This week, in between the stories of Esau selling his birthright and Rebekah convincing Jacob to deceive Isaac into believing he is the elder son, we find a sidebar that seems strangely out of place.
Now there was a famine in the land, besides the former famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Gerar to Abimelech king of the Philistines. And the LORD appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you.
Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands.
Like his father before him, Isaac faces famine. But, unlike Abraham, Isaac is explicitly instructed by God NOT to go to Egypt. Instead, he is told to dwell in Gerar. What is interesting is that the root word of Gerar means to “chew the cud.” God says to Isaac, “I am going to bless YOU because of your FATHER’S obedience.”
In other words, God is saying, “Isaac, because I so treasured Abraham, I am going to pour out blessings on you. Don’t worry about the famine. While everyone else is scurrying and worrying, you will experience My blessing.”
“The LORD knows the days of the tawmeem [blameless], and their heritage will remain forever; they are not put to shame in evil times; in the days of famine they have abundance.” (Psalm 37:18-18)
In addition to feeding Isaac the blessings of the obedience of Abraham, both literally and figuratively, it appears God also wanted to give him some “time off” and “time out,” perhaps, to ruminate (chew the cud) in regard to the struggle between his two sons, of which, oddly, no mention is made during this in this account. But, as Isaac is about to encounter problems with wells, perhaps our Father also wanted to remind Isaac of the significance of the wells in the toldot [history, generations] of the family.
The first well in the family history, you probably recall, was introduced by the struggle between Hagar and Sarah (Genesis 16). Moving outside of God’s plan, upon Sarah’s insistence, Abraham took Hagar as his wife, who became pregnant and despised Sarah. Life became very hard for Hagar and she fled from her mistress. But a merciful God met Hagar at a well to explain what was happening and what she should do.
And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur. (Gen. 16:7)
The Angel of the LORD instructed Hagar to return and submit herself to Sarah. He promised to greatly increase her offspring. He told her what to name her son and He revealed what Ishmael’s character would be.Evidently, even Abraham recognized the Source of Hagar’s wisdom for he named their son as the LORD had instructed Hagar and we see no argument from Sarah.
Hagar named the well, Beer Lahai Roi, literally, “Well of the One Who Lives and Sees Me.” This, then, is the well of Torah, the root word of which means “teaching and instruction.”
Hagar encountered the Angel of the LORD once more in the wilderness of Beersheba when Abraham sent her away.
And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. (Gen. 21:17-19)
A couple of weeks ago, Pastor Mark Biltz of El Shaddai Ministries in his weekly Shabbat broadcast pointed out that in Hebrew, Hagar [הגר] can be seen as being comprised of two words: ha ger, “the stranger.” This is an amazing revelation! The Angel of the LORD, whom we firmly believe is Yeshua, is shown here bringing the well of Torah to the nations!
Immediately after Hagar’s encounter, God instructed Abraham to “walk before Me and be tawmeem [blameless]” (17:1). As we have previously stated, through Shem, Abraham had the opportunity to glean the wisdom of God accumulated by Adam, Enoch, and Noah. After the “mistake” of Ishmael, God is reminding Abraham of his primary charge to be a light to the nations to draw all men to Himself!
The third well is mentioned after Abraham obeys God’s command to send Hagar and Ishmael away. “Early the next morning,” Abraham, bondservant of the LORD, obeys this heart-wrenching command. This test behind him, we then read, “And it came to pass at that time that Abimelech and Phichol, the commander of his army, spoke to Abraham, saying, ‘God is with you in all that you do’” (Gen. 21:22).
Don’t you imagine that Abraham, still grieving over the separation from Ishmael, wondered, “If God is with me, why is there so much strife and pain and confusion?”
Abimelech had come against Abraham and personally felt the swift sting of God’s retribution. The Shield of Abraham had stopped up all of the wombs in the king’s household, perhaps even all the orifices, as one commentary suggests. Abimelech wisely proposed, “Yahweh is obviously with you in all that you do. Let’s make a deal.” The fear of the God of Abraham had come upon Abimelech just as it would later come upon the citizens of Jericho when the descendants of Abraham entered the land.
Before Abraham agreed to a peace treaty, he brought up the subject of a certain “well of water” which his servants had dug and which the king’s servants had “seized.” When Abimelech denied any knowledge of the matter, Abraham proceeded with the covenant of peace; but used the opportunity to firmly established his rightful ownership of the well. With a gift of seven female lambs to the king, Abraham said, “Take these seven ewe lambs from my hand that they may be my witness that I have dug this well.” He called the name of the well Beersheba or “Well of the Seven” (21:31).
To me, the seven female lambs are a picture of the Holy Spirit, or Ruach HaKodesh, which, in Hebrew thought, is feminine. The Book of Revelation mentions “seven spirits,” referring to Isaiah 11:1-5. Seven, of course, refers to completeness. So, the “seven spirits” are the complete wisdom of God found in Messiah, the Living Torah. This is what Abraham tapped into when he dug “the well of the seven.” Abraham wanted Abimelech to know this was no ordinary well!
It is significant that Abraham’s ownership of this well was secure, for he would surely need much wisdom and grace for his next assignment. “Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him…’Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah and offer him there as a brunt offering…’” (Genesis 22:1-2).
What sustained Abraham? What increased his faith to the point that he could get up “early the next morning” and take his son and go to Moriah?
And we have to stop and ask: What or who do I need to separate from? What is my Moriah? What or who have I made into an idol? What is the biggest hindrance to achieving my life mission?
The Holy Spirit is bringing to mind an exhortation, which I call the bondservant’s creed, entitled “Others May, You Cannot.” As it has come to mind several times recently, I will obey the Spirit and insert it here. Perhaps some of my readers have never come across this blessing.
Others May, You Cannot by G. D. Watson [1845-1923]
If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 16:24-25)
If God has called you to be really like Jesus He will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility. God’s call will put such demands of obedience on you that you will not be able to follow other people, or measure yourself by other Christians. At times, He will let other people do things which He will not let you do.
Other Christians who seem very religious will push themselves, pull wires, and work schemes to carry out their plans. You cannot, and if you attempt it, you will meet with failure and rebuke from the Lord.
Others may boast of themselves, of their work, of their successes, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing, and if you begin it, He will lead you to despise yourself and all your good works.
Others may be allowed to succeed in making money, or may have a legacy left to them, but it is likely God will keep you poor. God wants you to have something far better than gold, namely, a helpless dependence upon Him, that He may demonstrate His faithful love for you in supplying your needs day by day.
God may let others be honored and put forward, and keep you hidden in obscurity in order to produce some fragrant fruit for His coming glory which can only be produced in the shade. He may let others be great, but keep you small. He may let others do a work for Him and get the credit for it now. The reward for your work is held in the hands of Jesus and you will not see it until He comes.
The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch over you with a jealous love. He will rebuke you for the little words and feelings or for wasting your time. So make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign, and has a right to do as He pleases with His own. He does not owe you an explanation of these mysteries. But if you give yourself to be His child, He will wrap you up in a jealous love, and give you the precious blessings for those who belong, heart and soul, to Him.
Settle it forever, then, that you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit. It is His option to tie your tongue, or chain your hand, or close your eyes in ways that He does not seem to use with others. And when you are so possessed by the living God that your heart delights over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the vestibule of Heaven.
Those who would finish their race must “settle it then, that you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit. It is His option to tie your tongue, chain your hands, or close your eyes in ways that He does not seem to use with others.”
This, then, was Abraham’s secret strength and wealth. And it is the secret of all who have brought glory to God. In dying to themselves, to human reasoning, to the opinions of people, and the call of the world, they have surrendered to this “peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship” and found “the vestibule of heaven.”
My dear children, once you have been privileged to experience to this place of intimacy, no matter the cost, nothing else will do. No praise of man, no earthly reward, nothing, absolutely nothing, can touch it. If one is to be salt and light in the darkness, able to block out every voice but One, much pruning, much self-denial, and courage is needed.
What gave Abraham the ability to close his ears to everyone else but the Voice of Almighty God? What enabled him to bank on the promise that Isaac’s descendants would be as the sands of the sea? I submit that Abraham not only drank from, he soaked in “The Well of Seven,” receiving from the Holy Spirit the revelation of God’s plan for mankind and the role of his descendants in its fulfillment. When the ordeal was over, and the test was passed, Abraham returned and “dwelt at Beersheba” or “lived with the Well of the Seven.”(22:19). Sarah, in contrast, left Beersheba and died instead at Hebron.
In last week’s lesson, we heard Abraham commission his servant to go to Haran to find a wife for Isaac. Abraham’s servant prayed by a fourth “well of water” for success for his master. God answered mightily and the servant soon departed with the bride-to-be. (Gen.24:61).
The Torah generally uses two words that are translated as “well of water.” “Beer” means, literally, a “hole in the ground.” “Ayin,” means “eye” and “fountain”, alluding to the watchful eye, the presence, and the wisdom of God, as used in the narratives with Hagar.
As the narrative unfolded last week, the text made use of the word “ayin” seven times (Gen. 24:13-45). We saw Rebekah performing a superhuman feat, filling her jar over one hundred times, running to water ten camels, confirming to Abraham’s servant that she was the chosen bride. Remarkably, Rebekah agreed to leave for Canaan right away.
Arriving in the land with the servant and his ten camels, Rebekah caught sight of Isaac and “fell off of her camel.” Isaac, Scripture tells us, “had been the way of Beer Lahai Roi” (Genesis 24:62). Therefore, the fifth mention of a well is actually the same well where Hagar received comfort and instruction. Scripture is telling us that Isaac is walking “in the way of The One Who Lives and Sees Me.”As the portion came to a close last week, Abraham’s death was recorded.
In this week’s portion, Isaac is told to dwell in Gerar, where he will also encounter four wells.
“So Isaac dwelt in Gerar.” (Genesis 26:6).
But, no sooner did Isaac get settled then did Abimelech come lusting after Rebekah. No doubt Isaac had often heard the stories of his mother being taken, first by Pharaoh, and then by Abimelech. Why do we have a repeat in Isaac’s life? In every generation the serpent wants to steal the seed of the woman, which, according to Yeshua, is the word of God.
“Then Isaac sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year a hundredfold; and the LORD blessed him. The man began to prosper, and continued prospering until he became very prosperous…so the Philistines envied him” (26:13).
Isaac seeks for wisdom to deal with the envy of his neighbor; but “the Philistines had stopped up all the wells which his father’s servants had dug…and they had filled them with earth. And Abimelech said to Isaac, ‘Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we’” (26:12-16).
Could it be that the famines that both Isaac and Abraham experienced were an indication of their spiritual need to draw closer to God? The strife going on between Jacob and Esau and the strife with Abimelech drove Isaac to search diligently for his father’s wells. Is that the reason God allows strife in our lives, to cause us to re-dig the wells to reach the fountain of all wisdom?
And Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham his father, which the Philistines had stopped after the death of Abraham. And he gave them the names that his father had given them.
But when Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and found there a well of spring water, the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen, saying, “The water is ours.” So he called the name of the well Esek, because they contended with him. Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that also, so he called its name Sitnah.
And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, saying, “For now the LORD has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.” (Gen. 26:18-22)
Just as Abimelech’s servants opposed Isaac re-digging the wells of his father, so do we have opposition today from those who would keep us from digging the wells. Many well-meaning Christians wrongly teach that the Torah was nailed to Yeshua’s cross. And some well-meaning Jewish people tell us that the Torah was given only for them. Failing to understand that anyone who enters into covenant with the God of Abraham is a full citizen of Israel, both sides of the aisle insist that “gentiles” don’t have to obey God’s instructions for peace and blessing. But, just as Isaac would stop at nothing to get to the wisdom and sustenance that his father found, those who would be the Bride will stop at nothing to get to the Living Water. We will bathe and soak and praise God for being the most blessed people who have ever lived on the planet!
“And the LORD appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake.” (Gen. 26:24)
There he built an altar and called upon the name of the LORD, surely crying out to God for his own source of spiritual strength.
Abimelech shows up once more, and, as he said exactly years before to Abraham at this very place, “We have certainly seen that God is with you. Let’s make a deal.”
God granted his bondservant peace in the land of his enemy and on that very same day Isaac’s servants informed him that “The Well of the Seven” had been uncovered. Jacob will come to this same well years later after learning that Joseph is alive and desirous of the family coming to Egypt. But, first, he will seek confirmation from the God of his fathers.
“I am God, the God of your father; do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there.” I will go down with you to Egypt and I will surely bring you up again…” (Gen. 46:1-4).
Re-Digging the Wells in Our Generation
The “Well of the One who Lives and Sees Me” and “The Well of the Seven” have once again been “seized” and “filled in with earth” by those who would keep us from it. It is the responsibility of every believer in every generation to re-dig these wells and claim ownership. Those who are digging now are discovering a source of strength, inspiration, and wisdom previously unknown, in addition to unparalleled intimacy with the Father and His Son, confirming the words of Yeshua.
“He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him…If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” (John 14:21,23).
But, practically speaking, how do we re-dig the wells?
From my own experience, I can say that hearing and doing are powerful well-drilling equipment. We have demonstrated in previous lessons that obedience is God’s primary love language. It is to those who obey that God pours out revelation (subterranean wisdom) represented by these wells.
But, how can you obey if you don’t know what the instructions are? And how can you understand the instructions if you don’t read the Bible for yourself?
It is imperative for God’s people to soak in the Scriptures! It should be the goal and high priority of every bondservant to read the whole Bible through each year in order to understand the BIG PICTURE of the purposes of God’s redemption and to personally hear Him speaking.
Yes, it is costly! Yes, you may have to forego entertainment, shopping, going out with friends. You may have to get up earlier or go to bed later. But, oh! the reward for having oil for your lamp when the Bridegroom arrives! The hour is late, the time is very short. The enemy is tricking God’s people into filling up their days with meaningless activities that offer no eternal value!
Abraham’s obedience was radical, severing himself from his upbringing, his culture, and his expectations. Elisha, likewise, burned his plow and sacrificed his oxen upon hearing and obeying the call of the LORD (1 Kings 19:21). Both were freed to hear one Voice, to be nourished and satisfied only from the well of Torah, and thus strengthened to carry out their difficult assignments. We see this same radical obedience in every true prophet and every true disciple of Yeshua. The revelation that poured forth as a result of their obedience enabled them to overcome their fears and the negative influence of others.
After I began to keep Sabbath (in the face of great opposition), revelation of Torah began to pour forth like a river. Previously, I had been puzzled by Nehemiah’s seeming legalism over the Sabbath; but after I personally experienced the blessings of it and from it, I understood. (If you are new to this idea, please read Isaiah 56 and 58:12-14).
When, by faith, I began as an infant to crawl into the keeping of the LORD’s feasts (Lev. 23), the river widened and deepened and I soon lost all desire for non-biblical holidays as well as an appetite for television and secular entertainment. I saw the “pearl of great price.” As I set myself apart and obeyed, revelation and resources sprang forth from the Well that I have been able to share with others.
Fasting and periods of solitude are other ways to re-dig the wells. Since my first encounter with the LORD in 1995, I have often needed periods of “time out.” When circumstances did not match up with my expectations, I had to go back to the “well” to make sure I was indeed on God’s path. During these times I would rehearse all the paths and assignments that God had directed, as well as the side trips that I took which were less than satisfying. These periods of drawing near to God have frequently been accompanied with fasting, sometimes for a day, several days, or periods of several weeks. At times I would go completely without food, other times consumed juice and broth, or vegetables only.
Sometimes I would leave home to spend a day or two in solitude to shut out the noise and confusion of the world, to get away from everything pulling on me, to relax and LISTEN.
Such disciplines provide a spiritual re-set and have enabled me to focus on the Word, to access subterranean wisdom, to feed on hidden manna, and to wait on God. Not that I have done it perfectly! No, to the contrary, like Sarah, I have (more than once) gotten ahead of God and paid a high price for it. But, practice does makes perfect. And, once you hear His voice, nothing else will satisfy!
Until next week, shalom
11/25/06 [edited and updated 11/10/2015]