Peace With Your Enemy

28 They replied, “We can plainly see that the Lord is with you. So we want to enter into a sworn treaty with you. Let’s make a covenant.
Genesis 26:28 (NLT)

We shall continue with the story of Isaac. In the previous 2 articles, we have seen how Isaac got rich when he was living in a poor country that was experiencing famine. His investment in farming yielded him 100 times returns every year and his animals were reproducing rapidly. His net worth took a drastic leap during famine because of the following factors:

1. Isaac’s inheritance of the Covenant of Abraham. God’ promises to Abraham are applicable to all his seeds. Isaac was Abraham’s seed.

2. Isaac’s obedience to God in not moving to a more prosperous country. He trusted in the blessing of God more than the natural circumstances.

3. Isaac’s commitment to sow seeds despite famine. He did not stay idle. He sowed and worked for his prosperity.

The above factors caused Isaac to be very rich. The good news for us is, these factors are available to us as well if we do what Isaac did.

Subsequently Isaac’s wealth was so huge that the locals got jealous and sabotaged him. Even the king could not stand him and threw him out. The harassment did not stop after Isaac left Gerar. The locals took over the wells he dug. However, Isaac did not give up. His engineer’s mind gave him the perseverance to keep digging until one day he got his own well. He settled there and continued to prosper.

In today’s story, Isaac moved to another place. There, God visited him again.

23 From there Isaac moved to Beersheba,
24 where the Lord appeared to him on the night of his arrival. “I am the God of your father, Abraham,” he said. “Do not be afraid, for I am with you and will bless you. I will multiply your descendants, and they will become a great nation. I will do this because of my promise to Abraham, my servant.”
25 Then Isaac built an altar there and worshiped the Lord. He set up his camp at that place, and his servants dug another well.
Genesis 26:23-25 (NLT)

God was there to remind Isaac of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac’s daddy. The contents are:

“Do not be afraid, for I am with you and will bless you. I will multiply your descendants, and they will become a great nation. I will do this because of my promise to Abraham, my servant.”

Let me arrange it into point forms:
1. Do not be afraid,
2. for I am with you and
3. will bless you.
4. I will multiply your descendants, and
5. they will become a great nation.
6. I will do this because of my promise to Abraham, my servant

God told Isaac not to be afraid. Why not? Isaac was not in Gerar at that time where there was at least some sort of functioning government in place. He was facing a lot of uncertainties at that time. It was easy to be afraid. There wasn’t any justice system there. You can dig a well and someone else can claim it and chase you away. You may have a huge flock but there could be bandits out there who could rob you of them. No wonder God was there to encourage him.

How can Isaac not be afraid? The answer is in Point 2 onwards. Isaac was not alone. God was with him and will bless him. As we have learned in the previous article when God blessed someone, He will make this person rich and adds no sorrow to it. Isaac was very rich at that time. He was so rich that even the king felt insecure to have him around and decided to throw him out. Yet God still wanted to bless him more.

This is the nature of our God. He does not know the word “enough”. If you are poor, he can bless you with 100 fold returns every year. He will make you so rich that your neighbors got jealous of you. Even the government will feel insecure in your presence. After you got very rich, God want you to be even richer. He does not know when to stop. Don’t you think it is great to have such a wonderful God? Religious people can never understand what a privilege it is to be a Christian.

In Point 4 and 5, God reaffirmed his promised to bless multiply Isaac’s descendants and they will become a great nation. Did God keep his promise? Look at the Jews who are Isaac’s natural descendents. Their population may be small in relation with other races but they are extremely influential. They have dominated every field of excellence may there be in literature, science, business, banking, art, politics and any other area you can think of. Why is that so? Do they have bigger brains? No, the only advantage they have over other races is the Covenant God made with Abraham. This Covenant makes them powerful. There was even a Muslim politician once said that the Jews ruled the world by proxy. This is the proof that God keeps his promises.

In Point 6, God highlighted the source of Isaac’s blessing – The Covenant Of Abraham. This means the blessings of God in Isaac’s life were based on the Covenant and not on Isaac’s personal performance. In fact, Isaac was not perfect himself. Earlier, he lied about his wife out of fear. Yet God did not hold it against him and even bailed him out of that sin.

As Christians we are the spiritual seeds of Abraham and we are equally entitled to the same blessing. Not only that, we also have the Covenant of the Cross where Jesus died for our sins. This is good for imperfect people like us. Our mistakes like our failure to fully holy in our thoughts and acts will not be able to block us from the blessings of God for us. We will be blessed despite our mistakes. So if you happen to be troubled by the mistakes you have made in the past, God wants you to let them go and start moving forward. Isaac himself had sinned but that did not stop him from getting extremely rich.

Let us move on with the story. After that Isaac got a visit from an old “friend”.

26 One day King Abimelech came from Gerar with his adviser, Ahuzzath, and also Phicol, his army commander.
27 “Why have you come here?” Isaac asked. “You obviously hate me, since you kicked me off your land.”
Genesis 26:26-27 (NLT)

The king came to visit Isaac together with his adviser and army commander. It looked quite formal. Isaac was not very pleased because he had a bad history with the king. That was the same king who kicked him off the land. The king was feeling insecure of Isaac’s wealth that he decided to throw Isaac out of his territory but now this same king decided to make a formal visit to Isaac’s house. What do you think had make the king bestowed such honor to Isaac? Here is his answer.

28 They replied, “We can plainly see that the Lord is with you. So we want to enter into a sworn treaty with you. Let’s make a covenant.
29 Swear that you will not harm us, just as we have never troubled you. We have always treated you well, and we sent you away from us in peace. And now look how the Lord has blessed you!”
Genesis 26:28-29 (NLT)

According to the king’s delegation, they could plainly see that the Lord was with Isaac. The question is, what did they see? Did the Lord appeared as a King Kong and stood beside Isaac’s house? No, they saw it through Isaac’s wealth. Isaac must have an exceeding big numbers of sheep, goats and cattle that no one can ever doubt that God must be with him.

Please note that when Isaac was first thrown out from the king’s territory, he was already very rich. He was so rich that his neighbors got jealous and made the king felt so insecure that he wanted Isaac to go away. However, at Verse 28-29 the king wanted to make a covenant with the same man he drove away. Why was that so? Isaac must be far richer that the king still felt insecure despite the fact that Isaac was no longer in his territory. This tells us that Isaac’s riches must have grown astronomically. If he was a millionaire when he was driven out by the king, he must be a billionaire by the time the king visited him.

Let me prove my theory on the insecurity of the king. In Verse 29, the king stated his request to Isaac:

“Swear that you will not harm us, just as we have never troubled you. We have always treated you well, and we sent you away from us in peace. And now look how the Lord has blessed you!”

What does this sound to you? Does the above sound like a powerful king issuing an order to a helpless farmer? No, it doesn’t. It sounds like someone begging for mercy. The king asked Isaac to swear not to harm his kingdom and stated the reasons that Isaac was not that badly treated when he was living there. The last part tells us the reason for the king’s fear, “And now look how the Lord has blessed you!”

Let me simplify the story here:
1. God has blessed Isaac as he had promised.
2. Isaac got so rich that everyone in the region was convinced beyond doubt that it was the blessing from God.
3. The king was convinced that the blessing of God had made Isaac more powerful than him despite the fact that the only people under Isaac’s command were shepherds and servants.
4. So, the king paid a personal visit to Isaac and begged him for a peace treaty. He wanted Isaac to swear not to attack him.

This story tells us why Christians must be extremely rich. If Isaac was not extremely rich, the king would not have begged him for peace. He could have been continued to face harassment from the locals. Now that the king himself came to beg for peace, I am sure those locals would not dare to disturb Isaac and his household again. As Christians, we have to be extremely rich to bring peace.

How did Isaac respond? He took advantage on the king’s diplomatic efforts.

30 So Isaac prepared a covenant feast to celebrate the treaty, and they ate and drank together.
31 Early the next morning, they each took a solemn oath not to interfere with each other. Then Isaac sent them home again, and they left him in peace.
Genesis 26:30-31 (NLT)

He conducted a feast and took a solemn oath with his guests on not interfering with each other. The peace treaty was signed. Isaac and his household were able to live in peace and prosperity for the rest of his life.

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The Problem Of Getting Rich

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.

Getting Rich In A Poor Country

12 When Isaac planted his crops that year, he harvested a hundred times more grain than he planted, for the Lord blessed him.
Genesis 26:12 (NLT)

Context: Genesis 26:1-13 (NLT)

One of the popular ways for religious people to discredit the Gospel Of Jesus Christ is in the form of this question: “What about Christians in poor countries like North Korea and Somalia?” As I have mentioned in the previous article, their basic idea is as follow:
1. There are Christians in poor countries.
2. Christians in poor countries must be poor.
3. The existence of poor Christians means the Gospel Of Jesus Christ is false.

I fully agree on the first point. There are Christians everywhere including poor countries. However I disagree with the second point and I am going to prove to you from the Bible that believers can still be rich even if they live in poor countries. Let us begin.

Here is the background story. Abraham died and passed on his estate to his son Isaac. Before long, there was a severe famine in the region.

1 A severe famine now struck the land, as had happened before in Abraham’s time. So Isaac moved to Gerar, where Abimelech, king of the Philistines, lived.
Genesis 26:1 (NLT)

A famine is the equivalent of economic recession. It was a situation that there was no harvest from the farms. There was no food. Isaac was not just facing an ordinary famine. According to the Bible, it was a severe famine. This means the problem was worse than the usual famine. Isaac and his entire household could be starved to death. What would Isaac do? It depends on whether he is an engineer or a theologian.

If Isaac were a theologian, he would have said, “It is the will of God for this severe famine to take place here. Maybe he is using this famine to teach us humility and his grace. Let us stay here and starve for the glory of God. Praise be to God.” Thank God, Isaac was not a theologian. He was an engineer. When he faced any problems, he looked for solutions, the way engineers do. He moved his entire household to Gerar, the territory of Abimelech, king of the Philistines in his attempt to prevent his household from the prospect of starvation.`

God spoke to him.

2 The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt, but do as I tell you.
Genesis 26:2 (NLT)

Why would, the Lord told Isaac not to go to Egypt? Isaac must be planning to go there. I suspect Egypt did not experience famine at that time. So it makes sense to go there. However the Lord appeared to Isaac and said don’t go to Egypt. Why did God do that? Was he really a pervert who wanted his people to starve? The following verses tell us the answer.

3 Live here as a foreigner in this land, and I will be with you and bless you. I hereby confirm that I will give all these lands to you and your descendants,[a] just as I solemnly promised Abraham, your father.
4 I will cause your descendants to become as numerous as the stars of the sky, and I will give them all these lands. And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed.
5 I will do this because Abraham listened to me and obeyed all my requirements, commands, decrees, and instructions.”
Genesis 26:3-5 (NLT)

Let me simplify the above.

1. God wanted Isaac to live as a foreigner in that land.
2. God will be with him and bless him.
3. God confirmed that he will give to Isaac and his descendents those lands He promised to Abraham.
4. The entire world will be blessed through the descendents of Isaac.
5. The reason for the above blessings is the obedience of Abraham.

God wanted Isaac to stay on in the place he was in and not to go to a richer country. God promised to be with Isaac and bless him. If you are religious, such promise means nothing to you. I have a religious guy who wrote in to tell me that his countrymen earned an average of $1 a day and they are more blessed than us Singaporeans. If earning $1 a day is a blessing then God must be very cheap. I am sure many of us are willing to give away such “blessings”. What actually is a blessing? This is what the Bible says.

22The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.
Proverbs 10:22(KJV)

The blessing of God makes us rich. So, the blessing of God is not having an income of $1 a day. When God promised Isaac blessings, it means God will make sure Isaac will be rich. Please note that Isaac was physically staying in a poor country at that time. This means God can still bless you (and make you rich) even if you are physically living in a poor country right now.

In Points 3 and 4, God reaffirms his promised to Abraham, Isaac’s daddy and Isaac was the beneficiary of that promise. Point 5 tells us that Isaac’s blessings originated from Abraham’s obedience. So, Isaac’s blessings were based on his father’s obedience and on his own obedience to God. Does this sound familiar to you? Why do you think God is willing to bless you? Do you think God blesses you because of your obedience, or do you think God is blessing you because of Jesus’ obedience? This makes a great difference to our prosperity.

If we choose to rely on our own obedience (Self Righteousness), our blessings will not be secure because our obedience is imperfect. However if we choose to rely on Jesus’ obedience (Christ Righteousness), our blessings is eternal because Jesus’ obedience is perfect and eternal.

What was Isaac’s choice?

6 So Isaac stayed in Gerar.
Genesis 26:6 (NLT)

He was smart enough to obey God. He cancelled his immigration plan.

Then the problem started. Isaac committed a sin.

7 When the men who lived there asked Isaac about his wife, Rebekah, he said, “She is my sister.” He was afraid to say, “She is my wife.” He thought, “They will kill me to get her, because she is so beautiful.”
8 But some time later, Abimelech, king of the Philistines, looked out his window and saw Isaac caressing Rebekah.
9 Immediately, Abimelech called for Isaac and exclaimed, “She is obviously your wife! Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’?”

“Because I was afraid someone would kill me to get her from me,” Isaac replied.
10 “How could you do this to us?” Abimelech exclaimed. “One of my people might easily have taken your wife and slept with her, and you would have made us guilty of great sin.”
11 Then Abimelech issued a public proclamation: “Anyone who touches this man or his wife will be put to death!”
Genesis 26:7-11 (NLT)

Isaac was afraid that the king might kill him for his wife. So he lied by telling the people there that Rebekah was his sister. He resorted to sin. How did God respond to Isaac’s sin? Please note that the Law of Moses did not exist at that time. So, God was not bounded by the Law to punish the sinner. Instead God bailed Isaac out. God arranged for the lie to be exposed and even caused the king to guarantee the safety of Isaac and his wife. Why would God do that? What was so special about Isaac that not only was he able to get away from his sin, he even had God to bail him out from his sin and got him a formal guarantee of his safety. The answer: the Covenant Of Abraham.

The covenant that God made with Abraham had obligated God not only to bless his descendents but also to deliver and bail them out of their own sins. This is good news for us Christians. As Christians, we are the spiritual seed of Abraham. If you happen to have made serious mistakes or sins in the past, God is still on your side. He will bless you and bail you out of that sin. If you think you deserve some punishments for your sins, just remember Jesus had taken those punishments on your behalf at the Cross. You can start your life anew. You can live your life everyday and face God as if you have never sin. Isn’t God good?

Let us continue with the story.

12 When Isaac planted his crops that year, he harvested a hundred times more grain than he planted, for the Lord blessed him.
13 He became a very rich man, and his wealth continued to grow.
Genesis 26:12-13 (NLT)

God kept his promise. God’s blessings made Isaac rich. Isaac’s net worth increased one hundred times a year in a time and place that were supposed to be in severe famine. Verse 13 tells us that Isaac became a very rich man and his wealth continued to grow. The moral of this story is, God can make you rich even if you are in a poor country right now. He did it before and he can do it again. The question is, are you willing to believe and obey?

Verse 12 tells us that Isaac had a role to play in his prosperity. He planted his crops. Other translations say he sowed. If you want to be rich even in famine, you have to sow your seeds. What does that mean?

First it refers to giving. Sowing and reaping is the natural law of God. It works every time even for non Christians. In my opinion, the greatest proof that the Bible is true is, it works even for non Christians when they obeyed its principles. There are many non Christians out there got extremely rich using the principles from the Bible. It is a shame for us not to be richer than them. So, start sowing what you have. God has promised that we will reap what we sow. If you want to have a lot of money, sow money. The harvest is always greater than the seeds. In Isaac’s case, he got back a hundred times in a year. Let us do the same.

The second meaning to the phase “plant our crops” is to take up any legitimate jobs available to us. If you happened to have been laid off by your company and you are unable to find similar jobs, then God wants you to take up any legitimate jobs available even if is about selling burgers, washing dishes or sweeping the streets. Don’t be idle. No matter how bad those jobs are, God can still bless you as long as you continue to trust in him.

In conclusion, the blessing of God can still work even in the situation that says the opposite. The question is, are you willing to believe?