“Then the Lord appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land which I shall tell you” (Genesis 26:2). In many ways, the writings and words of the Holy Bible are cast in poetic language. The instruction of the Lord to Isaac is one of such. Isaac was commanded not to go down but to live in the land where God will show him. We go down if we do things out of the purview of God. We live if we put ourselves in the sight range of God.
Our prayer is that we shall be where God has marked for us as our location Between Isaac and his father Abraham, there were two famines. Consequently, there is nothing we are undergoing today in terms of hardship and lack or scarcity that the people of God did not undergo in the Bible. However, in all this, our relationship with God matters a lot.
The experiences of human lack and deprivation may lead to desperation. The account of Esau (Genesis 25:29-34) is instructive. Hunger made Esau so weary that his reply to his brother, Jacob’s request was “Look I am about to die; so what is this birth right to me?” Hunger can be ‘weaponized.’ Why do you think unscrupulous politicians keep their people poor in a state of destitution? In the face of death, shame, failure, and poverty, we naturally become eager and desperate.
This state makes us devise human ways that we may figure as the way out. There is nothing wrong with using human reason to solve daily problems that we face. But we must seek the divine face in every situation. Isaac needed to look up to God.
Our human ways should not be outside the divine will of God. Our today’s experience can be likened to the famine faced by Isaac. In spite of the resources and structures we see everywhere, both human and non-human, we are enmeshed in poverty, unemployment, dying industries and firms, decaying health and education systems, and even in areas with huge budgetary votes, we are still shamefully in dire need of help.
Look at our oil sector, look at our security, etc. People manning these areas cannot complain about the lack of resources and finance. “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who builds it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (Psalm 127:1). It is not late in the day for us to seek the face of the divine Builder and Watchman in our human affairs.
There are many impediments we encounter in our life’s journey. They come in our workplace, family, spouses, children, and businesses. We should strive to be victorious over these challenges and obstacles. Only those who stand up to confront and put these obstacles down are called overcomers and conquerors (Romans 8:37). In our text today and based on the experience of Isaac (Genesis 26:1-33), as a victim of a natural evil – famine – Isaac needed to look up to God. His situation can only be turned around when he could find water. But not water in just any location! The natural place to seek water was Egypt.
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The Nile was there. But God told him otherwise. In the Bible, Egypt is a metaphor for bondage, slavery, and punishment. Are you living in plenty but in punishment, bondage, and slavery? Many are in such situations here and outside Nigeria. God has since delivered His people from Egypt and would not want them to return to this experience again. Isaac became his own barrier.
He failed or chose not to follow God’s leading. He did not go down to Egypt, but he did not go the way of God either. Isaac went to he land of Gerar. He met Abimelech, the King of the Philistines. But the men of the place ‘asked’ about his wife (Genesis 26:6). Isaac had to resort to falsehood for the fear of death.
He ran away from one death to another death. The king rescued Isaac from this first disaster. The story says further that Isaac sowed in this 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” (Genesis 26:12-13). Nevertheless, Isaac became an object of envy due to this prosperity and wealth. The same King Abimelech issued Isaac a quit notice. “So the Philistines envied him” (verse 14) “and Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we” (verse 16).
Isaac only got material blessings in a location that was outside the will of God. He had no rest! He opened blocked wells. He had good harvests. His flocks increased. But so were the quantum of envy, hatred, and enemies that surrounded him. At the Valley of Gerer, Isaac opened all the closed wells of Abraham, giving them the same names his father gave them thus: Esek (contention, v. 20); Sitnah (hatred, v. 21), and Rehoboth (there is room, v. 22).
God did not appear to Isaac in any of these places.We must go to locations where God would appear to us. This will be a place of worship, prayer, and where God gives his people rest. It is in such a place we can chant, “O come, let us worship the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms” (Psalm 95:1-2). God desires our worship. We cannot be truly blessed where we cannot worship God truly. God bless and Shalom!
The Rev’d Dr Karo Ogbinaka, an Anglican priest of the Diocese of Lagos West, lectures at the Department of Philosophy, University of Lagos. He is a member of the editorial board of The Trumpet
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