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Daily Devotional for January 13, 2024

Isaac the Peacemaker

Isaac was a child of old age, his father being a hundred, and his mother ninety, when he was born. His name means "laughter," thus being a constant reminder of the gladness of his mother's heart when she learned that she was to have a son. It is a good thing to be a joy, to make life a song, wherever one goes. As to character, Isaac was meek, gentle, and contemplative; perhaps not very ambitious - yet diligent, lowly in spirit, peace-loving. Isaac would probably not make a name for himself in the modern world, with its intense commercialism and its fierce driving - but God would see quite a number of the Beatitudes shining in his character and disposition, nevertheless.

After the extraordinary incident of Abraham's sacrifice, when Isaac was bound upon the altar as an offering to God, he must always have considered his life, as in a special sense belonging to God. One who had served as a model for an artist in painting a picture of Jesus on His cross, said that ever afterwards the impression remained with him - he never could forget that for a number of hours he had represented the Master in His act of supreme devotion and sacrifice. In a still more real way - had Isaac been given to God, and had he given himself to God, and he must always have regarded his life as redeemed - an innocent animal died in his place.

Everyone who accepts of Jesus Christ as his Savior, has an experience just as real. He stands before God guilty, condemned. Then an offering is made for him. One takes his place on the altar and dies for his sins. He is redeemed now, not merely to go free - but to take his place as a living sacrifice. He is no longer his own, to do his own will - but bought with a price and belonging therefore to God.

In the chapter we are now reading, we see Isaac in a characteristic phase of his life - as a peacemaker. A famine had driven him into the Philistine country. Isaac seems to have repeated two mistakes of Abraham in this journey in the country of the Philistines. He fled to another land to escape the famine, when probably he ought to have braved it out where he was, trusting God to care for him. He seems to have intended to go all the way to Egypt, as Abraham had done - but before he had gone so far - God appeared to him and told him not to go there - but to stop where he was. So he remained in the land of the Philistines.

Isaac then had the same trouble among the people of Gerar, that Abraham had in Egypt. His beautiful wife attracted the attention of the men; and Isaac, fearful of being killed for the sake of Rebekah, lied about her, as Abraham had lied about Sarah, saying, "She is my sister ." The falsehood was exposed at length, to Isaac's dishonor. It seems strange, that precisely the same blot should be on the names of two men. We should learn a second time here - that the only safe way in any danger, is the way of truth. A lie will never make a safe refuge for us.

"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. 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!" Isaac was prospered in the land of the Philistines. He sowed there and reaped large harvests - a hundredfold, because the Lord added His blessing to Isaac's labor, and to the fertility of the soil. He increased in wealth and prosperity, his flocks and herds greatly multiplying. The result was envy on the part of the Philistines. It is always so. When one has special success, others envy him and become his enemies, ofttimes treating him meanly and wickedly. There is plenty of the same wicked spirit in modern times, and in any community examples of it can be found.

The Philistines showed their envy towards Isaac - by filling the WELLS which Abraham had dug - with dirt. Wells were very important in those days and in that Eastern country. Water was scarce; there were few rivers or streams, and it was necessary to dig wells to get water both for themselves and for their flocks. To have a well in the desert was therefore a great benefaction. Someone asked Mohammed, "What shall I do to make my name immortal?" "Dig a well," was the answer. In the desert wastes of the East - a well is a great blessing. Neither man nor beast could live but for the wells. The Philistines did great harm, therefore, to Isaac and to the country when they stopped up the wells.

The king of the Philistines at last commanded Isaac to leave his land. He frankly gave the reason for this expulsion, "For you are much mightier than we." The king was afraid of Isaac; for with the remarkable prosperity that was attending him - he would soon be able to overpower the inhabitants of the country and drive them out. That is the way the Philistine king, the indwelling-sin in us, tries to do with anything good that is beginning to grow in our heart. He would drive it out. There is a great deal of this crowding out of the good, in the lives of Christians, by the evil that still remains in them. God is not desired to take full possession of us and to occupy our whole life. Too many professing Christians are careful not to yield unreservedly to the Spirit of God. The world is envious of Christ, and does not intend to let Him dwell in men's hearts and lives.

In the time of the strifes and enmities which arose - we see Isaac's peace-loving spirit. He might have resisted Abimelech's command, refusing to leave the Philistine country. Some people like to contend for their rights. They fight against all encroachments upon them. They are continually in some contention - quarreling with somebody. They boast of the fact that they never allow anyone to impose on them. The world calls this a manly spirit - but Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." Here, twenty centuries before Christ came, we find Isaac living out this Beatitude.

"Isaac departed" - that is, he moved on when he was told to move on, rather than contend for his right to stay there. We should not fail to get the lesson: it would be better for us to suffer wrongfully, than engage in contention and strife. This is the way the Master did. He let Himself be a "way," a road, on which others walked to better things. It is thus that He would have His followers live. This is the upward way.

Isaac moved on, and now we see him clearing out the old wells which his father had dug - but which the Philistines had filled up. There is continual opportunity for us in this world, to open out old wells which have been filled up, and rendered useless. The Evil One is always trying to destroy the fountains of good in a community. It is sad to see a church building unused, falling into decay, in which once the gospel was preached every Lord's Day. It is a sad thing to know of a home where once there was a family altar which has been torn down - the old well of grace and goodness, having been filled up. It is a holy work to clear out these wells, that again the water of life may flow in them to quench thirst and to make life.

Besides cleaning out and opening up the old wells, Isaac's servants dug also a new well, and found there a fountain of springing water. Wherever we go these days, we should seek to dig a well, to start some blessing which has not been there before. Someone says that he who makes two blades of grass grow where only one had grown before, is a benefactor. No one should be content to live anywhere, even for a little while, and not do something which will make his stay there a blessing. It is not always necessary literally to dig a well - that may not be the best thing to do. But there are other things that one may do - which will make the neighborhood more beautiful, a better place to live in.

Perhaps one may plant a tree which will grow and cast a grateful shade long after he who planted it has gone to his rest. Thackeray in a story tells of one of his characters whose custom was to keep his pockets filled with acorns when he walked over his estate, and whenever he found a spot that was bare and empty - he would plant one of these so that at length an oak would grow up to adorn the place. It was said by a friend of a Christian girl who died when a little past twenty, "Everywhere she went - flowers grew in the path behind her." She was an encourager, an inspirer, a comforter, a bearer of burdens, wherever she was known.

There are countless ways of starting a blessing in a neighborhood in which one is living. One does not need to have millions, and to found a great public library, endow a church, or open a well, in order to start a blessing. Just living a sweet life is a way of digging a well, whose waters will refresh others. To find an unhappy home - and change it into a home of love and peace - is to set going a blessing whose influence will go on forever. To change one unhappy person into happiness, one discontented man into contentment, one anxious woman into quiet peace, to help a little child - is to dig a well which shall become an enduring blessing. We should never allow a day to pass - without doing a kindness which shall make some heart gladder, some spirit braver, stronger, better. Wherever you go, tomorrow, any day - be sure you dig a well.

Although Isaac had moved on to avoid trouble with the Philistines, they persistently followed him, and wherever he settled, they continued to disturb him. Wherever his servants dug a well, the herdsmen of Gerar would claim it and try to take it. Isaac would then quietly give up the well, rather than have a struggle over it, and would dig another a little farther on. His enemies would then strive for that too, and then Isaac would again move on and dig another. All this showed Isaac's wonderful patience, his inoffensive spirit, and how willing he was to make sacrifices for the sake of peace .

Some who read this chapter may consider Isaac as lacking in manliness; but was he not doing what Jesus long afterwards, in His Sermon on the Mount, taught His disciples to do? "But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you." Matthew 5:39-42

At last Isaac got beyond the spitefulness of the Philistines. He seems by his inexhaustible patience to have literally worn out their persistent greed. "He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it." Isaac then made this well a memorial of his gratitude, for he called it Rehoboth, "room." "For now the Lord has given us room and we will flourish in the land," he said. Patience had wrought at length its perfect work.

Isaac's peaceful spirit was approved in heaven, and the Lord appeared to him at Beer-sheba, blessing him and renewing to him the promise which had been given to Abraham. There Isaac built an altar and worshiped the Lord. There also he pitched his tent and his servants dug a well. Again we have the tent, the altar, the well - emblems of a true and good home.

Bible Verses: Matthew 5:39-42

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