14 He acquired so many flocks of sheep and goats, herds of cattle, and servants that the Philistines became jealous of him.
Genesis 26:14 (NLT)
We shall continue from yesterday’s story. In the previous article, we stopped at Isaac reaped a hundred fold on the amount he sowed and got richer and richer. However, the story did not end there. His success had resulted in some side effects. The above verse tells us that Isaac’s prosperity had resulted in the locals, who were the Philistines getting jealous of him.
Why would the Philistines getting jealous? Obviously they could not achieve what Isaac had achieved. This tells us that it was not a norm at that time and place for farmers to reap a hundredfold of the seeds they sowed. Only the household of Isaac could achieve that. In other words, the success of Isaac was from the blessings of God and not from the natural circumstances. In the natural, that place was in severe famine. When people were in a famine, their primary objective was to try to survive. Yet Isaac got rich in a famine.
In case some religious people try to tell us that God’s blessing is spiritual, Genesis 26:14 tells us that the Isaac’s blessings was so evident that he had so many flocks of sheep and goats, herds of cattle, and servants that the Philistines became jealous of him. The Philistines could see clearly on how successful Isaac was, by the amount of animals and servants he had. In short, Isaac’s riches had reached another level during the famine. This means God is still capable to bless us with abundant riches even if we are physically living in a poor country. In reply to the religious people who asked me on how about the Christians in North Korea and Somalia, my answer is they can be like Isaac.
Let us continue from the perspective of the Philistines. How would you feel if you were in their shoes? Imagine yourself farming and herding animals since you were young. Despite your hard work, you only managed to make enough for your family to live modestly. The situation is worse now and your income had dropped due to the severe famine that is affecting your country.
Suddenly a foreigner named Isaac moved in and settled in your neighborhood. He and his household did the same thing you have been doing and yet their results are far better. They planted their crops and reaped a hundredfold while yours can’t even grow until harvest. Their flocks of sheep, goats and herds of cattle had been multiplying while yours are barely surviving. How would you feel? Don’t you think you will feel a little jealous? How would you respond to the prosperity of your neighbor? It depends on whether you are a theologian or an engineer.
If you are an engineer, you will do whatever it takes to find out the secret to your neighbor’s success, copy them and use them to get the same results. Unfortunately, according to the subsequent verses, the Philistines behaved like theologians instead. They got angry and played dirty.
15 So the Philistines filled up all of Isaac’s wells with dirt. These were the wells that had been dug by the servants of his father, Abraham.
Genesis 26:15 (NLT)
They filled up all of Isaac’s wells with dirt. Why would they do that? They wanted to make sure that Isaac would not have enough water for his flocks and herds. They wanted Isaac’s animals to die of thirst and Isaac to become poor like them. The question is, how were these Philistines going to benefit from Isaac’s poverty? The answer is none. Sabotaging Isaac’s water supply did not make the Philistines richer. They were not acting rationally. They were acting in hate just like the theologians.
Today’s equivalents are the religious people. Why do you think religious people are willing to devote so much resource to degrade the Gospel of Jesus Christ, spread lies on us, slander us and insult us with names like “Prosperity Gospel” and “Name-It-And-Claim-It”? (The latest label I got is “Me First Gospel”) How do you think they benefit from such actions? The answer is they can never benefit from such sins.
They were not acting rationally. They were acting in fear. They can see that we Christians are set free by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are no longer living in bondage. We are going to get richer and richer. Christian churches are experiencing exponential growth in attendance. We go to church with positive expectations and joy.
In contrast, religious people are still living under the bondage of religion, they are poor, they live in fear and their churches are declining, as more and more Christians are moving from religious churches to Christian churches. So, these religious leaders are trying to defend their turf through their slanders and lies. They must be hoping that if they spread enough lies, we Christians will leave the Gospel and back to their bondage. I am sure many of us are convinced that their efforts are futile but that does not stop them from their mission.
Let us move on with the story. Not only were the Philistines played dirty, even the king got involved.
16 Finally, Abimelech ordered Isaac to leave the country. “Go somewhere else,” he said, “for you have become too powerful for us.”
Genesis 26:16 (NLT)
Abimelech ordered Isaac to leave the country. He threw Isaac out. Why? He thought Isaac got too powerful. What a silly move. Looks like Abimelech is more of a theologian than an engineer. Driving out the rich will only make your country poor. This is why many countries with good sense today are competing to attract the rich. Why are the rich people so important? Rich people create wealth and job opportunities to their communities. If a nation chooses to punish the rich by imposing high tax rates, the rich people will only leave that nation and settle in other nations that are friendlier. In doing so, the rich people will also take along their wealth creation expertise and job opportunities.
At this point, I am glad to announce that my country Singapore is friendly to the rich. If you happen to be a rich person and you want to settle in a place where you will not be treated like a blood sucker or punished with high taxes, please consider to come to Singapore.
So much for my patriotic contribution, let us see how Isaac responded to those obstacles.
17 So Isaac moved away to the Gerar Valley, where he set up their tents and settled down.
18 He reopened the wells his father had dug, which the Philistines had filled in after Abraham’s death. Isaac also restored the names Abraham had given them.
Genesis 26:17-18 (NLT)
He moved on. Isaac was behaving like an engineer. When he faced problems in life, he looked for solutions. When he was not welcomed in Gerar, he moved out. When his wells were filled, he reopened them. A theologian would never do that. If Isaac were a theologian he would probably say, “Maybe it is the will of God for us to be poor. Since our host country does not like us to be rich, let us be poor.” Isaac did not say that. He believed in God’s promises to him. He moved on and got richer elsewhere.
However, his problem did not end there.
19 Isaac’s servants also dug in the Gerar Valley and discovered a well of fresh water.
20 But then the shepherds from Gerar came and claimed the spring. “This is our water,” they said, and they argued over it with Isaac’s herdsmen. So Isaac named the well Esek (which means “argument”).
21 Isaac’s men then dug another well, but again there was a dispute over it. So Isaac named it Sitnah (which means “hostility”).
Genesis 26:19-21 (NLT)
The locals were still making things difficult for him. Each time Isaac’s servants dug a well, the Philistines appeared and claimed ownership of that well. At that time, Isaac did not have an army to defend his territory. Even the government was clearly against him. He had no choice but to move on and dug more wells which ended up being claimed by others.
How would you feel if you were in his shoes? Will you think like an engineer and persevere or will you give up and behave like a theologian? Isaac chose to be an engineer. He did not give up. Ho chose to believe that his God is greater than the problems he faced. At last, his perseverance was rewarded.
22 Abandoning that one, Isaac moved on and dug another well. This time there was no dispute over it, so Isaac named the place Rehoboth (which means “open space”), for he said, “At last the Lord has created enough space for us to prosper in this land.”
Genesis 26:22 (NLT)
He managed to dig a well that no one would rob him from. This is why he said, “At last the Lord has created enough space for us to prosper in this land.”
What can we learn form Isaac’s experience? We are called to battle and destined to win. The moment we choose to obey God, we can expect opposition from the enemy. Satan will do everything he can to discourage us from obeying God. However, just because he is doing his best, it does not mean he must be successful. Our God is far greater than all of Satan’s resources and we Christians have full access to God’s power. We are destined to win in Jesus’ name.