A Little Distance Sometimes Helps


Another famine and another decision to make. When Abraham was faced with famine in Canaan he chose to go to Egypt. He got himself into trouble. His son, Isaac, faced with a similar situation is commanded by God not to go to Egypt. Instead he chose the second worst and went to live with the Philistines (Genesis 26:2). God allowed this (26:3-6) and even promised to bless Isaac while he was among the Philistines, but like his father before him, he got into trouble (26:7-11) and compromised his faith while he was there.
It’s interesting to notice the progression. Isaac goes to Gerar and God blesses him, but with the passage of time, Isaac is driven farther and farther away from the Philistines until he ends up back in Beersheba (26:23).
The issue was water. Every time Isaac dug a well the Philistines would come along and fill it up with sand. Isaac would then move farther out until finally, “He moved out from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it. He named it Rehoboth, saying, ‘Now the Lord has given us room and we will flourish in the land” (Genesis 26:22, NIV).
Oddly enough, Isaac moved from there to Beersheba. Here the Lord spoke to him and confirmed again the covenant He had made with 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” (Genesis 26:25, NIV).
We are not told that there was an altar in Philistia, but there was an altar in Beersheba. I might be stretching verse 22 a little but I sense a double meaning in what Isaac said. He had flourished materially in Philistia and at the expense of the Philistines, but now, separated from their pagan practices and their vindictiveness, and the temptation to cave in to the demands that came with living among them, Isaac ccould flourish spiritually. He could have stayed by the well that he had named Rehoboth, but he moved even farther away. It seems as though Isaac had understood an important spiritual lesson.
Distance is a great protector of virtue. Sometimes, for the sake of our spiritual well-being, we need to move away from the things, and people, most likely to cause us to offend God.

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