Where there is a Well there is a Way
In Africa and other developing countries, water is a daily and crippling challenge. Without water you can't grow food, you can't build housing, you can't stay healthy, you can't stay in school and you can't keep working. Children, especially girls under the age of fifteen, often bear the burden of walking miles each day to find water in streams and ponds which is full of disease that makes them and their families sick. Wells bring clean, safe water closer to where people are living cutting down on illnesses and the time used to fetch water which can better be spent on other things.
There are five things that digging wells can help in these countries. The first is education. Education is critical for breaking the cycle of poverty and yet over half of the world's schools lack access to safe water and sanitation facilities. Lack of clean water has serious effects on students' academic performance and attendance rates. Second is hunger. Relieving hunger begins with access to clean water. It may seem simple, but we forget that without access to a reliable source of water, food is hard to grow and even more difficult to preserve and prepare. Globally we use 70% of our water sources for agriculture and irrigation, and only 10% on domestic uses. Third is healthy living. In developing countries, about 80% of illnesses are linked to poor water and sanitation conditions. 1 out of every 5 deaths under the age of 5 worldwide is due to a water-related disease. Fourth is poverty. The lack of water is an often insurmountable obstacle to helping oneself. Without clean water, the possibility of breaking out of the cycle of poverty is incredibly slim.
Lastly, water has long been at the center of conflict in these countries. You can travel tens or even hundreds of kilometers without seeing a single water facility and even then it is not of good quality. Finding water is becoming increasingly urgent to ease the strain on local community tensions. Water is the source of many conflicts within nations and between them. The causes of this conflict are complex, but one thing is certain: water shortages raise tensions, and in turn tensions make access to water more difficult. The digging of wells can reduce these tensions.
Today’s sermon is titled, “Where there is a well there is a way” because wells can be a way to better education, relieving hunger, healthy living, less poverty and less conflict in developing countries today. Wells are one way to help the physical and emotional needs of the world. This was also true in the time of the Patriarchs. Without water people could not have survived in the desert for very long. The lack of water took a physical and emotional toll on all living things. In our scripture this morning, wells will also take on a spiritual quality. Because of Isaac’s obedience to the Lord he was blessed with water wherever he went. “Where there is a well there is a way” meant that God was taking care of Isaac’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs. Physically, he had water for his family, for his flocks and herd and his crops. Emotionally, he didn’t need to worry about him or his family dying of thirst or losing his flocks and herds to a lack of water. And spiritually, he could trust God to provide for his daily needs knowing that the same blessing that the Lord had promised to his father Abraham was now extended to him.
We will see that God’s blessing is upon Isaac as he becomes very wealthy as a farmer and a shepherd. But Isaac’s life was not without trouble. Some of his troubles were brought on by himself and other troubles were brought on by others as they saw the blessings of God in his life. We will see conflict involving water this morning as we study this passage and we will notice that even though Isaac is abundantly blessed by God his life is not trouble-free which brings us to the big idea that Being blessed by God doesn’t mean a trouble-free life.
Before we begin the study of our scripture this morning let’s pray: Heavenly Father, we thank you that your Holy Spirit is among us this morning. I pray that your Spirit would move in this place and among those who are listening online. I pray that our hearts and minds would be open to what you want to say to us individually and corporately as Christ followers. Illumine us, teach us and grow us to spiritual maturity through your Word and your son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. In his name, Amen.
There are three points this morning. The first is Abundance and is found in Genesis 26:12-14. This is what God’s Word says, “Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the Lord blessed him. The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him.”
The first thing we notice is that Isaac has become a farmer. We don’t know how long he has been in Gerar but it has been long enough to plant crops and reap its harvest. What is significant is that the first time Isaac plants his crops in the area and in the very same year he reaps a hundred-fold. He reaped this abundant harvest even in the midst of a famine in the land because the Lord blessed him. This fulfilled the promise made by God back in verse 3 that if Isaac stayed in the land of Gerar, God would be with him and would bless him. He chose obedience to God over the attractions of Egypt. There must have been a good source of water nearby for his harvest to have been so great. He was probably using the wells that his father Abraham had dug when he was in the same area back in Genesis 20 and 21. In Genesis 21:25, we see Abraham complaining to Abimelech about a well of water that Abimelech’s servants had seized from him.
Next we are told that Isaac became rich and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. A literal reading shows the repetition of the word “great.” “And the man became great, and he continually became greater until he became very great.” It is the picture of a person growing wealthier and more powerful because God has abundantly blessed him. But Isaac’s life wasn’t trouble-free. Last week, we saw that his troubles came because of his own actions. He lied about Rebekah being his wife and that caused tensions between him and his neighbors. We are not told that they were upset with Isaac and Rebekah but we notice in verse 11 that Abimelech had to order the Philistine people to not molest them or they would be put to death. They must have wanted to harm Isaac and Rebekah for their deception. Second, his troubles came because of the blessings of God in his life. Because of his abundant wealth, his neighbors, were envious of him. They had access to the same soil, sunshine and rain as Isaac but his hundred-fold harvest was greater than theirs and his flocks and herds were more abundant. He had also accumulated many servants during his time in Gerar. Isaac’s neighbors did not appreciate how successful and powerful he had become and they despised him and his success.
This brings us to our second point this morning which is Animosity found in verses 15-22. This is what God’s Word says, “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. Then Abimelek said to Isaac, “Move away from us; you have become too powerful for us.” So Isaac moved away from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar, where he settled. 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. Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and discovered a well of fresh water there. 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. Then they dug another well, but they quarreled over that one also; so he named it Sitnah. 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.”
The Philistines are envious of Isaac and they showed their displeasure by stopping up all the wells that his father’s servants had dug. These were the same wells that Isaac had been using. He relied on these wells to water his crops, his flocks and herds and to keep his family alive. Water was essential to his survival in the region. Think about how much the Philistines must have hated Isaac. By stopping up the wells they wouldn’t have access the water either. It seems they just wanted to hurt Isaac and run him off their land. Then his troubles get worse as Abimelech orders Isaac to move away from them. Abimelech orders him to move away which suggests he has the upper hand but states that Isaac “is too powerful for us” making his words more of a request than an ultimatum. Nonetheless, Abimelech’s involvement makes the banishment more official. The fact that the Philistines and Abimelech are so focused on getting rid of Isaac shows how much the wells and the water were a blessing from God. The Philistines were probably not finding water in their own land like Isaac was. Isaac was blessed by God but that didn’t keep the troubles away from his doorstep reminding us of our big idea that Being blessed by God doesn’t mean a trouble-free life.
We notice that Isaac moves away instead of fighting for his right to use the wells or taking offense at the Philistines or Abimelech. He simply obeyed their demands. He had every right to those wells because they were his father’s and the water should have been his. He had done nothing wrong and was just trying to take care of his family. But he walked away when confronted and didn’t take offense at being wronged. God is pleased when his people live in peace and harmony with the world. We see this in Romans 12:16a & 18 which says, “Live in harmony with one another. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” And in Proverbs 19:11 it says, “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” To overlook an offense is to take no notice of wrongs done against oneself, to refuse to retaliate or seek revenge, to let affronts go, or in a word forgive. This is what Isaac does here and will also do again later in our passage this morning. That brings us to our first next step on the back of your communication card which is to strive to live in peace and harmony with everyone and to forgive and not take offense when wronged. That is important as we live our lives among believers and unbelievers.
We are told that that Isaac moves and encamps in the Valley of Gerar settling there. It is possible that Isaac had been living in the city proper because in verse 8 Abimelech was able to look out a window (probably from his palace) and see Isaac and Rebekah caressing. If this is true he may not have moved too far. It may have been like moving from Carlisle or Gettysburg to Idaville; moving from a town or city to its suburbs. He probably stayed close by so he could continue to use the wells his father had dug when he was living in the area. These wells had been stopped up by the Philistines after Abraham had died. The Philistines didn’t seem to care about the previous treaty made between Abraham and Abimelech in Genesis 21. The Philistines just wanted to control and claim all the resources of the land for their own, even if they didn’t intend to use them. We are told that Isaac reopens his father’s wells and gave them the same names that his father had given them. It is significant that Isaac knew the names of his father’s wells and where to find them. He was making the statement that he now owned them as Abraham’s son.
We continue to see more evidence of God’s blessing on Isaac as his servants dug a new well in the valley and discovered fresh water. Some translations say “springing water” or “living water.” They not only found water but water from an underground spring instead of stagnant water from a cistern. It would have been fresh water that would always be fresh because it came from a spring. But we see that trouble was not very far away. The herdsmen of Gerar, seemingly having followed Isaac, quarrel with his herdsman claiming that the water from the new well was theirs. So Isaac named the well Esek which means “quarrel” or “disputed.” Then Isaac again walks away from conflict and dug another well but the herdsman quarreled over that one too. This well he named Sitnah which means “to accuse” or “to oppose” relating to the word “satan” meaning “opposition.” It has the connotation of a formal complaint. It seems that the herdsmen of Gerar filed a legal, formal complaint against Isaac to seize this well as their own.
We notice a couple of things: One, God continues to bless Isaac because every well he dug he found water. We see this in that the herdsmen of Gerar continue to harass him as he digs new wells and finds water. If these wells didn’t produce water there would be no reason harass him. He would have just continued to move farther away from their land until he did. Two, Isaac again and again takes the high road. He doesn’t start a confrontation; he doesn’t take offense. He moves on trusting in God to provide the water needed for his family, flocks and herds. God continues to bless Isaac as he tries to faithfully live in peace and harmony with his neighbors.
After the formal complaint is filed against Isaac, he again moves on and digs another well. No one comes to quarrel over this well meaning that he must have moved far enough away from the land of the Philistines that they did not need to harass him anymore. Isaac names this well “Rehoboth” which means “room”, “open spaces” or “enlargement. This name praised the Lord for ending the conflict and giving Isaac and his family “room” to flourish and be fruitful in the land. It is the same root word used in Genesis 13:17 which describes the breadth of land that God showed to Abraham. God told Abraham to look to the north, south, east and west and promised him that all the land as far as he could see would belong to his descendants. Isaac and his descendants would possess all this land and would flourish and be fruitful there. Isaac’s life was not trouble-free but God continued to abundantly bless him over and over again even in the midst of trouble. (Big Idea)
This brings us to our third point this morning which is Assurance found in verses 23-25. This is what God’s Word says, “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.
Isaac moves from the area of where he dug the well, Rehoboth, to Beersheba. Beersheba was the same place where Abraham and Abimelech had made a treaty earlier in Genesis 21:31. The words “that night” show how significant it was that Isaac returned to his father’s homestead. The Lord appeared to Isaac the same night he returned to Beersheba and assured him that he was same God that was the “God of his father Abraham.” This is the first occurrence of this title for God that will continue throughout the rest of Genesis. The title reflects God’s personal commitment to Abraham in fulfilling his promises to him and involving him in the fulfillment of the promise to bless his offspring and in turn to bless the nations. He renews this personal commitment here to Isaac as he will later on with Jacob. God enters into a personal relationship not just with Abraham but also with his descendants. The Lord also told Isaac he did not need to be afraid because he is with him. Everywhere he dug a well he had found water because the Lord was with him. God was assuring Isaac of his protection and provision physically, emotionally and spiritually.
God also reiterated and reaffirmed the covenant blessing that Isaac would have numerous descendants. This covenant that Isaac was now a part of was for the sake of God’s servant Abraham and affirmed that Isaac was the true recipient of the Abrahamic blessings. But it was not for anything Abraham or Isaac did but because of the grace of God. The honored title, “my servant”, will also be used of the great leaders of Israel: Moses, Caleb and Joshua. God appearing to Isaac after the troubles in Gerar would have been an encouragement to him like it had been for Abraham. God also speaks to us and encourages us today.
Then Isaac did three things. The first reminds us of what Abraham did in the past: He built an altar and called on the name of the Lord. He was following in his father’s footsteps expressing his faith in the Lord. The altars built by the patriarchs were a grateful response to God coming and speaking to his servants. Baldwin says, “Worship seemed to be the first thought. They heard and received God’s word and gave themselves in adoration and worship pledging their obedience.” Then Isaac pitched his tent and his servants dug a well. These actions show Isaac’s commitment to worshipping the one true God as his father did and to making his residence in the land of promise in obedience to God. In the midst of troubles Isaac was still blessed by God. God proved faithful in producing water every time he dug a well providing for the fundamental needs of Isaac and his family. And in gratitude Isaac worshipped God thanking him for his protection, provision and blessing on his life. This brings us to the second next step on the back of your communication card which is to worship God with thanksgiving for his protection, provision and blessing on my life. This worship is not supposed to be a one-time thing. We should continually worship the Lord for his protection, provision and blessing on our lives.
My conclusion is adapted from Weirsbe’s commentary. In the Bible, wells sometimes symbolize blessings from the hand of the Lord. When we become followers of Christ some of the spiritual wells or blessings that we receive are the Word of God, prayer, worship, faith, the power of the Holy Spirit, sacrifice and service. In our individual lives or even in the church we sometimes allow these wells to be stopped up by the enemy. The Bible is full of warnings against this. 2 Timothy 4:3 warns us that there will be a time when people will not endure the sound teaching from God’s Word but will look for teachers to say what they want to hear. 1 Samuel 12:23 warns that when we don’t pray we are sinning against the Lord. Malachi 1:6-14 warns us about not offering our best in worship to God. Hebrews 11:6 warns us that without faith it is impossible to please God. Luke 14:26 warns us that we must be willing to sacrifice everything even father and mother or our own lives for the sake of Christ. Matthew 12:31 warns us about disregarding the power of the Holy Spirit. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is the unpardonable sin. Matthew 25 warns us about not serving the least of these. The goats are the ones who did not serve the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick or the prisoner and they will go to eternal punishment.
We’ve just had the Revival on the Farm and we continually pray for revival for Idaville Church and for the church universal. Weirsbe says, “Whenever there has been revival of spiritual power in the history of the church it’s been because somebody has dug again the old wells so that God’s life-giving Spirit can be free to work.” We must evaluate our individual hearts and the corporate hearts of our church to see if any of these spiritual wells have been stopped up by the enemy. And if they have we must begin to dig and reopen those wells. That brings us to the last next step on the back of your communication card which is to evaluate the spiritual wells in my life and the life of Idaville Church and reopen the ones that the enemy has stopped up.
As the Worship Team comes to lead us in a final song, let’s pray: Most Holy God, enable us through the power of your Holy Spirit to reopen those spiritual wells in our lives and in our church that Satan, the enemy has stopped up. Help us to worship and thank you for the blessings you have given us. And help us to live in peace and harmony with our neighbors and to not take offense against those who wrong us. For your honor and your glory. Amen.