Summary: God often works in our lives to separate us from the culture so that the people will seek him out in us.
I’d like to give you a scenario. Say you’ve moved into an average neighborhood – neither a rich nor poor one and over time you begin to become quite wealthy. So one day you head out to the car lot and you bring home a new Volvo C70 (completely loaded), and it’s parked in the driveway when you go to bed, but when you wake up in the morning you discover that your neighbors have stripped the car, the tires and panels are gone, the engine’s been pulled – seats, radio everything is gone. So you move down the road, and buy another Car, a BMW 760 Li (Of course completely loaded) this time and that night – while you sleep your new neighbors strip out this car too.
Disgusted; you finally move again, and buy a Lexus SC430, this time it’s safe in the driveway and curiously enough, now all your old neighbors come and ask you for a blessing. Doesn’t that scenario seem a bit... odd? It’s very close to what we have going on in Genesis 26:12-33. Take a look at this with me, it’s an odd sort of passage in which Isaac is so blessed the neighbors notice (Which is my first point tonight.)
1) Blessings So Big the Neighbors notice.
Remember of course that this passage comes immediately on the heels of an immense failure, which gave the Philistines a reason to distrust Isaac. It also comes immediately after Isaac’s repentance – a repentance upon which comes this enormous blessing, that finds it’s double root both in Isaac’s repentant heart, but primarily I think in the promises God had given to Isaac back in the first part of the chapter. Isaac is so blessed that the neighbors see it and it drives them to greed and envy – but ultimately drives them back to Isaac. The whole episode starts with God blessing Isaac So much, that the neighbors can’t ignore it.
Of course here in the first verse it’s made apparent that These overwhelming blessings come from God and not Isaac’s abilities. Moving on into verse 13,
The blessing of God now takes on really significant proportions. It’s apparent that a long time, and several events are compressed into the phrase in order to indicate that Isaac has been blessed indeed. Of course immediately after that in Verse 14 we find out that all these blessings move the Philistines to envy they wanted what God had given to him (for that is the idea of envy).
2) God’s blessings can look like a curse to the culture.
That’s exactly the problem which Isaac experienced as the jealous Philistines plug up the ancient wells which had been there certainly for decades. It’s certainly, "an unwelcome mat". Remember that in this territory, water is life and prosperity. There’s no mixed message in this action.
It seems they were threatened by what the blessing of God had brought into Isaac’s life. It gives me reason to ask, is such a thing liable to happen to us? what blessings will manifest themselves how in our lives so that the neighbors notice - and more than notice- till they are at odds with us over them? I think we could generalize here rather easy by simply saying that just as Abimelech drove Isaac away. When we live under God’s blessing, I think we’ll find that the culture has no place for us.
Remember that we’re told that we are the aroma of death to those perishing apart from Christ. There is so much offense in the cross that living for Jesus WILL offend people of the world.
So what was Isaac’s response? Look at vv17-18.
He moved, but he didn’t move far, it was after all a move to the valley of Gerar and presumably that was just outside of town so to speak. Then he begins removing the "unwelcome mat" that had been given to him by digging out the wells.
I have to tell you Isaac’s reaction makes me wonder just how often do we, when we attempt to separate ourselves from the culture - we don’t really want to go all that far so we just “scoot over” a little. In fact it seems that we’d rather stay close to the culture around us rather than separate as we should. How odd that when the culture doesn’t even want us around we try to stay near to them.
3) God will drive a wedge between you and the culture.
Why do I say that? I think because just like God didn’t want Isaac to be a part of Philistine (or Egyptian) culture; He doesn’t want us to really be a part of our culture either. Look what happens here: Isaac just moves over a little bit, so more blessings come in v19 in the form of another well, which is again argued about.