The last three weeks we've stayed around Genesis 26, the account of Isaac planting crops in a land of famine. Instead of running down to Egypt where the Nile meant a sure source of water, God called him to stay and open wells. Old wells had to be unstopped, new one's had to be dug.
God's will for Isaac was to be governed by well not weather, which meant that he was able to flourish in famine. This is God's will for us too. Where there's a well there's a way. It means that we must re-open old wells and dig new one's, finding our resources from Jesus, in whatever area of famine we find ourselves. That's the gift of famine. Need. We reach the end of our own wells, realizing they are cracked cisterns, and return to Jesus, the true well of living water.
One of the wells God wants us to unstop in order to move us from survivor to provider in famine, is peace. Isaac kept on moving on from wells he'd opened because there was quarreling. He eventually arrived at a well where there was no quarelling saying,"Now the Lord has given us space to flourish." A church will never flourish without peace. Peace requires that we guard our community well, choosing our battles wisely, refusing to quarrel and dispute over disputable issues.
Peace also requires wisdom in our attitude to the world. The chapter ends with a peace treaty between Isaac and the Philistine king because he recognizes God is with Isaac. Fascinating that God causes Isaac to flourish in a land governed by an unbeliever. It seems that many Christians are waiting for a Christian government, or more traditional Christian values before they believe they can flourish. While this is an understandable desire, church history does not bear this out as being pre-requisite for flourishing. In fact, the church has flourished more under adverse socio-political conditions than when it has been favored by those in power. There is a time for protest, of course. But I believe God calls us to invest in our world more than protest against it. Grumpy Christians seldom plant or reap anything.
So what made Isaac willing to give himself away in famine? We have a clue to that question at the chapter's end, when Isaac builds an altar and calls on the name of the Lord. "Altar?"you might ask. Surely he must have been plagued by memories of the altar when he was offered back to God by his father as a boy? (chapter 22)
Surely he was haunted by the horror of the knife in his father's hand?
There is mystery in that chapter of course, but Isaac would have carried two truths down that mountain. Firstly, he knew the Lord provided in the crisis of sacrifice, and secondly, he knew that he existed for God's greater purposes, not his own. Perhaps the altar on which he was given to God as a boy, was the very altar that empowered him to give himself away again as a man.