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. 2 And the Lord appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you. 3 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. 4 I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, 5 because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”Genesis 26:1-3
Have you ever felt like God has left you? Imagine this scenario. A friend invites you out to a really nice restaurant. He assures you it will be a great time and says he’s paying the check. You’re excited. You get dressed up. You go out and it really is a great time. However, as the evening comes to an end, your friend excuses himself to go to the bathroom. While he’s gone, the check comes. Even though your friend has assured you he’s paying the tab, you start to get nervous because he doesn’t seem to be coming back. The server is standing there and starting to look suspicious. You keep waiting and waiting. You even ask someone to go check the bathroom to make sure your friend is, indeed, coming back. Can we say ‘awkward?’
Have you ever felt like that when it comes to God? Ever felt like He led you somewhere only to be absent now that it’s difficult or the check has come due? Maybe you felt He was leading you to stay in a difficult relationship. Maybe you’re in a difficult job or, how about this, the current climate of our nation. Ever just looked around and wondered where the ‘check payer” is?
I wonder if Isaac felt this way. God had blessed his father Abraham and had given him a lot of land. Everything was going well. His father had passed down everything to Isaac. The full blessing had finally come. Now it was time to settle in and enjoy God’s blessings. Until…. a famine came. Wait. What!? A famine in the promised land? Surely not. Isaac had a question to answer. Do I leave the land that had been so good to me now that it was in trouble or do I stick it out? That’s a good question. Maybe that’s a question you are facing right now. Do I stay in this relationship? Do I stay in school to pursue this degree? Do I stay in this seemingly dead end job? Do I continue to engage in a culture that seems set on destroying the Name of God? God’s answer was straightforward but not easy. What did He say?… STAY. Even when it’s tough, don’t give up. Stay. Here are three things we can learn from this text…
1. God’s faithfulness does not change even when circumstances do.
God is not intimidated by famines, wars, riots, presidential campaigns or anything else that dominates our fears or social media headlines. He sits outside of time an holds all the universe in the palm of His hand. He has decided long ago to love you and be faithful. God does not change His mind. Nothing surprises God. It is impossible for Him to be rocked by circumstances. This is hard for us to comprehend because we can be. However, we must always be careful trying to use our experiences to explain God. God uses human characteristics in His Word to help us begin to understand His infinity but it’s only a beginning. It would be like trying to describe quantum mechanics to an ant. You can try but at best they are going to look at it all and say, “So you are saying these lines and circles are called numbers, right?” It’s just not going to work. They cannot conceive of something that will forever be too big for them. They cannot even fully understand the beginning. Therefore, we have to realize that what rocks us does not phase God.
2. God’s plan usually leads THROUGH difficulty.
With all respect, it’s possible that some trouble we go through is our own making. Why? Because we ask God for more.
As they grow, my kids are constantly asking for more. They want more freedom, they want more resources, they want more independence. As their father, my job is to not simply provide but also to teach them how to manage what I provide. For instance, when one of my daughters wanted a raise in her allowance, she was shocked to find out that also came with additional responsibility. She had to learn the principle of “to much is given, much is required.” We do this as a society. If someone wants to drive a car, they first have to go through classes and tests. We don’t do this because we are trying to stop them. We want to make sure they are ready for the responsibility of driving on the road and placing other people’s lives in their hands. Why should we expect something different from God?
We sound a little spoiled when we say, “God, I want all the blessings but not of the lessons. I want them… just because. And if you could hurry and do it before lunchtime, that would be great. Pretty please.” Now, a father who is slightly intimidated by his kids and wants his kids to like him will give in because he fears his children’s rejection. However, a good father is willing to make his kids uncomfortable for a season so that they can handle a long term blessing.
What kind of father do you know is actually best? Your answer will reveal your level of maturity. (Yeah, I know. That hurt my feelings too.)
3. God’s plan is never simple but always fruitful.
We deal in simple numbers. God deals in complex calculus. Just because we don’t understand what God is doing doesn’t mean He’s not moving. I remember being in pre-algebra and getting my whole world turned upside down. What was up with all these letters? This is Math not English. However, as the teacher began to explain, I slowly started to understand. When everything finally started to fall into place, I remember thinking, “Oh, now I get it. Why didn’t I see this before?” I have a feeling a lot of God’s plans are like that. We don’t understand and only later will say, “Oh, now I get it.” God’s plan looks a lot more like a roller coaster than a straight line. However, our job is not to chart the course. Our job is to hang on and thrive, as best we can, in the season we are in. We trust God, the holder of the map, to lead us in the right direction.
In the current climate we live in, it can be so easy to want to huddle up, look up, and say, “Even so, come Lord quickly.” However, the Church Jesus loves has been praying for revival for years. There have been so many praying for God to make “America return to Him.” Well, we are in a climate where only God will do. We have been praying for these days. Now it is time to go out and bring in the harvest. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Harvest time is a celebration but it’s also hard work. There’s a lot of sweat, blistered hands, sunburns, and missed meals because when the fields are ripe there’s not much time for breaks. However, these are the days many have prayed for us to experience. Not the trouble but the coming glory when God’s church rises. Change only comes when staying the same hurts worse than the change required.
Instead of giving up, maybe it’s time to go all in.