Summary: From jealousy to deceitfulness, Isaac's life was in urmoil.
In 1840 Nathanael Hawthorne wrote a story titled “The Bosom Serpent.” The story is about a man, once happy in marriage, which had been separated from his wife because of jealous suspicions. He would sometimes hold his hand to his bosom and lowly chant, “It gnaws! It gnaws!” Over time the people in the town where he lived came to know him as the “man with a snake in his breast.” To make things worse, he had the habit of stopping other men in the street as he was out walking and asks them “how their serpent was.” This caused no end of alarm and concern among the town folk. He was eventually confined to an asylum.
Such is the danger and cunning of jealousy. Like a spider it lurks within the darkest recesses of our hearts. As a snake it coils to strike, hissing its venomous charges and striking without warning.
As we will learn today from Isaac, jealousy in others can be devastating. We will also learn that the way we handle jealousy in others aimed at us is important also. Along with jealously comes deceitfulness. Both go hand in hand.
Last week we finished with Esau trading his birthright to his twin brother Jacob for a bowl of soup. The Bible states in ding so he despised his birthright.
Shortly after this there was another famine in the land much like the one Abraham faced. Isaac knew what his father did when he faced the famine. He had heard about the fertile fields of Egypt around the Nile River. But we must remember what Egypt represented. Egypt represented the world. So as Isaac begins his trek to Egypt God intervenes.
Genesis 26:2 “The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt, but do as I tell you.”
May I tell you something that I have learned? When we start to walk in the wrong direction God will tell us clearly “Don’t go there.” Each of us has the Holy Spirit in us to guide us. He is the voice of God that we hear in our thoughts as we meander through the world. We have a moral compass within us and found in the word of God. God says in Joshua “Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do.”
The biggest problem we have is the lure of Egypt is often stronger than our desire to follow God’s word. Success in Egypt is often only temporary. Remember Abraham was driven back into the famine stricken land. But it was in that land that he found true success when God produced the promised child.
God repeated his promise to Abraham to Isaac. He promised Isaac all the land, descendants as numerous as the stars, and the promise that his descendants would be a blessing to all the nations. Of course this last reference was Jesus.
So Isaac settled in the area of Gerar, north of Egypt. Although it was within the lands promised to Abraham and Isaac, it was controlled by the Philistines and their king Abimelech.
Upon his arrival before the king he passed his wife, Rebekah, as his sister. Like dear old dad he feared for his life. One day he got caught caressing her in a way that a man would only caress his wife. Abimelech is furious. He had been deceived and the possibility of a curse had been placed upon his head. So in his fury he did just what you would expect.
Genesis 26:11 “Then Abimelech issued a public proclamation: ‘Anyone who touches this man or his wife will be put to death!’” He gave him land to plant his crops and fields to feed his livestock, all of this near where Abraham had dug wells as he had traveled through.
Not the kind of reaction one might expect from a king who had been duped. But exactly the reaction someone under the world system would give when it is ordained by God. In Numbers Balak tried everything he could to get Balaam to curse the nation of Israel but Balaam could not. All he could do was bless them. There was such a burden placed on Abimelech that he had no choice but to bless Isaac. Learn this lesson. When we are faithful to following God we will be blessed by the world in surprising fashion.
For example, I have a pastor friend that came out of the business world into the ministry. He held a financial position within the company where he worked. One day his boss asked him to make an untrue disclosure to a customer in order to maintain this customers business. My friend refused.
His boss insisted that he do so. My friend replied, “If I do this then you will never be able to trust me. You will never know whether I am lying to you or not.” His boss was infuriated at my friend’s defiance and threatened to fire him. But he did not budge. They ended up losing the customer. However, my friend kept his job.