Just a few short years ago, Elsie Mae was still home with me all day and we home schooled together. We were reading through Genesis together and came to one of those stories that I always hate going through with my littlers because I don't even totally "get" what they are all about - obviously, I'm not quite able to disciple my kids through an understanding of the passage.
That day, we read:
Then Abimelech 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 and settled there. 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 herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen 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,d saying, “Now the LORD has given us room and we will flourish in the land.” 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. Meanwhile, Abimelech had come to him from Gerar, with Ahuzzath his personal adviser and Phicol the commander of his forces. Isaac asked them, “Why have you come to me, since you were hostile to me and sent me away?” They answered, “We saw clearly that the LORD was with you; so we said, ‘There ought to be a sworn agreement between us’—between us and you. Let us make a treaty with you that you will do us no harm, just as we did not molest you but always treated you well and sent you away in peace. And now you are blessed by the LORD.” Isaac then made a feast for them, and they ate and drank. 31Early the next morning the men swore an oath to each other. Then Isaac sent them on their way, and they left him in peace. That day Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well they had dug. They said, “We’ve found water!” He called it Shibah, and to this day the name of the town has been Beersheba.
Frankly, I was reading this passage to Elsie Mae to check it off another section of the curriculum I was teaching her that year. Elsie Mae had clearly listened to the story, however, and she asked me the following question: "Mama, why do you think Isaac didn't fight and stop those bad guys from wrecking his wells?"
It isn't very nice for four year olds to spring such deep questions on their unsuspecting mamas, so I did what all teachers have learned to do when asked a question and they have no clue of any reasonable answer - turn it right back around at their student. I told Elsie Mae, "Hon, I'd rather hear why you think Isaac didn't fight over the wells and instead kept finding and digging new ones."
Before I give you her really-deep-and-she-was-only-four-years-old-at-the-time-response, here's a bit of background.
I've wondered (seven times now, as I was on my seventh time working my way through the curriculum): "Why does God includes this story (Genesis 26:12-25) in the Bible?" I guess it could be there simply as an account of key events in the life of Isaac, but really, it just seems a transition from the story of Isaac lying about Rebekah to Abimelech and his later covenant with Rebekah. Crazy as it sounds, this time through the story, my then 4 year old pointed out how that time of transition was perhaps, one of the higher points - as far as obedience, trust and following the Lord - in the life of Isaac.
Genesis 26:1-12 starts off with a famine in the land and Isaac looking for a reliable way to provide for his family. So he heads for a powerful nearby king and God speaks to him, warning him not to head to Egypt, but to stay in the land and God would provide.
Perhaps God gave him this warning because he knew that sons often repeat the sins of their fathers, and He wanted to protect Isaac from the sins that Abraham committed when he fled to Egypt. Yet we see that Isaac did not trust completely - he relied at least some on his own wisdom and understanding. He obeyed and stayed... and repeated the sin of his father, lying about Rebekah and calling her his sister instead of his wife. Thankfully, God eventually revealed Isaac's deception to the pagan Abimelech, who acted more honorably in this situation than Isaac, protecting Rebekah when her husband didn't. I've always thought that must have been an amazing moment in Rebekah's wife, realizing that God moved in the heart of a powerful pagan king to protect her and her reputation when her husband failed to do so.
God keeps His covenant and blesses Isaac. Isaac's wealth and power frightens Abimelech and he asks Isaac to pack up and leave. Obviously, if Isaac's "potential" frightened Abimelech, then he had some capacity to fight back or at least argue his right to be there. After all, he was where God had told him to be. But Isaac didn't.
He moves away and in some senses, starts over in a new place. One of the first orders of business is digging a new well to provide water for his family and his herds. The well immediately becomes a source of contention.
He leaves that well and digs a second one. It, too, results in conflict between Isaac's men and the local herdsmen.Once again, he moves away to dig a third well and this time, as Isaac says, "At last the LORD has made room for us, and we will be fruitful in the land." No one protested and Isaac is confident he has found the place where God wants him to pitch his tents.
It was at this point that Elsie Mae popped her question.
"Mama, why do you think Isaac didn't fight and stop those bad guys from wrecking his wells?"
And like I said, I boomeranged that question right back at her.
Her response floored me. She said, "Isaac was like Jesus. Jesus didn't fight those bad people back who nailed Him on the cross where He died. Isaac made Jesus smile I think, 'cause he let other people get their way and he kept the peace instead a picking fights.... (long pause) That's hard to do, Mama. I fight with my Mary Michelle and Jonathan more than I give them their way. I need to let God fight for me. God must have been happy with Isaac. God talked to him again right after that."
She was spot on.
After Isaac dug that well, the Lord reappeared to Isaac, renewing His covenant with Abraham and now Issac - and there it says that Isaac called upon the name of the Lord.
I love it when the Holy Spirit teaches my kids - He does such an amazing job that I can't even come close to approximating! I love it almost as much when my Heavenly Father clearly speaks to me through the voices of these kids He's placed in our family. Frankly, I think Elsie Mae needed to hear that message - but not nearly so desperately as I did.
One of my biggest, albeit piddly, frustration living life in Niger is not life threatening nor even greatly life changing but something that simply that irritates, inconveniences and annoys, driving me crazy until at some apparently little thing it all crashes in and I blow your stack and pity the soul who happens to be in the vicinity at the time that happens. It is one of those occurrences that just shouldn't happen, but it does anyway and there is seemingly nothing I can do to stop, change or prevent it. Anyone else relate? Do you ever run into situations like that?
What frustration you ask? Internet service. It is there one minue and gone the next. Usually, all we ever have to do is call the phone company, inform them that our internet isn't working, hear them tell us that we need to pay our bill, then we remind them that we have paid the bill... it is, in fact, paid through the first part of June... hear silence over the phone and then the voice comes back... "Oh, you are absolutely right. Check your internet service now. It should be working."
I could understand that happening once or twice... but we actually went through a stretch where we were calling our internet service every few days... one day several times that day alone. It just shouldn't be that way. I wanted to stomp into the office, show my paid bill, demand to see the person in charge and find out why this kept happening. But that wouldn't have been Isaac's way, at least not according to this story. Sadly, it is my first tendency - not just with internet service providers, but also with co-workers, students I teach, my husband, my kids, neighbors, people at church who ask for help, etc...
In those moments, Isaac held his wells loosely and chose peace and not fighting back, even when he clearly had reason. He could have made a convincing argument that God's will was to claim what was rightfully his - not doing so inconvenienced him greatly...
As we've been learning lately, in real life, digging wells is not an easy or convenient process, even in this day and age. God was pleased with Isaac's choices and He blessed.
Thankful, today, for this memory of a lesson learned from my little girl and the reminder that I can choose to be at peace with those around, even when beliefs and priorities differ greatly. While I can't compromise convictions or clear commands, I can cede rights and desires for the sake of peace, allowing God to fight the battle in His way and in His timing... to thus please the only One Whose pleasure counts... and it counts for eternity.
-updated post from the archives
Just curious... How would you have answered Elsie Mae's question?