Monday, March 08, 2010


Have you been feeling a little nauseous lately? Perhaps you've been “eating crow,” or maybe munching on “your own words,” or even eating a little “humble pie.” That kind of diet can sure make the stomach churn. We can all cut down on the beleaguered belly-aches by borrowing some moccasins. Let's take some advice from a Native American proverb: “Never criticize a man until you've walked a mile in his moccasins.” We might get a blister or two from living another person's circumstances, but our compassion quotients will soar and our patience points will sky-rocket. Experience builds understanding. I hated watching golf until I tried to hit that stupid white ball into a distant hole. I didn't appreciate great books until I tried to capture a reader's attention for more than one sentence. I never fully understood what incredible parents I had until I tried to raise my own children. Oh, I remember the rebellious vows I thought to myself as a child. I will never make my kids take naps. As a teenager, I stomped in the door at 11pm. My children will never have a curfew. Guess what? My kids took naps and had curfews. But some parent/child issues cut deep and leave gaping wounds in the lifelong relationship. I've often wondered about Isaac's relationship with his father, Abraham. Did that twelve-year-old altar boy grow into an angry adult saying, “I would have never...”

Gen. 26:1-3 – “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. 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.'”
  • During a famine recorded in Gen. 12:10, Abraham (then called Abram) fled to Egypt for survival. A generation later, Isaac stopped in Gerar, which was in southern Canaan – on the way to Egypt. It‟s unclear if God‟s appearance stopped Isaac‟s flight to Egypt or merely confirmed his decision to linger in the Philistines‟ capital. Regardless, this is God‟s first recorded appearance to Isaac, and Abraham‟s son received personal direction and promise from El-Shaddai! How exciting, how fulfilling! Yet I wonder if the holy encounter was at all tarnished by self-satisfaction that he‟d done it “right” – without leaving the land of Promise as his father had? When we compare ourselves to others, we judge; and when we judge, we lose – because Jesus is the only One, perfect Judge.
Gen. 26:4-6 – [God said to Isaac] “„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 kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and my laws.‟ So Isaac stayed in Gerar.” (emphasis added)
  • In God's infinite understanding, He emphasized that Isaac's future blessing had been secured by Abraham’s explicit obedience to God's EVERY requirement, command, decree and law. Had Isaac questioned his father's life of obedience? Think about the decisions in Abraham's life and how they would have affected Isaac. Might even Abraham's son held bitterness in his heart against his father? How often does God ask us to release the past into His all-sufficient hands? Granted, not every decision people around us make is based on godly obedience. However, God HAS promised that every circumstance works for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28). Are we then so different than Isaac? We, too, have a promise based on grace.
Gen. 26:7 – “When the men of that place asked [Isaac] 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.'”
  • If these words sound oddly familiar, it's because Abraham gave the same answer in the same city for the same reason – one year before Isaac's birth (Gen. 18-20). This is one of those nauseous, humble pie experiences, when hopefully Isaac was wearing his father's moccasins instead of strutting around saying, “I would never...” Because he most certainly DID tell the same lie. Actually, Sarah was Abraham's half-sister, which meant his was a half-truth. Isaac's was ALL lie.
Gen. 26:8-10 – “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.'”
  • It's humiliating to be publicly chastised for our sins, and granted – Isaac should not have lied. But what if my theory is correct, and Isaac had been thinking he was a man above his father's penchant for deception? What if Isaac thought, I would never…and then he did? In such a case, Isaac's first mistake occurred before the lie. His first sin was the spiritual pride of thinking, I would never.
Gen. 26:11 – “So Abimelech gave orders to all the people: 'Anyone who molests this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.'”
  • Abraham lied to a Philistine king named Abimelech (Gen. 20). Isaac faces either the same man (over 75 years later) or perhaps his son or grandson. Regardless, Abimelech is wise enough to recognize two things. 1) The God of Abraham and Isaac is mighty enough to protect them – so Abimelech protects them; and 2) being an astute judge of human nature, Abimelech realizes his Philistine people might be angry about the deceptive foreigners and gives strict orders about their safety. He doesn't fall prey to the assumption that his people would never… It's good to be optimistic but not when safety is at stake.
Lord, I want to have high standards for myself and others, but it can be a sign of pride or presumption to think I would never or others would never…. Give me wisdom to soberly judge myself and others, recognizing Your grace as my only salvation and Your power as the ultimate source of justice for wrongs – past or present.

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