Monday, February 1, 2016

Do You Want Peace? Be Honest, Be Prosperous, and Choose Your Battles Wisely!

Are you honest? Are you prosperous? Do you choose your battles wisely? And what do these have to do with peace?
            Today in our study we’re returning to peace. Specifically Shalom, again. A peace characterized by wellness, happiness, friendliness, and welfare. Other examples include health, prosperity, peace — having or finding a friend, favor, rest, and safety.
            It’s the type of peace I think most of us would like to possess and rest in. It’s certainly something worth seeking and working toward — a heart soaked in peace; a life and position of favor with God and man; a spirit confidently and serenely at rest, and a life hedged in safety.
            As we move forward (after examining peace in death) in the Book of Genesis, we arrive at Shalom again in Genesis 26:29-31. But to fully understand what is happening here and why Shalom is the subject (and result), we’ll backtrack to the beginning of Chapter 26. There we find a famine breaking out that causes Abraham’s son Isaac to pack up his tent and family and go in search of a new, more fruitful dwelling place. He ends up making friends with the Philistine king, Abimelech, and settling in a place called Gerar, after God tells him to plunk his tent pins down there.
            Unfortunately, Isaac doesn’t get off on the right foot with the Philistine King. In order to save his own skin, Isaac lies to King Abimelech when he tells the King that his wife, Rebekah, is his sister. (A sorry lie his own father Abraham told about his own wife, Sarah, for the same feeble reason.) The King figures out Isaac’s lie after Abimelech sees Isaac and Rebekkah being romantic with one another. He calls Isaac out on his lie, and Isaac confesses. Abimelech graciously lets it go and establishes an official charge of protection over Isaac in the land.
            So, after his confession, Isaac establishes himself there and becomes exceedingly prosperous. (In those days, that means acquiring a lot of good, bountiful crops, animal herds, flocks, and servants.) And, as happens so frequently where human egos and coveting hearts are involved, the Philistines eyeball Isaac’s prosperity and — surprise! — are smitten with envy. And King Abimelech boots Isaac out of the area because he fears Isaac’s prosperity. (It could also be that Abimelech is trying to un-do Isaac’s prosperity and believes running him off will weaken Isaac’s wealth.)
            Isaac doesn’t argue. He packs up, leaves his prosperous land, relocates to the Valley of Gerar and re-digs a well his father Abraham had previously dug, and that been backfilled with earth and stopped-up by the Philistines. Then Isaac digs another well that produces running water. The Philistine herdsmen get into a quarrel with Isaac’s herdsmen about who has rights to the well and its water. The Philistine herdsmen say it’s theirs. Isaac doesn’t combat them; he just digs another well, and the same thing happens — quarreling over water rights. So, once again, Isaac gives up that well and successfully digs yet another one.
            On this third well, he doesn’t encounter any quarreling or water rights problems. Hallelujah! (Translation: Praise Be to God!) And at this location, God tells him to pitch his tent. He also tells Isaac that he will prosper, per the agreement God had already set up with Isaac’s dad, Abraham. God is making good on a generational promise. And Isaac is the recipient. He builds an altar to God there and digs another well to sustain his burgeoning flocks.
            Well…all of this news about successful digging (Isaac found good and plentiful water wherever he went) and continual prosperity (remember, there’s a famine in the land) must have gotten back to good King Abimelech because the king himself goes through the hassle of mounting up (on a horse or camel, Scripture doesn’t say what) and riding out to have a chat with Isaac. Abimelech also takes along a friend and the commander of his army, so this meeting is an official, and friendly, get-together. And Abimelech is pretty wise in making sure he has witnesses on his side for this meeting.
            And that is where we pick up the story, at verse 27.
            And Isaac said to them, “Why have you come to me, since you hate me and have 
            sent me away from you?”
            But they said, “We have certainly seen that the LORD is with you. So we said, ‘Let there 
            now be an oath between us, between you and us; and let us make a covenant with you, 
            that you will do us no harm, since we have not touched you, and since we have done 
            nothing to you but good and have sent you away in Shalom. You are now the blessed of 
            the LORD."

            So he made them a feast, and they ate and drank. Then they arose early in the morning 
            and swore an oath with one another; and Isaac sent them away, and they departed from 
            him in peace.
            Isaac doesn’t rehash the stories of all of the quarreling and moving and quarreling and moving, or utter negative assessments about the greedy Philistine herdsmen. He’s generous toward Abimelech, and they come to a peace treaty. A treaty of Shalom. Where it will be well with everyone; and there will be prosperity, rest, and safety.
            And it will go well with Isaac.
            Just like it can go well with you!

Questions to Ponder

1. Like King Abimelech, have you ever forfeited the peace in your heart because you have looked upon someone else’s prosperity and envied it, and them? Write down some situations that come to mind.


            Has your friendship with someone been broken because of prosperity envy? Did you “send 
            them away” because it bothered your heart so much to see them prosper when you were 
            not prospering? Write down the person's name and the source of your envy and ask God to
            help remove that envy from your heart. After your envy is removed, contact that person
            to ask them to forgive you for your envy of them.

            Has anyone ever envied you because of your prosperity? How did they react to it, and 
            you? How did you handle the situation? Did you remove yourself from them like Isaac 
            did? Should you have removed yourself, in order to diffuse the envy and resulting 
            tension? How might that have helped both you and the envier?

2. In today’s study, we read about how God blessed Isaac because of the promise He made to Isaac’s father Abraham to do so. Abraham was a man of God, and God blessed him for his faithfulness. (See the New Testament Epistle to the Hebrews, Chapter 11, for a list of people God blessed for their faithfulness.) Isaac received the blessing of peace because of a promise made to someone else.

            Can you think of any blessings you receive because of the faithfulness of your fathers 
            or forefathers?

            Can you think of ways that your faithfulness in God can become a blessing to your 
            children and grandchildren — a multigenerational blessing? Ask God to give you insight 
            on how you can pass on blessings to your children through your faithfulness.

            Pray a prayer of thanks to your fathers, for the blessings you are receiving
            now that are the result of them and their actions.

3. Isaac does not fight back or make a stake on his hard-earned claim. (It’s not easy to dig a good well in a famished land!) After his herdsmen quarrel with the Philistine herdsmen over water rights, and even after all of that labor had been done, Isaac does not put his foot down, stand his ground, and go head-to-head with the Philistine herdsmen. He packs up his belongings and family and moves on. He trusts God to provide for him wherever he goes.

            Is there a time in your life where you should not have fought so hard for your “rights”? 
            Would peace have resulted more quickly and fully if you had walked away and let 
            injustice prevail?

            Obviously, there are clearly times when we must stand our ground and seek justice, but 
            those times and events require much prayer, wisdom and discernment. If there is 
            a confrontation facing you right now, ask God for wisdom on whether you should 
            endure a fight for “justice” or simply walk away and seek peace, without retribution.

            If you want to follow God’s leading and walk away, but your ego stands in
            the way of that action, ask God to give you the strength to pursue peace.

4. In the end, King Abimelech heard about Isaac’s prosperity, and he reacted wisely to that knowledge.

            Do others notice that you are prosperous and blessed? Do they make comments about 
            it? In positive, or derogatory ways?  

            Do you try to downplay your blessings? (Isaac did not.) Do you give credit to the One 
            who is bestowing those blessings upon you, like Isaac did, by building his altar and 
            praising God?
            Notice what King Abimelech says to Isaac: “We have certainly seen that the LORD is 
            with you.” Abimelech, a pagan, acknowledges who is making Isaac prosperous, and I 
            think Abimelech is smart enough to know that not even he can, or should, combat that 

            There’s a true story about a very successful businessman who purchased some land he hoped would not be so prosperous and would help reduce his substantial income taxes. But not only was this man prosperous, he was also extremely generous with his bounty. His intentions did not go as planned, however. The land he bought ended up making him a lot of extra money, which he proceeded to give away. When asked how was it that he was so prosperous in all things, he responded, “Well, I shovel it out and God shovels it back in. And God’s got a bigger shovel!”

            King Abimelech, and this man, give credit to whom credit is due. Is it the same with you, 
            or do you take credit for your prosperity? Although prosperity does require hard work 
            (like ardent well digging) rarely does a person become prosperous without being helped 
            or mentored by someone else. (Like King Abimelech who let Isaac stay in his land.)

            Take some time to think about all of the people, and prayers, that have
            gone into making you prosperous. Write them down. Thank God for them.

5. From this passage, there is a distinct implication that when you are strong and prosperous, others notice and are more likely to take steps to live in peace with you. 

            How might that fact apply to your life, or your country’s stability?

6. Finally, obviously, Abimelech recognized something special in Isaac, and he wanted to reap 
some benefits from that. What kind of positive effects can your prosperity have on others, especially if they’re watching you and your life? Are you ready to tell them the source of your prosperity when they ask you about it? Are you willing to share that good news, and your prosperity with them?

What things did we learn from today’s study?

1. Isaac chose his battles wisely.
2. Isaac was prosperous — and able to live in Shalom — because of a promise made to someone 
3. Isaac became prosperous, and lived in peace, through another person’s generosity.
4. Isaac became prosperous, and lived in peace, because God made Him prosperous.
5. Isaac started on his road to prosperity and peace by being honest.
6. Both Isaac and King Abimelech give credit where credit is due. And Isaac
builds an altar of thanks to the Lord for His blessings.
7. When you are strong and prosperous, others notice. While some may try to take that prosperity from you, others are more likely to take steps to live in peace with you. (Note: I am not using this passage to preach a “prosperity gospel.” I am using it to establish a foundation by which we can better live in Shalom with others.)

Next week we will take our peace-hunting treasure map and take a time-machine jump forward to see what Isaac’s son Jacob is up to, and how he seeks a Shalom type of peace.

Until then, may your week be full of blessings that you receive and give, your heart be full of joy and thankfulness, and your days be filled with laughter! Build a little heaven in your life right now, and watch your heavenly garden grow!

In Christ’s love and peace,


When the eyes of the soul looking out meet the eyes of God looking in, heaven has begun right here on earth. ~ A. W. Tozer

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