(Summary of the sermon – 17 Apr 2016)
Hang On! Keep Digging!
Then Isaac sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year a hundred fold; and the Lord blessed him. The man began to prosper, and continued prospering until he became very prosperous; 14 for he had possessions of flocks and possessions of herds and a great number of servants. So the Philistines envied him. Now the Philistines had stopped up all the wells which his father’s servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father, and they had filled them with earth. And Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we.”
Then Isaac departed from there and pitched his tent in the Valley of Gerar, and dwelt there. And Isaac dug again the wells of water which they had dug in the days of Abraham his father, for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham. He called them by the names which his father had called them.
Also Isaac’s servants dug in the valley, and found a well of running water there. But 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 quarreled with him. Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that one also. So he called its name Sitnah. And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth,[c] because he said, “For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.”
Then he went up from there to Beersheba. And the Lord appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham’s sake.” So he built an altar there and called on the name of the Lord, and he pitched his tent there; and there Isaac’s servants dug a well.
Then Abimelech came to him from Gerar with Ahuzzath, one of his friends, and Phichol the commander of his army. And Isaac said to them, “Why have you come to me, since you hate me and have sent me away from you?”
But they said, “We have certainly seen that the Lord is with you. So we said, ‘Let there now be an oath between us, between you and us; and let us make a covenant with you, that you will do us no harm, since we have not touched you, and since we have done nothing to you but good and have sent you away in peace. You are now the blessed of the Lord.’” So he made them a feast, and they ate and drank. 31 Then they arose early in the morning and swore an oath with one another; and Isaac sent them away, and they departed from him in peace. It came to pass the same day that Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well which they had dug, and said to him, “We have found water.” So he called it Shebah. Therefore the name of the city is Beersheba to this day
Last week, we began learning about Isaac’s interesting encounter with the Philistines. Here is a snapshot of what transpired between them.
- Isaac prospered in his endeavors. The envious Philistines forced him to leave the area. Wordlessly, Isaac moves away.
- He goes to Gerar and unearths the wells that his father Abraham had dug many years ago. The men of Gerar heard about it and took siege of the wells claiming it to be theirs! He digs another well around that area but that also is taken over by the Gerarites. Isaac named it Sitna and then wordlessly, he moved from there.
- He then went up to another place, digs a well and called it Reheboth which meant wide place. Well, nobody bothered him here. But instead of settling down there, Isaac moved again.
- Lastly, he came to a place called Beersheba and settled there. Beersheba is otherwise known as the place of covenant.
BE ON GUARD!
The enemy does not give up easily. He will cause numerous problems and obstacles in our lives. Like the Philistines closed the wells with mud, the enemy of our soul tries to close our lives with fleshly desires. Let us be on our guard and dig out the sinful fleshly instincts from within us.
At this point, one interesting thing to note is that Isaac did not dig wells only when he had problems. He continued to dig wells and proceeded with his calling until he reached Beersheba. Many of us become lax when life becomes easy and comfortable. We cry out to God, repent and align our lives as per His desire only when we have a problem. When we experience His blessings, we sit back and enjoy life. However, God wants us to continue to lead pleasing lives for Him until the end. That means constant humbling, introspection, repentance and obedience. We need to keep digging.
Our senior pastor recently told us that God had opened doors for planting a church in Varanasi. Many of us congratulated him and appreciated him. But he responded humbly saying that it was only God’s favor and not his merit. Isn’t that an incredible testimony? When life seems to be going well, let us not put our feet up and give room for pride to climb up. Let us check our lives and live humbly.
Moving on, let us now look at another interesting aspect of Isaac’s response during this encounter with his enemies. Not even once does Isaac fight back or quarrel with them. He quietly moves on with a purpose.
We can understand this attitude by looking back to his younger days. Isaac used to meditate on the Lord and His promises. Genesis 21 narrates that his father Abraham had initially dug all these wells. Then Genesis 21:32 says, ‘Thus they made a covenant at Beersheba. So Abimelechrose with Phichol, the commander of his army, and they returned to the land of the Philistines’. A covenant means ‘an agreement made by two parties by paying a price’. Abraham and Abimelech made a covenant where Abraham paid the price of seven lambs to state that the wells belonged to him. Young Isaac had carefully observed all that was going on around him.
But the Philistines broke the covenant and closed all those wells. Isaac knew where the wells were and he was now digging out those wells that his father had dug. Now even though he had a legitimate cause to fight back with the Philistines, he peacefully moved away. His ultimate purpose was to reach Beersheba – the place where his father had entered into the covenant.
WHERE IS OUR COVENANT PLACE?
That raises an interesting question in our lives. Where is our place of covenant? A covenant relationship is not a one sided agreement. It is a relationship where both the parties agree to abide by the terms and conditions despite the circumstances. Our place of covenant is at the Cross where the Father God paid the price by allowing His Son Jesus to die for our sins. The price that was paid gives us an inheritance today – salvation, forgiveness, righteousness, healing, purity and freedom from all forms of bondage. Like Isaac, until we arrive at the foot of the Cross, which is our place of covenant, let us keep on digging and moving ahead. Let us not settle down until we get what belongs to us rightfully.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE CROSS
In this regard, let me share with you a real life incident. Mr. E. Stanley John was a Methodist missionary who shared the Gospel with Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru and some other Indian government officials. One such official told John that he really liked Jesus but he did not understand the Cross or the need for it. Stanley John prayed for him and left. Meanwhile, this official had been engaged in an extramarital affair. But somewhere around this time, the Gospel slowly started penetrating into his heart and he felt convicted and compelled to confess to his wife. On hearing his confession, his lovely wife’s heart broke. She wept. But she surprised him by saying that she was willing to forgive him and would continue to love him. That night the man was so convicted and realized finally the significance of the Cross.It simply meant that we all have sinned against God but He has forgiven us.
In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Paul says, ‘Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God’. Then in 2 Corinthians 11:2, he says, ‘…For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ’. Reading these two verses, we may wonder how someone who was immoral and full of covetousness could become a chaste virgin!Well, the answer lies at the Cross. You see, the Cross does not only sanctify and cleanse us, but it also purifies and makes us new.
The Cross is our Covenant place. It is where our true security and rest lies. Let us strive to lead lives that are pleasing to Him and let us not rest until we reach our place of covenant.
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