Community Group Study “Genesis: Fear and Faith in Gerar, the Story of How Isaac Receives the Blessing”
Read Genesis 26:1-35
Genesis 26 will sound very familiar to us, in a way it repeats key events from Abraham’s life, specifically begging with events similar to Genesis 12. Abraham had received the call from God to leave his homeland and to go to the place God would show him. In faith, Abraham leaves Ur and goes to the Promised Land. But, when a famine in the land came he left the place God brought him to and went to Egypt. While in Egypt, Abraham lied about his wife to save himself. In fear, he risked her safety saying she was his sister and in the process she was brought into Pharaoh’s harem. These events echo forward into Isaac’s life and we are brought to a place to see how Isaac will respond. In some ways Isaac had it easier and harder than Abraham when the famine hit in Genesis 26:1. Isaac is given direct divine revelation about what he ought to do; specifically “don’t go down to Egypt”. But the difficulty is that it would be much harder to stay in the land and accept the risk of being under the famine. Yet, in faith, he stays! This land is controlled by the Philistines and this puts Isaac into confrontation with Abimelech the king.
Along the way God makes some key promises to Isaac. First, God promises to bless him if he remains in the land. Second, he reminds him of his promise to Abraham and makes a commitment to bless him and multiply his offspring. Finally, God reminds Isaac of his father Abraham’s faith. These key promises and reminders serve to support Isaac as he heads forward to the difficult situation awaiting him.
This is all important because we see that God prepares and gives Isaac many reminders of who he is, what he has done and what he promises to do. And, nevertheless, with all that, Isaac still fails. Like his father before him, Isaac lies about his wife being his sister and puts her in danger for his own protection. Danger and hardship will often reveal what we really believe about God and his ways. In the face of a famine and in a country that is not his own home, Isaac defaults to trying to protect himself. Even though Isaac was reminded of God’s past, present and future faithfulness; when pressed he still acted to save himself from danger. We’re told that his fear came out because of being in this strange place, not being in power and because Rebekah was “very attractive” (Genesis 26:7). No one had sought to harm Rebekah yet, but what tipped the Philistines off to Isaac’s lying is that they caught him “laughing” with Rebekah. This word for “laughing” is similar to Isaacs name (which means “to laugh”), but it can also carry a connotation of flirting. The circumstances seem to be that Abimelech, the king of the Philistines, put two and two together and know that Isaac is lying to protect himself. Abimelech calls out the spiritual danger that Isaac placed them under saying “one of the people might easily have lain with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.” The irony in all these moments of fear that we have seen so far in Genesis is that the pagans have shown themselves to be more faithful than the people of God.
What we learn next in the text is that God blesses him beyond description, as he had promised to do in Genesis 26:3). Isaac gets unprecedented agricultural success and became very wealthy because of God’s hand (Genesis 26:12-16) and God’s commitment to be with him and multiply his family line in accordance with God’s covenant with Abraham is reconfirmed (Genesis 26:24). This causes the Philistines to become weary of Isaac and they ask him to leave. God then has Isaac on a journey to find a place of his own where he can have his flock, his crops and a well. The puts him into the land of Beersheba, a place that Abraham had become familiar with. It is in this place and time that God pronounces the blessing over him. Genesis 26:23-25, God will bless Issac for Abraham’s sake
This passage should cause us to consider what faith looks like in difficult circumstances and how God’s grace is not tied to our sense of worthiness or deserving. God blessed Isaac because of his commitment to Abraham, even though Isaac failed. How much more will God work in and with his people because of the work of Christ?!
At your community group:
Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.
How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week?
Read Genesis 26:1-35 as a group and stop and list out every time the story seems familiar to something that happened in the life of Abraham. There are around 7 different similarities.
How do difficult circumstances reveal our faith? What do we learn about Isaac’s faith in this chapter?
Why does God bless Isaac? How does this blessing show up in the text?
What do you think Genesis 26:34-35 is trying to foreshadow?
We see another powerful example of God’s commitment to his people, his desire to use broken people and his grace that blesses when we don’t deserve it. What role do these challenges play in the growth of our faith and what ways do you remind yourself during these time of who God is and what he is doing?