HYMN Count your blessings
1 When upon life’s billows you are tempest toss’d,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done;
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
2 Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.
3 When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold,
Count your many blessings, money cannot buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.
4 So amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all,
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.
READING GENESIS 26:1-33
Now there was a famine in the land—besides the previous famine in Abraham’s time—and Isaac went to Abimelek king of the Philistines in Gerar. 2 The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. 3 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. 4 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, 5 because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.” 6 So Isaac stayed in Gerar.
7 When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” because he was afraid to say, “She is my wife.” He thought, “The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful.”
8 When Isaac had been there a long time, Abimelek king of the Philistines looked down from a window and saw Isaac caressing his wife Rebekah. 9 So Abimelek 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.”
10 Then Abimelek 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.”
11 So Abimelek gave orders to all the people: “Anyone who harms this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.”
12 Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the Lord blessed him. 13 The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. 14 He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him. 15 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.
16 Then Abimelek said to Isaac, “Move away from us; you have become too powerful for us.”
17 So Isaac moved away from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar, where he settled. 18 Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them.
19 Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and discovered a well of fresh water there. 20 But the herders of Gerar quarreled with those of Isaac and said, “The water is ours!” So he named the well Esek, because they disputed with him. 21 Then they dug another well, but they quarreled over that one also; so he named it Sitnah. 22 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.”
23 From there he went up to Beersheba. 24 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.”
25 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.
26 Meanwhile, Abimelek had come to him from Gerar, with Ahuzzath his personal adviser and Phicol the commander of his forces. 27 Isaac asked them, “Why have you come to me, since you were hostile to me and sent me away?”
28 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 29 that you will do us no harm, just as we did not harm you but always treated you well and sent you away peacefully. And now you are blessed by the Lord.”
30 Isaac then made a feast for them, and they ate and drank. 31 Early the next morning the men swore an oath to each other. Then Isaac sent them on their way, and they went away peacefully.
32 That day Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well they had dug. They said, “We’ve found water!” 33 He called it Shibah, and to this day the name of the town has been Beersheba.
SERMON Isaac inherits his father’s blessing from God
One of the things that has been abundantly clear as we have looked at the life of Abraham, is that he was in many ways a type, or a fore-runner, of Jesus Christ. And as we look at that phrase in vs 24:
I will bless you (Isaac) and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.
Here we see that Isaac was blessed, not because of his own righteousness, but on account of Abraham’s faithfulness to God. This principle of utter dependence on the righteousness of another is embedded in the Scriptures. Don’t miss it here!
There are noticeable similarities between the life of Abraham and the life of Isaac. This extends both to their faithfulness and to their sins!
They both receive the same call and promise of God. They both use deception calling a wife a sister.
They quarrel — Abe with Lot’s men, Isaac with Abimelech’s men.
They are both re-assured by God and make a sacrifice. They both make a treaty with Abimelech at Beersheba (although, not necessarily the same king Abimelech).
The scene starts with a famine. We imagine famine to be universally a bad thing. But what we need to see is that it is often the starting point for a work of God. Famine and other human problems are often the stimulus for God’s servants learning to depend utterly upon their Maker.
Of course, famine and problems can also drive people in the opposite direction. In this case, famine was driving Isaac to Egypt — but significantly, records for us: So Isaac stayed in Gerar.
Isaac obeyed his God.
The Lord repeats to Isaac His promise to Abraham – namely to give him this land and to multiply his descendants. Why would God do this? Vs 5:
because Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and my laws
Abraham’s life of faithfulness was the basis of God’s blessing of Isaac and his family.
And yet… after Isaac hearing God’s promises – after his act of obedience in remaining in Gerar – Isaac followed in the exact same sins as his father – lying about his wife – fearing for his own life – he called Rebekah his sister.
It seems from this that we have now moved back in time to the period before the twins were born to Rebekah (otherwise it would have been fairly obvious to the locals that they were a married couple with children).
Do we humans not learn ANYTHING from the sins of our fathers? Apparently not!
Now, the interesting thing is that Isaac’s ploy seemed to work. In verse 8 we read that he lived in that place long time – presumably living there with his dark secret undetected.
But, as is always the case – the truth will out. One day King Abimeleeh just happened to be looking out his window and saw Isaac and Rebekah together.
What he saw was not a man and his sister. Indeed what he saw undoubtedly was a man with his wife. And so Isaac was summoned to the king’s presence to explain his deception. And as in the case of Abraham, we find that this King Abimelech also had a moral conscience which must have taught Isaac a lesson.
What we read now, is that Isaac began to plant some crops – and his yields were staggeringly high (verse 12). But if you have not discovered this yet, then you still may – namely that wealth has a number of associated problems.
In Isaac’s case, along with his wealth came the envy of the local people. And the outcome of their envy was spiteful acts – sabotage – the stuff of modern life, really!
Abimelech was obviously aware of what was going on – and so he asked Isaac to move away – he didn’t want any trouble. And neither did Isaac so he did move away.
Clearly he didn’t move terribly far – for trouble followed him. As soon as he opened up one of his father’s wells that his neighbours had filled in – they came and claimed the water as theirs. This happened more than once.
Then Isaac’s men dug a well that was not disputed and so Isaac settled in that place – reckoning that this was God’s doing.
Being at peace now, he went to Beersheba and God spoke to him to reassure him. Isaac had nothing to fear, because God – the promise-keeping God – would be with him every step. Isaac responded by building an altar at Beersheba and calling on the Lord.
The more Abimelech reflected on Isaac’s increasing wealth – and Isaac’s attitude – the more he realised that God was with Isaac. His understanding of God may have been fairly minimal but he realised that Isaac’s God was powerful and so he reckoned it would be wise to have a written peace treaty with this man of God. That treaty was duly signed.
As if to confirm God’s stamp on the deal, Isaac’s men came in and announced that they had struck water – probably more valuable than gold in the desert! Indeed, the word for fresh water in vs 19 is literally. “living water” – the water of life – spring water.
Now, there is much we could take from today’s passage. We learn about God’s protection from our enemies – we don’t need to lie and cheat – God will look after us if we stick close to Him.
We learn about the abundant provision from our generous God yet God’s blessings may be followed by the hatred of men.
We learn of a God Who comes and speaks to His servants and Who guides us – even though we are a wayward people who keep returning to our sins and our fathers’ sins.
But chief above all, we learn that ALL of these blessings come to us through the Lord Jesus Christ. None of God’s blessings for us His children comes any other way. It is because of the coming of Christ and His Death and Resurrection that we can enjoy peace, protection and prosperity.
All God’s blessings come through our Saviour. It isn’t just that Jesus is God’s greatest Gift to the world – every other gift comes to us through Him. Thanks be to God the Great Giver!
HYMN Lord, dismiss us with Your blessing
1 Lord, dismiss us with your blessing,
fill our hearts with joy and peace;
let us each, your love possessing,
triumph in redeeming grace:
O refresh us, O refresh us,
trav’ling through this wilderness.
2 Thanks we give and adoration,
for your gospel’s joyful sound;
may the fruits of your salvation
in our hearts and lives abound;
Ever faithful, ever faithful
to the truth may we be found.
3 Saviour, when Your love shall call us
From our struggling pilgrim way
Let no fear of death appall us,
glad Your summons to obey,
may we ever, may we ever
reign with Yopu in endless day!