"True faith is always tested." [Warren Wiersbe]
Genesis(93) (Part of the Origins(91) series)
by Stuart Johns(204) on June 19, 2022 (Sunday Morning(291))
Blessed(8), God's Will(8), Obedience(27), Truth(7)
“How does temptation come? Sometimes with lots of warning and time to think, and we may succumb or resist after much deliberation. At other times, temptation presents itself in the span of a few moments, and we react, making a quick decision to follow or flee from wrong desires.
Sudden temptation was what one man experienced when he walked into a suburban Chicago Walgreens in June of 2011. According to the Chicago Tribune, a security video shows that he walked up to an ATM in the store, set his drink on the floor, and did his banking. He then leaned over and picked up his drink, and did a double-take at what he saw on the floor. There was a bag with a Chase bank logo on it filled with cash and checks. According to the Tribune, the security video shows that ‘he pauses for a moment, his eyes riveted to the floor. Then he takes long look around, picks something up and slips out the door.’
The man got in his car with the money and drove away. The bag contained over $17,000. By the time he had driven to his home suburb some 45 minutes away, he had time to weigh his decision further, and realizing he had probably been captured on video he decided to turn in the money to the bank, according to the Tribune. Unfortunately, he also decided to lie about where he found the money. He walked into a Chase bank in Rolling Meadows and said that he had found the money in a Rolling Meadows mall.
The story hit the newspapers. Writer Burt Constable says that the man was featured in newspapers around the world, gave interviews to radio and TV stations, was hailed as a hero on websites, received a gift basket and small gifts from strangers, was the object of romantic inquiries, was repeatedly asked about a reward, and even drew high praise from a nun for being so honest.
The Rolling Meadows police weren’t so sure. It didn’t take long to learn where the money had actually come from, and the FBI was brought in to aid in the investigation. A few weeks later, the police confronted the man with the truth, and he confessed to what had happened. He was fined $500 for filing a false police report. Far worse, no doubt, was the embarrassment he suffered as the real story also hit the newspapers.
After the truth came out, he admitted in an interview, ‘I did have that thought in my mind (upon finding the money): Yes, I could do a lot with that. I considered that to be the human reaction to seeing a large sum of money in front of me.’”
Source: “Video Doesn’t Lie,” Chicago Tribune (7-1-11); Burt Constable, “Arlington Hts. man hailed for honesty charge with lying to cops,” Daily Herald (6-30-11).
Testing of our faith
Seth was 2 years old when we found a bump on his belly
We didn’t know what it was, but it continued to grow over the next year
We finally got a second opinion from a surgeon, who recommended that it be removed
At 3 years old he had surgery to remove the bump
We did not know if the bump was cancer or not
It turned out to be a mass of tissue that was probably his twin
We had to trust in the Lord during that time
We were tempted to give in to fear instead of trusting the Lord
All of us have probably had our faith tested
All of us have experienced temptation in our lives
The narrator focuses on Isaac in Genesis 26. In the first eleven verses, we see that Isaac is tempted in two ways – to run and to lie. How will he react to the temptations that come his way? Will he continue in the faith his father had? Will he be obedient to the commands, decrees, and laws that the Lord had given to his father? From this section of Scripture, we will learn that . . .
BIG IDEA – “True faith is always tested.” [Wiersbe]
GOD (Genesis 26:1-11)
Temptation to run (vv. 1-6)
Setting (v. 1)
The narrator tells us that Isaac experienced a famine in Canaan during his lifetime
It was not the same famine that Abraham experienced (Gen. 12:10-20)
Isaac goes to Abimelech, king of the Philistines in Gerar
This is the not the same Abimelech that Abraham encountered in Genesis 20
Because of the lapse in time, this Abimelech would have been the son or grandson of that Abimelech
The name Abimelech was perhaps a dynasty/throne name – similar to Pharaoh in Egypt
The last time we are given a location of Isaac and Rebekah it is in Genesis 25:11 – he is living in Beer Lahai Roi
Quite a bit of time has passed since that reference and Isaac and Rebekah would have been nomadic – traveling around
From wherever Isaac and Rebekah were living when the famine hit, they traveled to Gerar to see Abimelech
If they were living in Beer Lahai Roi when the famine hit, perhaps they thought that heading 75 miles northeast would make a difference
They may have found that the famine was also affecting Gerar
We do know from this next section that Isaac was thinking about going down to Egypt to escape the famine, but God had other plans for him
Command (v. 2)
The Lord realized the intentions of Isaac’s heart, so He intervened, by appearing to Isaac and giving him a command
The Lord does not want Isaac to go to Egypt – He wants him to remain in the Promised Land, even in the middle of a famine
“The safest place in the world is in the will of God, for the will of God will never lead us where His grace can’t provide for us.” [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Pentateuch, 117]
We will see this fulfilled later in Genesis 26
God blesses and provides for Isaac when he was obedient to the Lord’s command
Have you experienced that in your own life?
We may not always understand the will of God for our lives
We may be tempted to run when we lose our job or the company we work for folds
We may be tempted to move our retirement to other investments when the stock market drops
We may be tempted to run when the political climate is not to our liking
We may be tempted to run when things at church get difficult
The Lord tells us to hold on, to stay where He is telling us to stay – within His will
He promises that His grace is sufficient for us, His strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:8-10)
The Apostle Paul understood this when he asked the Lord three times to remove the “thorn in his flesh”
The Lord’s grace was sufficient for him
The Lord provided for Paul through the difficulty that was experiencing
He will do the same for you
True faith is always tested
Will you give in to the temptation to run when things get difficult, or will you trust in the grace of the Lord to provide for you in the middle of the difficulty you are experiencing
#1 – My Next Step Today Is To: Trust in the Lord’s all sufficient grace and remain in His will, instead of giving in to the temptation to run.
With the command to remain in the Promised Land, the Lord also gives Isaac a promise
Promise (vv. 3-5)
This is the first time in the narratives about the patriarchs where God says, I will be with you [Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50, 193]
What an incredible promise for Isaac
We are given the same promise that God will never leave us or forsake us, so we can say with confidence that the Lord is our helper (Hebrews 13:5-6)
He will help us through our times of temptation
1 Corinthians 10:11-13, These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
Isaac would experience the blessing of God immediately
We see this in Genesis 26:12-15
Isaac’s crops produced a hundredfold
He became very rich and wealthy
He had many flocks and herds
He had many servants
The Philistine’s became jealous of him
The Lord not only promised His blessing, but also land
The Lord again promised that Isaac and his descendants would inherit all of the lands
This promise would be fulfilled in the future
The Lord also promised to confirm and fulfill the Abrahamic oath through Isaac
Confirmation of Abrahamic oath
Innumerable descendants – stars in the sky
Promised Land – all these lands
All nations on earth will be blessed
This will happen through Isaac’s descendants
It is a continual, ongoing promise that the Lord fulfills, generation after generation
“Regarding the doctrine of election, Christopher Wright notes that election isn’t just for our individual benefit and salvation. According to the biblical story, election means that ‘the elect’ become agents of blessings to others.
Wright uses the following story:
It is as if a group of trapped cave explorers choose one of their number to squeeze through a narrow flooded passage to get out to the surface and call for help. The point of the choice is not so that she alone gets saved, but that she is able to bring help and equipment to ensure the rest get rescued. ‘Election’ in such a case is an instrumental choice of one for the sake of many.”
Source: Christopher J. H. Wright, The Mission of God’s People (Zondervan, 2010), p. 72.
PRINCIPLE #1 – Others will be blessed by our godly lives.
When we live a godly life, others will see Jesus in us
They will see that following Jesus means something different that following the patterns of this world
It shows them that we live by Biblical standards
It shows them that we are shaped by the Word of God
It shows them that we are transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit living within us
Our actions, speech, behavior, and attitudes are governed by the Lord
Jesus is our Lord and Master, so we follow His example
Are others blessed by how we live our lives?
#2 – My Next Step Today Is To: Live a godly life, so that others will be blessed.
The same is true within the body of Christ – the church
Our sole purpose in attending church is not to be served, but to serve others
That is the attitude with which we should be coming
That would transform our volunteerism
It would create an environment where people will leave our services feeling blessed, encouraged, welcomed, loved, and so much more
What is your purpose in attending church?
Are there any changes that you need to make?
The oath continued to Isaac, because of Abraham’s obedience
The Lord had tested Abraham’s faith through three avenues
The most general of the three
“It concerns demand that incur obligation.” [Walton, The NIV Application Commentary, Genesis, 552]
Two examples [Walton, 553]
Lot being told to flee Sodom
Abraham being told to sacrifice Isaac
“…usually concerns regulations.” [Walton, 552]
An example would be the ordinance of circumcision
“…used for the entire Mosaic legislation and for the Pentateuch, Torah.” [Walton, 552]
Example – circumcision should be done on the eighth day
True faith is always tested and we see that Abraham had passed the test
PRINCIPLE #2 – Obedience to God’s commands, decrees, and laws brings God’s blessing.
Isaac would experience God’s blessing when he was obedient to the God’s commands, decrees, and laws
The same is true for us today
We may not understand why God is not answering our prayers
We may not understand why God is not allowing the church to grow
We may not understand why God is not blessing our business, our relationships, our schooling, our children, our investments, our finances, etc.
We may not understand why God is not doing the miraculous or supernatural in our nation or church
It all comes down to whether or not we are being obedient to His commands, decrees, and laws
We want God’s blessing without having to follow His requirements
We sometimes feel like they are too restrictive
We soften our standards and beliefs to be more accepting
We do not exhibit the same faith that the 1st Century believers did and then we wonder why we do not experience the miraculous and supernatural
We will experience God’s blessing when we are obedient to His requirements
#3 – My Next Step Today Is To: Commit to obeying God’s commands, decrees, and laws, so I can experience His blessing.
Isaac experienced the blessing of the Lord, because he was obedient
Obedience (v. 6)
Isaac stayed in Gerar
He did not travel down to Egypt, but obeyed the Lord’s command
Isaac overcame the temptation to run, by being obedient to the Lord’s command
His faith was tested and found to be true
Isaac was human, so he did not always overcome temptation
Temptation to lie (vv. 7-11)
True faith is always tested, as Isaac experienced when tempted to lie, out of fear, instead of trusting the Lord by faith
The men of Gerar asked Isaac about his wife Rebekah
He told them that she was his sister, because he was afraid that he would be killed since Rebekah was beautiful
This lie seemed legitimate to the men of Gerar
We can assume that this narrative either took place prior to Jacob and Esau’s birth or after they were grown and out on their own
If the boys had been with them, the lie would not have worked
It would have been evident that Isaac and Rebekah were husband and wife
This lie worked for a long time
The truth was not revealed until a long time had passed
The reason the lie worked for a long time is because Rebekah was not taken into the kings harem like Sarah had been on both occasions
Pharaoh and his family all experienced serious diseases
God warned Abimelech in a dream
There was not any divine revelation when it came to Rebekah
“That Isaac was at Gerar a long time demonstrates that the danger to Rebekah was more imagined than real.” [Hamilton, 195]
Abimelech looked out his window one day and saw Isaac caressing Rebekah
Play on words
Isaac’s name means “he laughs”
The Hebrew word for “caressing” can mean “to laugh, mock, play”
“Here the problem is that Isaac is Isaac-ing with Rebekah: the euphemism implies that they are having fun or amusing themselves in a way that suggests that they are more lovers than siblings.” [Goldingay, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament, Pentateuch, Genesis, 422-23]
We are not given the exact details of what physical contact took place between Isaac and Rebekah, but Abimelech knew they were more than brother and sister
So, Abimelech summons Isaac to confront him
Abimelech makes a statement and then asks a question
She is really your wife!
I am certain that Abimelech shared with Isaac what he saw
Otherwise, Isaac could have denied Abimelech’s claim
Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’?
Isaac expresses his fear to Abimelech
He tells Abimelech the truth
Abimelech explains the risk that Isaac took in giving in to the temptation to lie
One of the men of Gerar could have slept with Rebekah and brought guilt upon the Philistines
Adultery seemed to be have been a very heinous offense in the Philistine culture
“Isaac has missed the fact that in attempting to spare his own life he was risking the lives of everybody else.” [Hamilton, 196-97]
When Isaac comes clean we see the outcome, which was not what he expected
Abimelech gave orders to all the people
If anyone molests/touches Isaac or Rebekah they will pay with their lives
To touch Isaac meant to physically hurt him
To touch Rebekah meant to sexually abuse her
Abimelech provides protection for Isaac and Rebekah
PRINCIPLE #3 – God is pleased when we tell the truth.
Isaac should have been concerned with pleasing the Lord instead of protecting his own life
He should have been truthful with Abimelech and trusted the Lord by faith
“Truth is the foundation of all knowledge and the cement of all societies.” [English poet John Dryden cited by Wiersbe, 118]
“Truth is always strong, no matter how weak it looks; and falsehood is always weak, no matter how strong it looks.” [Phillips Brooks cited by Wiersbe, 118]
Was there a time in the past when you gave in to the temptation to lie, because of fear?
When the truth finally became known, were your fears realized or were they found to be exaggerated?
Did the lie created drama that would not have been there had you told the truth?
Are you currently being tempted to lie about a particular situation?
Is fear of self-preservation the driving force behind the temptation to lie?
What does the Bible say about lying
Psalm 101:7, No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house; no one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence.
Proverbs 6:16-19, There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.
Proverbs 12:22, The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.
Proverbs 14:5, A truthful witness does not deceive, but a false witness pours our lies.
Colossians 3:9-10, Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
Ephesians 4:25, Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.
You and I should be concerned about pleasing the Lord instead of protecting our own lives and reputations
#4 – My Next Step Today Is To: Trust the Lord by faith and tell the truth, so that He will be pleased and glorified.
Do you need to trust in the Lord’s grace and remain in His will instead of giving in to the temptation to run?
Are you living a godly life, so that others will be blessed?
Are you ready to obey God’s command, decrees, and laws, so you can experience His blessing?
Do you need to trust the Lord by faith and tell the truth?
As a body of believers, there are times when we need to overcome the temptation to run and trust in the Lord’s grace to remain in His will
Obeying God’s commands, decrees, and laws will show others that we are living a godly life – through that we will experience blessing for ourselves and for those in our community
We must always tell the truth as a body of believers
“Recently my wife and I went fly-fishing for the first time. Our guides told us that ‘to catch a fish you have to think like a fish.’ They said that to a fish life is about the maximum gratification of appetite at the minimum expenditure of energy. To a fish, life is ‘see a fly, want a fly, eat a fly.’ A rainbow trout never really reflects on where his life is headed. A girl carp rarely says to a boy carp, I don’t feel you’re a s committed to our relationship as I am. I wonder, do you love me for me or just for my body? The fish are just a collection of appetites. A fish is a stomach, a mouth, and a pair of eyes.
While we were on the water, I was struck by how dumb the fish are. Hey, swallow this. It’s not the real thing; it’s just a lure. You’ll think it will feed you, but it won’t. It’ll trap you. If you were to look closely, fish, you would see the hook. You’d know once you were hooked that it’s just a matter of time before the enemy reels you in.
You’d think fish would wise up and notice the hook or see the line. You’d think fish would look around at all their fish friends who go for a lure and fly off into space and never return. But they don’t. It is ironic. We say fish swim together in a school, but they never learn.
Aren’t you glad we’re smarter?”
Source: John Ortberg, The Me I Want to Be, (Zondervan, 2010), pp. 137-38.