed he was blessed because his father’s God was with him, he would not have resented Abimelech’s command to leave. Isaac’s mind needed to be renewed with the truth. His prosperity came for a heavenly King, not a king of flesh. Twenty years after Isaac returned to Beersheba, King Abimelech came to visit. If you don’t believe Abimelech’s pursuit of peace made Isaac bitter, consider Isaac’s greeting.
And Isaac said unto them, Wherefore come ye to me, seeing ye hate me, and have sent me away from you? Genesis 26:27 KJV
What a pleasant greeting for an old friend! The king never hated Isaac. God’s blessing made Isaac so powerful peace could not be sustained, and the king desired peace. Isaac’s spiritual immaturity interpreted the king’s order to leave as “[Y]e hate me.” Isaac was the one who shut the door and built the wall of separation between himself and the peace loving king.
Many years later, the king was still seeking peace and had another message for Isaac from God, a confirmation that Isaac never needed the protection of an earthly king to be blessed.
They answered, “We saw clearly that the LORD was with you; so we said, ‘There ought to be a sworn agreement between us’–between us and you. Let us make a treaty with you that you will do us no harm, just as we did not molest you but always treated you well and sent you away in peace. And now you are blessed by the LORD.” Genesis 26:28-29, NIV
Why couldn’t Isaac see what everyone else saw? God had blessed him. The king Isaac thought he needed sat in Isaac’s tent telling him the truth. Even though Isaac broke the covenant to be honest, it was still evident that the Lord was with him. In fact, Isaac was so blessed the people he lived among feared him. Others could clearly see what Isaac could not because Isaac had his eyes on a man of flesh instead of his God who is Spirit. Isaac didn’t lose anything when he obeyed the King’s command to leave because God never left him and never stopped blessing him. Isaac’s resentment against God’s minister hurt no one but Isaac because it hindered him from finding the water that would quench his thirst for God.
Isaac then made a feast for them, and they ate and drank. Early the next morning the men swore an oath to each other. Then Isaac sent them on their way, and they left him in peace. That day Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well they had dug. They said, “We’ve found water!” He called it Shibah, and to this day the name of the town has been Beersheba. Genesis 26:30-33, NIV
The same day Isaac made peace with the authority God established, Isaac’s servants found water. Isaac had been digging wells for sixty years. This was the first time he would drink his own water in the place his father worshiped. His rebellion against the revealed word of God hindered him from finding his own water, but his rebellion never stopped God’s blessings.
God’s goodness led Isaac to repentance. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God.” When Isaac repented of his anger and made peace with the king, God could receive him as a son and gave him what he thirsted for, his own well of life giving water. Isaac named the well Shibah, which means seven, a sacred number to the ancient Hebrew people that symbolizes perfection or completion. After many years of frustration, Isaac learned to be an honest peacemaker, which prepared him to learn a bitter lesson that that would perfect his faith.
Now that Isaac was acting like a child of God, it was time he learned how to love like a child of God. About a year after Isaac found water in Beersheba, he decided to bless his sons before he died. Isaac called his eldest son, Esau, and commanded him to bring some meat. Rebekah overheard Isaac talking to Esau. She was sure her husband was making a mistake because God had told her the elder would serve the younger. Worried that Isaac’s blessing upon Esau would ruin God’s plan, Rebekah intervened. She convinced a reluctant Jacob to deceive his father. Jacob questioned her method, but Rebekah was so confident they were doing the will of God he relented. Since Jacob had already purchased Esau’s birthright with a bowl of beans, he may have felt his mother’s plan was justified.
Rebekah and Jacob believed they were doing the right thing. Technically, they were doing the will of God, but they were not walking in the ways of God. God does not use deceit to accomplish his purposes on the earth. The end of a matter will not justify the means used. God graciously worked everything out for good but not without consequences. Jacob would be deceived by his children and grieve for many years before the deception was revealed. Rebekah would spend the next twenty years separated from the son she loved. In the midst of deceit, Isaac would discover the deceit in his heart.
He went to his father and said, “My father.” “Yes, my son,” he answered. “Who is it?” Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game so that you may give me your blessing.” Isaac asked his son, “How did you find it so quickly, my son?” “The LORD your God gave me success,” he replied. Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near so I can touch you, my son, to know whether you really are my son Esau or not.” Jacob went close to his father Isaac, who touched him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” He did not recognize him, for his hands were hairy like those of his brother Esau; so he blessed him. “Are you really my son Esau?” he asked. “I am,” he replied. Then he said, “My son, bring me some of your game to eat, so that I may give you my blessing.” Jacob brought it to him and he ate; and he brought some wine and he drank. Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come here, my son, and kiss me.” Genesis 27:18-27, NIV
“The Lord your God gave me success,” Jacob lied! It is easy to invoke the name of God to hide sin when he is YOUR God and not MY God. Isaac had some doubts about who was in the room with him because Isaac heard Jacob’s voice say, “I am Esau,” but he did not recognize him. The KJV Bible says Isaac did not “discern him.”
We cannot live a life that is pure and blameless without discernment. Paul wrote to the Philippian Christians,
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ,… Philippians 1:9-10, NIV
Our love needs to abound in knowledge and depth of insight before we can discern what is best. Isaac had always been long on faith and short on love. Abraham taught Isaac the will of God but Isaac had walked contrary to the will of God most of his life. God revealed his love for Jacob before the twins were born, yet Isaac chose to love Esau. Isaac’s lack of love for the things of God left him with an inability to discern what was best and produced a son so desperate to be blessed he used deception to acquire what he wanted.
Isaac rejected the truth because he trusted what he could feel more than what he had discerned. The entire time Isaac was eating, he wrestled with doubts. To set his mind at ease, before he conferred the blessing of the firstborn, Isaac decided to try a little love. Surely, if Jacob was really in the room with him, he would not betray his father’s love. Isaac ordered his son to kiss him, but a man who had not sown love should not have expected to reap love. Isaac was betrayed by a kiss like Jesus was, with one major difference. Jesus never failed to love Judas like Isaac failed to love Jacob. Jesus loved the things of God and the people God chose. Love did indeed reveal the truth: the truth about Isaac.
And he came near, and kissed him: and he smelled the smell of his raiment, and blessed him, and said, See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the LORD hath blessed:… Genesis 27:27, KJV
When Jacob came near to plant an insincere kiss upon his father, Isaac smelled something that convinced him to bless: the field, which the Lord “hath blessed!” But these are the words of a man lacking discernment. The Hebrew word for field used in this verse is also translated ground. The ground is not blessed. The Lord cursed the ground when Adam and Eve sinned. Why did the stench of a curse invoke Isaac to bless?
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. 2 Corinthians 2:14-16, NIV
The aroma that pleased Isaac revealed definite problems in his spiritual life but all was not lost. God was with Isaac and God always leads his people to triumph. Before the day was over, God used Isaac to spread the fragrance of the knowledge of God.
Isaac declared in his blessing, “May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed.” Isaac was doing the right thing for the right son, but Isaac’s heart was not right because he thought he was blessing Esau. Before the children were born, Isaac knew God had chosen Jacob and desired the elder to serve the younger, so why did Isaac give the blessing of Abraham to the nation God hated?
After Isaac finished blessing him and Jacob had scarcely left his father’s presence, his brother Esau came in from hunting. He too prepared some tasty food and brought it to his father. Then he said to him, “My father, sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.” His father Isaac asked him, “Who are you?” “I am your son,” he answered, “your firstborn, Esau.” Isaac trembled violently and said, “Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him–and indeed he will be blessed!” When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me–me too, my father!” But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.” Genesis 27:30-35, NIV
Scarcely had Jacob slipped out of the room when a joyful Esau entered with the tasty food he bought his father’s love with and Isaac had an epiphany. He realized he had been deceived and trembled violently but not with anger. The Hebrew word for tremble is charad, which means “to shudder with terror or to fear.” Isaac had no one to fear but God, because it was God Isaac betrayed. In Isaac’s heart, he had given to the elder what God desired for the younger.
Our sin does not mock God. Our sin mocks us. When Isaac’s sin mocked him, he found the fear of God and the beginning of wisdom. God’s desires always prevail. God had no cause to stop Rebekah and Jacob’s deception. The way you treat others is the way you will be treated. Isaac sowed to the flesh when he walked in his own desires for his sons and he reaped corruption from his flesh. Isaac lived a lie all of his life. He betrayed God by worshipping outwardly but not in his heart. He was willing to sacrifice, but not willing to love, until the day his son’s deceit became a mirror of his own.
Isaac had every right to curse Jacob for deceiving him, but Isaac had finally discerned the truth: God will have mercy and not sacrifice. Isaac’s decision to let the blessing stand is the act of faith that put his name in Hebrews, Chapter 11, for it was “by faith that Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.” Even strong crying from the son Isaac loved could not change Isaac’s mind because he now possessed the only faith that counts.
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. Galatians 5:6, NIV
Isaac had been a great man of faith all of his life but it meant little. Paul acknowledged in a letter to the Corinthians, “if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I …surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” Isaac’s faith was so great he was willing to let his father offer him to God as a burnt sacrifice, but his faith gained him nothing until he learned how to love God! For Isaac the journey had ended . . . but for Jacob the journey had just begun.
 James 3:16
 1 Timothy 6:5-11
 Genesis 26:18
 SITNAH (sit’-na) (Sitnah, “hatred,” “hostility”; echthria): The name of the second of the two wells dug by the herdsmen of Isaac, the cause of further “enmity” with the herdsmen of Gerer (Gen 26:21, margin “That is, Enmity”). (from International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1996 by Biblesoft)
 REHOBOTH (re-ho’-both), (re-ho’-both) (rehobhoth, “broad places”; Euruchoria): One of the wells dug by Isaac (Gen 26:22). (from International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1996 by Biblesoft)
 Matthew 7:13-14, NIV
 BROAD, BREADTH euruchoros NT:2149, from eurus, “broad,” and chora, “a place,” signifies, lit., “(with) a broad place,” i. e., “broad, spacious,” Matt 7:13. (from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Copyright (c)1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers)
 NT:684 apoleia (ap-o’-li-a); from a presumed derivative of NT:622; ruin or loss (physical, spiritual or eternal): (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)
 2 Peter 2:7
 Genesis 26: 34-35
 Matthew 5:9
 Romans 2:28-29
 Isaiah 9:6 NIV
 John 4:24
 Psalm 42:1-2
 Matthew 5:9
 Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright (c)1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers
 OT:7704 sadeh (saw-deh’); or saday (saw-dah’-ee); from an unused root meaning to spread out; a field (as flat): KJV – country, field, ground, land, soil, X wild. (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)
 Genesis 3:17-19
 Genesis 27:29, NIV
 OT:2729 charad (khaw-rad’); a primitive root; to shudder with terror; hence, to fear; also to hasten (with anxiety): (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)
 Hebrews 11:10, NIV
 1 Corinthians 13:2, NIV