THE REALITIES OF A PILGRIM’S LIFE
Genesis 26:12-25 (NKJV)
12 Then Isaac sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year a hundredfold; and the Lord blessed him. 13 The man began to prosper, and continued prospering until he became very prosperous; 14 for he had possessions of flocks and possessions of herds and a great number of servants. So the Philistines envied him. 15 Now the Philistines had stopped up all the wells which his father’s servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father, and they had filled them with earth. 16 And Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we.”
17 Then Isaac departed from there and pitched his tent in the Valley of Gerar, and dwelt there. 18 And Isaac dug again the wells of water which they had dug in the days of Abraham his father, for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham. He called them by the names which his father had called them.
19 Also Isaac’s servants dug in the valley, and found a well of running water there. 20 But 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 quarreled with him. 21 Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that one also. So he called its name Sitnah. 22 And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, because he said, “For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.”
23 Then he went up from there to Beersheba. 24 And the Lord appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham’s sake.” 25 So he built an altar there and called on the name of the Lord, and he pitched his tent there; and there Isaac’s servants dug a well.
The Patriarch ISAAC in the Old Testament (OT) was a man who lived in the shadows. If you think about it, he lived his live first under the shadow of his great father Abraham, then he lived his live in the shadow of his great son Jacob. Abraham is the star of some 14 chapters of the book of Genesis and Jacob is the central figure of another 12 or so. But Isaac, is only featured in a handful of chapters. It is only here, in this 26th chapter of Genesis that we are allowed a glimpse into the life and work of this man.
Among the things we note about him is that he was a man of faith, v. 2-5. In fact, he is listed in Hebrews 11:20 among the great heroes of the faithful. We can also see here that he, like the rest of us, was far from perfect, v. 6-11, because he was guilty of committing some of the same sins that his father Abraham had committed. Another thing we notice about this man is the fact that he was a pilgrim. That is, he moved from place to place, like his father, not actually owning any of the land upon which he lived.
It is in his role as a pilgrim that Isaac pictures the child of God. If I may I remind you today, the Bible teaches us very clearly that we are “strangers and pilgrims” in this world, 1 Pet. 2:11. The word “strangers” means “a stranger, a foreigner, one who lives in a place without the right of citizenship”. And, the word “pilgrim” means, “sojourning in a strange place; a metaphor for one who sojourns on earth”. In fact, the Bible tells us that every saved person is a citizen of heaven, Phil. 3:20, 1 Pet. 1:4-5.
Today, I want to examine the life of Isaac the pilgrim. Because in his pilgrimage through the world, encounters many of the same problems and he experiences many of the same blessings that cross paths with us as we journey toward glory.
Let’s take a few minutes today to examine the life of this man, and as we do, I just want to point out The Realities Of A Pilgrim’s Life. There is help and hope in this passage today for everyone who is walking the pilgrim’s path!
I. V. 12-14a IT IS A LIFE OF GREAT PROVISIONS (P)
A. The Size Of The Provisions – We are told that Isaac enjoyed a 10,000% return on his investment! What makes this all the more astounding is the fact that this occurred during a time of famine, v. 1. While everyone around him was going broke and starving to death, Isaac prospered. His crops flourished while the crops of others dried up. His flocks and herds grew while the flocks and herds of others starved and died of thirst. It seemed like Isaac had the golden touch.
B. The Source Of The Provisions – Some may have called it good luck, others may have looked upon Isaac and wondered how he did it, but the fact of the mater is this: God was just blessing him! Isaac wasn’t a better farmer than the other farmers. He didn’t know more about botany, horticulture or zoology than the other men around him. But, he did have an advantage, he knew God and that translated into blessings in his life when others were experiencing defeat! You see, when the famine arose, there was evidently a temptation within Isaac’s heart to flee to Egypt like Abraham had before him, v. 2. However, in obedience to the Lord’s command, he stayed where he was, in the midst of that famine, and God honored his obedience!
(Note: I would just like to point something out to every believer in this room today: the very fact that you know God in a personal way places you in a position to enjoy His wonderful provisions in your life! You may look at your situation today and say,
“Preacher, it sure doesn’t look like I’m receiving a 10,000% return on my investment! I’m saved, following the Lord and trying to be obedient, but I’m just about flat broke and everything is falling apart in my life!” Friends, just because God isn’t paving your path with diamonds and giving you a new Rolls Royce every year doesn’t mean that He isn’t blessing you!
Look at it this way: you may have it as bad, or even worse, than those around you who aren’t saved, but you have something they do not have! You have a personal relationship with the Lord God of Heaven!
What does that give you? Well, the list is almost endless, but a few of the benefits are:
1. Eternal salvation – never lost!
2. The presence of God in your life – never alone!
3. The power of God working in your life – never in a hopeless situation!
4. The promises of God active in your life – never without hope!
5. The Word of God to guide your life – never without direction!
The list could go on, but you think about it; if you are saved and your neighbor is not, who’s children have a better hope of heaven? What kind of a value do you on place on that? Would you rather have money or the Master? Well, if you have the Master, He will take care of all the real needs in your life anyway!
Isaac enjoyed the great blessings that he did because he was obedient to the command of God, v. 2-4. The same thing holds true for you and me. If we will put God where He belongs: first; then, He will see to the rest of our lives, Matt. 6:33. No one said this life would be easy, in fact the Bible teaches the opposite, but, those who walk with God know that He is in control!
(Illustration : The unseen hand of providence! What looks like the worst disaster you ever faced can be used of God to bring into your life some of the greatest blessings you have ever enjoyed, Rom. 8:28; 2 Cor. 4:17.)
II. V. 14b-22 IT IS A LIFE OF GREAT PROBLEMS (P)
(Illustration. Even Isaac’s life wasn’t filled with all blessings and glories. He fought some real battles and so will you! Let’s look at a couple of the battles Isaac was required to fight.)
A. V. 14b-16 He Faced Problems With The World – The Bible tells us that the Philistines were jealous of Isaac. Why? Because they could see the hand of God on his life! He was prospering while they were struggling! Because they were jealous, they tried to make his life hard by plugging up the wells that had been dug by his father Abraham. Their king even kicked Isaac out of the country! (Note: Just as it was with Isaac, the Lord’s pilgrims should never expect to be accepted and understood by the world. The fact of the matter is this: the Lord tells us clearly that those who live for Him will be persecuted as they pass through this world, 2 Tim. 3:12.
Of course, some of the same tactics the Philistines used against Isaac are still being employed against the people of God! They become jealous when they can’t explain or understand our peace and joy under trials. They do their best to rob us of the blessings we have as children of God when they see us walking by faith through this world. They will seek to stop up the wells from which we are drawing through discouragement, intimidation and personal attacks.
Yet, the Lord said it would be this way and He tells us to rejoice when this kind of situation arises in our lives, Matt. 5:10-12; 1 Pet. 4:12-16. So, when the world turns on you, don’t be surprised or don’t get upset. Instead, rejoice in the Lord. It will make them worse, but God will be honored and He will see you through!)
B. V. 17-22 He Faced Problems With His Wells – We already know that the Philistines plugged up the wells of Abraham, but they even fought with Isaac over the new well he was digging in the wilderness. Why all this fascination with wells? There are several reasons. The primary one being the fact that men and animals must have water to survive. In that country, being semi-desert, water was as valuable as oil is today! In those days, all waste lands were called “God’s lands”.
If any man could live in a desert place, provide for his family and flocks and open a well, then that land was considered to be his land! In other words, a well was a statement of ownership! To fill in a well was an act of war! These Philistines hated Isaac so much that they declared war on him by trying to seize his lands and drive him away from that which was his! Notice the fights he had to undertake.
1. V. 18 He Had To Clean Out The Old Wells – Many years before, his father Abraham had passed through the land and he had dug some wells of water. He dug those wells to meet needs in his day and to pass them down to his son Isaac so that needs could be met in his days as well. The Philistines had come along and had plugged these wells to prevent Isaac from suing them.
Notice that the Philistines didn’t want them for themselves, they just didn’t want Isaac to have them. He had to take the time to reopen those wells! (Note: These old wells speak to us of the spiritual resources that were uncovered and proclaimed by our spiritual fathers in days gone by. If we are not careful, the world will destroy everything that we have been given! Many of the wells from which our fathers drank have already been stopped!
Think of it, there used to be a day when God’s people drank deeply from the well of praise and worship! The world has stopped that well by telling us that we should not be fanatics about Jesus. Our fathers opened for us the wells of Scripture, of salvation, of sanctification, of service, of the great fundamental doctrines of the faith! And the world has come along a tried to stop them up. Liberalism has tried to change our beliefs! There is a need right now for God’s people to re-dig the wells that the world has tried to stop up! We must contend for the old ways, if we do not, the old ways will die when we do!)
2. V. 19-22 He Had To Contend For The New Wells – As he moved along in his pilgrimage, Isaac was always in the business of digging new wells. Every time he opened a well, his enemies tried to take it away from him. The water from the old wells were cool and refreshing, but more water was needed now. Therefore, new wells were dug!
Three of those wells are mentioned here by name: 1. Esek – This word means “Contention”. 2. Sitnah – This word means “strife or hatred”. It has the idea of “laying in wait to ensnare someone”. The name Satan comes from the same root word. 3. Rehoboth – This word means “a wide open place”. It was at Rehoboth that the Philistines finally left Isaac alone! Everywhere the man went, he faced a fight! The Philistines tried to take that for which he had labored.
(Note: The same is true in the world today. Look at the world, and you will see that they tried to take everything that belongs to the people of faith. They have hijacked Christmas and Easter. They even steal our language by talking about God, being born again, or all sorts of spiritual things. But, we must contend for the faith, Jude 3. If we do not, then there will be not faith to pass down to the next generation, 2 Tim. 2:2. Ill. “Commit thou” means “to set before, or to set a table”.)
(Note: For Isaac, the pilgrimage here was one fight after another! I can guarantee you that your journey through this world will not come without a fight as well. But, take moment to look around this room at the children. Then think outside the walls of this building about those who do not know the Lord Jesus.
Remember, you are fighting for them! Every time we reopen a well the world has closed; every time we dig a new well for the needs of today; every time we defend the wells we have, we are serving the Lord, the lost and the little ones! It is a ministry that must be performed at all costs!
If it isn’t soon, there will be nothing left to defend and nothing at all to pass down! We may have to fight for what our fathers believed and we may have to fight for what we believe, but the Lord watches over the whole matter and like he did for Isaac, He will make a place for us!)
III. V. 23-25 IT IS A LIFE OF GREAT PRIVILEGES (P)
(Illustration : Isaac enjoyed the Lord’s provisions in his life and he also experienced some problems as well. But, these last few verses in our text let us in on the fact that pilgrim life is also marked by its privileges.)
A. V. 24 The Privilege Of Enjoying God’s Words – The Lord appeared to Isaac and renewed His promises once again! (Note: There is no greater privilege than that of experiencing the Lord’s presence and hearing His voice. We have been given His Word to speak to our hearts, Psa. 119:105, but we have also been given His Spirit and He speaks to us as well, John 16:13.
(Note: It was the voice of God that got the attention of Elijah – 1 Kings 19:12. When He speaks, His sheep know Him, John 10:3-4.)
B. V. 25 The Privilege Of Enjoying God’s Worship – Isaac prepared an altar and went before his God in worship! (Note: This is a privilege enjoyed by those who know the Lord! What an honor it is to be able to enter into His presence to worship Him and to love Him, John 4:23-24, Heb. 4:16! When we stop to think of what we were before He found us…)
C. V. 25 The Privilege Of Enjoying God’s World – Isaac was able to pitch his tent in the place God had marked off for him and he dwelt there. He was enjoying the blessings of God even while journeying through a hostile land.
(Note: It is becoming increasingly clear that God’s true church is not wanted in this world. This is not our home and the natives of this world do not like us being here. But, the Lord has a way of bringing His best into our lives as we travel along. While our hearts beat for Heaven, and our feet walk through this foreign land, our Father attends our way with His blessings and He makes the pilgrimage glorious!)
D. V. 25 The Privilege Of Enjoying God’s Water – Isaac and his servants dug a final well and enjoyed the water that flowed from it. After all the work unstopping Abraham’s well and after all the fighting over the new wells, Isaac is given a well of water that is all his.
(Note: God has a way of giving us exactly what we need just when we need it. As you pass through this world, look for you a well! The Lord said that when He save you, He placed a well within you, John 4:14. It is a spiritual well that will never run dry. Still, we need to find ourselves drinking from a spiritual well that never runs dry.
Take the time, as you pass through this world, to avail yourself of the spiritual refreshment the Lord had placed within easy reach. I’m talking about the Word of God and prayer! Those two things will refresh the soul quicker than anything else, period! Are you drinking from the well?)
So, pilgrims, keep marching! Keep heading toward that city that captured the hearts of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Heb. 11:10.
One day we will take the last faltering step down here and we will set foot on the shores of home in glory. Until then, keep looking to Him for your provisions. Keep trusting Him through all the problems. And, keep thanking Him for all the privileges you enjoy as His child. There may be days when the journey is rough, but there never be a day when it isn’t worthwhile!
“We are pilgrims, not settlers; this earth is our inn, not our home.“- J. H. Vincent.
So, let’s not settle down. Rather, let’s settle in for whether our journey be long or short, it will be glorious!
Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah
Pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but Thou art mighty;
Hold me with Thy powerful hand.