Isaac Faced His Father’s Temptations
Temptation in the dictionary means,“a desire to do something, especially something wrong or unwise.”
True faith is always tested, either by temptations within us, or trials around us (James 1:1-18), because a faith that can’t be tested can’t be trusted. God tests us to bring out the best in us, but Satan tempts us to bring out the worst in us. In one form or another, each new generation must experience the same tests as previous generations, if only to discover that the enemy doesn’t change and that human nature doesn’t improve.
The Temptation To Run
There was another famine in the land besides the earlier one during the time of Abraham. Isaac went to Abimelech, king of the Philistines, at Gerar. The LORD had appeared to Isaac and had said, “Do not go to Egypt; stay in this land, where I tell you to stay. Live here, and I will be with you and bless you. I am going to give all this territory to you and to your descendants. I will keep the promise I made to your father Abraham. I will give you as many descendants as there are stars in the sky, and I will give them all this territory. All the nations will ask me to bless them as I have blessed your descendants. I will bless you, because Abraham obeyed me and kept all my laws and commands.”
So Isaac lived at Gerar.
When Abraham arrived in Canaan, he found a famine in the land and faced his first serious test of faith (12:10-13:4). The Scriptures don’t waste words. There is a reason for mentioning the fact that there had been a famine before this in the days of Abraham.
This wasn’t the first famine, nor would it be the last to hit that area. We always need to remember that our hard times aren’t the first time or the last time that people have had problems. We can learn from what others have done in similar situations. Those who are ignorant of history are bound to repeat it. And hard times always pass. That will give us hope for the future.
Isaac’s solution was to abandon the place God had chosen for him, the place of obedience, and to run to Egypt, thus establishing a bad example for his descendants who were prone to imitate him.
|Whenever they were in trouble, the Jews clamored to go back to Egypt (Ex. 16:1-3; 17:1-4; Num. 11; 14). During the declining days of the kingdom, instead of trusting God, the rulers of Judah often turned to Egypt for help (Isa. 30:1-2; 31:1; Jer. 42:13ff; Hosea 7:11).|
The Lord didn’t speak to Abraham during the previous famine about not going to Egypt, but He clearly spoke to Isaac not to do it here. The Lord leads different people differently. They both had the same problem, but God gave them different solutions.
Gerar was experiencing a drought, whereas Egypt wasn’t. Therefore, the Lord was telling Isaac to stay in a place that was experiencing hard times instead of going somewhere where it was easier going. It’s not good to run just because we are living in hard times or in a hard place. We need to hear from God.
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. Unbelief asks,
“How can I get out of this,” while faith asks, “What can I get out of this?”
Are you following God’s direction?
Then stay where you are and keep doing what He told you to do regardless of what happens in the physical. God supplies our need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). We aren’t limited to this world’s economy.
Since the Lord promised that He would never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), He is always with us. We should expect God’s blessing on whatever we do (Deuteronomy 28:8). Yet there is always our place called “there” where God’s provision is at its peak.
The reason Isaac was blessed was because he was the seed of Abraham. He benefited from the covenant God made with his father. We are blessed because we are the sons of God by faith in Jesus (Galatians 3:9). We benefit from the covenant God made with Jesus (Romans 8:17).
When Isaac faced the problem of a famine, he decided to go to Gerar, the capital city of the Philistines, and get help from Abimelech. Isaac and Rebekah were probably living at Beer-lahai-roi at that time (25:11), which means they traveled about seventy-five miles northeast to get to Gerar. Even after arriving in Gerar, Isaac and Rebekah may have been tempted to go south to Egypt, though God had warned them not to consider that possibility.
God permitted Isaac to remain in Philistia and promised to bless him. God had promised Abraham that his descendants would be greatly multiplied and one day would possess all those lands. Thus Isaac had a right to be there as long as God approved. (See 12:2-3; 13:16; 15:5; 17:3-8; 22:15-18.) God blessed Isaac for Abraham’s sake (25:5; see also v. 24), just as He has blessed believers today for the sake of Jesus Christ.
In financial crisis or any hard time, many people lean unto their own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6). We can never successfully run away from trials, because God sees to it that His children learn the lessons of faith regardless of where they go. We can never grow in faith by running from difficulty, because “tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character…” (Rom. 5:3-4).
Like David, we may wish we had “wings like a dove” so we could “fly away and be at rest” (Ps. 55:6), but if we did, we’d always be doves when God wants us to “mount up with wings as eagles” (Isa. 40:31).
The Temptation To Lie
When the men of the area asked him about his wife, he was afraid to say, “Rebekah is my wife,” because he thought, “The men here might kill me in order to have her for themselves. She is after all an attractive woman.” So Isaac said instead, “She is my sister.” After they had lived there for a while, King Abimelech of the Philistines looked out of his window one day and saw Isaac affectionately touching and caressing his wife Rebekah. So Abimelech called Isaac to his court.
Abimelech: I see that she is your wife! Why did you say then, “She is my sister”?
Isaac: Because I thought I might die because of her!
Abimelech: What’s the matter with you? What have you done to us? One of my people might easily have slept with your wife. Then you would have brought great shame and guilt upon me and my kingdom!
(warning his people) Whoever so much as touches this man or his wife will be put to death.
Genesis 26:7-11 (VOICE)
Abraham committed this same sin twice, once in Egypt (Gen. 12:14-20) and once in Philistia (chap. 20). Remember, faith is living without scheming; and telling lies seems to be one of humanity’s favorite ways to escape responsibility.
Isaac was asked about the woman who was with him and, like his father Abraham before him, he said she was his sister. But when Abimelech saw Isaac caressing Rebekah, he knew she was his wife.
Why did Isaac lie?
Because he was afraid his pagan host would kill him in order to obtain his beautiful wife. His lie was evidence of his unbelief; for if he had claimed the covenant promise when he prayed for children (25:21), why couldn’t he claim that same covenant promise to protect himself and his wife?
The English poet John Dryden wrote, “Truth is the foundation of all knowledge and the cement of all societies.” When people don’t keep their word, the foundations of society begin to shake and things start to fall apart. Happy homes, lasting friendships, thriving businesses, stable governments, and effective churches all depend on truth for their success. The American preacher Phillips Brooks said, “Truth is always strong, no matter how weak it looks; and falsehood is always weak, no matter how strong it looks.” Truth is cement; falsehood is whitewash.
When he found himself in difficulty, Isaac was tempted to run and to lie; and we face this same temptation today. Isaac succumbed to the temptation and was found out. It’s a sad day when unconverted people like Abimelech publicly expose God’s servants for telling lies. What an embarrassment to the cause of truth!