Genesis 26: The promise lives on (25 January 2020)

Bible Society's Daily Reflections follow the M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, designed for those who want to read the whole Bible in one year. Each reflection focuses on one of its four daily chapters. Darllenwch rhain yn Gymraeg.

Pray

Pray

Lord, prepare me to receive your word. Clear my mind and warm my heart. Assure me of your loving purposes for me, and speak into my life today.

Read

Read

Isaac Lives at Gerar

1There was another famine in the land besides the earlier one during the time of Abraham. Isaac went to Abimelech, king of the Philistines, at Gerar. 2The LORD had appeared to Isaac and had said, “Do not go to Egypt; stay in this land, where I tell you to stay. 3Live here, and I will be with you and bless you. I am going to give all this territory to you and to your descendants. I will keep the promise I made to your father Abraham. 4I will give you as many descendants as there are stars in the sky, and I will give them all this territory. All the nations will ask me to bless them as I have blessed your descendants. 5I will bless you, because Abraham obeyed me and kept all my laws and commands.”

6So Isaac lived at Gerar. 7When the men there asked about his wife, he said that she was his sister. He would not admit that she was his wife, because he was afraid that the men there would kill him to get Rebecca, who was very beautiful. 8When Isaac had been there for some time, King Abimelech looked down from his window and saw Isaac and Rebecca making love. 9Abimelech sent for Isaac and said, “So she is your wife! Why did you say she was your sister?”

He answered, “I thought I would be killed if I said she was my wife.”

10“What have you done to us?” Abimelech said. “One of my men might easily have slept with your wife, and you would have been responsible for our guilt.” 11Abimelech warned all the people: “Anyone who ill-treats this man or his wife will be put to death.”

12Isaac sowed seed in that land, and that year he harvested a hundred times as much as he had sown, because the LORD blessed him. 13He continued to prosper and became a very rich man. 14Because he had many herds of sheep and cattle and many servants, the Philistines were jealous of him. 15So they filled in all the wells which the servants of his father Abraham had dug while Abraham was alive.

16Then Abimelech said to Isaac, “Leave our country. You have become more powerful than we are.” 17So Isaac left and set up his camp in the Valley of Gerar, where he stayed for some time. 18He dug once again the wells which had been dug during the time of Abraham and which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham's death. Isaac gave the wells the same names that his father had given them.

19Isaac's servants dug a well in the valley and found water. 20The shepherds of Gerar quarrelled with Isaac's shepherds and said, “This water belongs to us.” So Isaac named the well “Quarrel”.

21Isaac's servants dug another well, and there was a quarrel about that one also, so he named it “Enmity”. 22He moved away from there and dug another well. There was no dispute about this one, so he named it “Freedom”. He said, “Now the LORD has given us freedom to live in the land, and we will be prosperous here.”

23Isaac left and went to Beersheba. 24That night the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid; I am with you. I will bless you and give you many descendants because of my promise to my servant Abraham.” 25Isaac built an altar there and worshipped the LORD. Then he set up his camp there, and his servants dug another well.

The Agreement between Isaac and Abimelech

26Abimelech came from Gerar with Ahuzzath his adviser and Phicol the commander of his army to see Isaac. 27So Isaac asked, “Why have you now come to see me, when you were so unfriendly to me before and made me leave your country?”

28They answered, “Now we know that the LORD is with you, and we think that there should be a solemn agreement between us. We want you to promise 29that you will not harm us, just as we did not harm you. We were kind to you and let you leave peacefully. Now it is clear that the LORD has blessed you.” 30Isaac prepared a feast for them, and they ate and drank. 31Early next morning each man made his promise and sealed it with a vow. Isaac said goodbye to them, and they parted as friends.

32On that day Isaac's servants came and told him about the well which they had dug. They said, “We have found water.” 33He named the well “Vow”. That is how the city of Beersheba got its name.

Esau's Foreign Wives

34When Esau was forty years old, he married two Hittite women, Judith the daughter of Beeri, and Basemath the daughter of Elon. 35They made life miserable for Isaac and Rebecca.

The Parable of the Ten Young Women

1“At that time the Kingdom of heaven will be like this. Once there were ten young women who took their oil lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish, and the other five were wise. 3The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any extra oil with them, 4while the wise ones took containers full of oil for their lamps. 5The bridegroom was late in coming, so the women began to nod and fall asleep.

6“It was already midnight when the cry rang out, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come and meet him!’ 7The ten women woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8Then the foolish ones said to the wise ones, ‘Let us have some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’ 9‘No, indeed,’ the wise ones answered, ‘there is not enough for you and for us. Go to the shop and buy some for yourselves.’ 10So the foolish women went off to buy some oil; and while they were gone, the bridegroom arrived. The five who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast, and the door was closed.

11“Later the other women arrived. ‘Sir, sir! Let us in!’ they cried out. 12‘Certainly not! I don't know you,’ the bridegroom answered.”

13And Jesus concluded, “Be on your guard, then, because you do not know the day or the hour.

The Parable of the Three Servants

14“At that time the Kingdom of heaven will be like this. Once there was a man who was about to go on a journey; he called his servants and put them in charge of his property. 15He gave to each one according to his ability: to one he gave 5,000 gold coins, to another he gave 2,000, and to another he gave 1,000. Then he left on his journey. 16The servant who had received 5,000 coins went at once and invested his money and earned another 5,000. 17In the same way the servant who had received 2,000 coins earned another 2,000. 18But the servant who had received 1,000 coins went off, dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master's money.

19“After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. 20The servant who had received 5,000 coins came in and handed over the other 5,000. ‘You gave me 5,000 coins, sir,’ he said. ‘Look! Here are another 5,000 that I have earned.’ 21‘Well done, you good and faithful servant!’ said his master. ‘You have been faithful in managing small amounts, so I will put you in charge of large amounts. Come on in and share my happiness!’

22“Then the servant who had been given 2,000 coins came in and said, ‘You gave me 2,000 coins, sir. Look! Here are another 2,000 that I have earned.’ 23‘Well done, you good and faithful servant!’ said his master. ‘You have been faithful in managing small amounts, so I will put you in charge of large amounts. Come on in and share my happiness!’

24“Then the servant who had received 1,000 coins came in and said, ‘Sir, I know you are a hard man; you reap harvests where you did not sow, and you gather crops where you did not scatter seed. 25I was afraid, so I went off and hid your money in the ground. Look! Here is what belongs to you.’

26“ ‘You bad and lazy servant!’ his master said. ‘You knew, did you, that I reap harvests where I did not sow, and gather crops where I did not scatter seed? 27Well, then, you should have deposited my money in the bank, and I would have received it all back with interest when I returned. 28Now, take the money away from him and give it to the one who has 10,000 coins. 29For to every person who has something, even more will be given, and he will have more than enough; but the person who has nothing, even the little that he has will be taken away from him. 30As for this useless servant — throw him outside in the darkness; there he will cry and grind his teeth.’

The Final Judgement

31“When the Son of Man comes as King and all the angels with him, he will sit on his royal throne, 32and the people of all the nations will be gathered before him. Then he will divide them into two groups, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the righteous people on his right and the others on his left. 34Then the King will say to the people on his right, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father! Come and possess the kingdom which has been prepared for you ever since the creation of the world. 35I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink; I was a stranger and you received me in your homes, 36naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me, in prison and you visited me.’

37“The righteous will then answer him, ‘When, Lord, did we ever see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? 38When did we ever see you a stranger and welcome you in our homes, or naked and clothe you? 39When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?’ 40The King will reply, ‘I tell you, whenever you did this for one of the least important of these members of my family, you did it for me!’

41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Away from me, you that are under God's curse! Away to the eternal fire which has been prepared for the Devil and his angels! 42I was hungry but you would not feed me, thirsty but you would not give me a drink; 43I was a stranger but you would not welcome me in your homes, naked but you would not clothe me; I was sick and in prison but you would not take care of me.’

44“Then they will answer him, ‘When, Lord, did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and would not help you?’ 45The King will reply, ‘I tell you, whenever you refused to help one of these least important ones, you refused to help me.’ 46These, then, will be sent off to eternal punishment, but the righteous will go to eternal life.”

Esther Becomes Queen

1Later, even after the king's anger had cooled down, he kept thinking about what Vashti had done and about his proclamation against her. 2So some of the king's advisers who were close to him suggested, “Why don't you make a search to find some beautiful young virgins? 3You can appoint officials in every province of the empire and order them to bring all these beautiful young women to your harem here in Susa, the capital city. Put them in the care of Hegai, the eunuch who is in charge of your women, and let them be given a beauty treatment. 4Then take the young woman you like best and make her queen in Vashti's place.”

The king thought this was good advice, so he followed it.

5There in Susa lived a Jew named Mordecai son of Jair; he was from the tribe of Benjamin and was a descendant of Kish and Shimei. 6When King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took King Jehoiachin of Judah into exile from Jerusalem, along with a group of captives, Mordecai was among them. 7He had a cousin, Esther, whose Hebrew name was Hadassah; she was a beautiful young woman, and had a good figure. At the death of her parents, Mordecai had adopted her and brought her up as his own daughter.

8When the king had issued his new proclamation and many young women were being brought to Susa, Esther was among them. She too was put in the royal palace in the care of Hegai, who had charge of the harem. 9Hegai liked Esther, and she won his favour. He lost no time in beginning her beauty treatment of massage and special diet. He gave her the best place in the harem and assigned seven young women specially chosen from the royal palace to serve her.

10Now, on the advice of Mordecai, Esther had kept it secret that she was Jewish. 11Every day Mordecai would walk to and fro in front of the courtyard of the harem, in order to find out how she was getting on and what was going to happen to her.

12The regular beauty treatment for the women lasted a year — massages with oil of myrrh for six months and with oil of balsam for six more. After that, each young woman would be taken in turn to King Xerxes. 13When she went from the harem to the palace, she could wear whatever she wanted. 14She would go there in the evening, and the next morning she would be taken to another harem and put in the care of Shaashgaz, the eunuch in charge of the king's concubines. She would not go to the king again unless he liked her enough to ask for her by name.

15The time came for Esther to go to the king. Esther — the daughter of Abihail and the cousin of Mordecai, who had adopted her as his daughter; Esther — admired by everyone who saw her. When her turn came, she wore just what Hegai, the eunuch in charge of the harem, advised her to wear. 16So in Xerxes' seventh year as king, in the tenth month, the month of Tebeth, Esther was brought to King Xerxes in the royal palace. 17The king liked her more than any of the other women, and more than any of the others she won his favour and affection. He placed the royal crown on her head and made her queen in place of Vashti. 18Then the king gave a great banquet in Esther's honour and invited all his officials and administrators. He proclaimed a holiday for the whole empire and distributed gifts worthy of a king.

Mordecai Saves the King's Life

19Meanwhile Mordecai had been appointed by the king to an administrative position. 20As for Esther, she had still not let it be known that she was Jewish. Mordecai had told her not to tell anyone, and she obeyed him in this, just as she had obeyed him when she was a little girl under his care.

21During the time that Mordecai held office in the palace, Bigthana and Teresh, two of the palace eunuchs who guarded the entrance to the king's rooms, became hostile to King Xerxes and plotted to assassinate him. 22Mordecai learnt about it and told Queen Esther, who then told the king what Mordecai had found out. 23There was an investigation, and it was discovered that the report was true, so both men were hanged on the gallows. The king ordered an account of this to be written down in the official records of the empire.

Paul Appeals to the Emperor

1Three days after Festus arrived in the province, he went from Caesarea to Jerusalem, 2where the chief priests and the Jewish leaders brought their charges against Paul. They begged Festus 3to do them the favour of bringing Paul to Jerusalem, for they had made a plot to kill him on the way. 4Festus answered, “Paul is being kept a prisoner in Caesarea, and I myself will be going back there soon. 5Let your leaders go to Caesarea with me and accuse the man if he has done anything wrong.”

6Festus spent another eight or ten days with them and then went to Caesarea. On the next day he sat down in the court of judgement and ordered Paul to be brought in. 7When Paul arrived, the Jews who had come from Jerusalem stood round him and started making many serious charges against him, which they were not able to prove. 8But Paul defended himself: “I have done nothing wrong against the Law of the Jews or against the Temple or against the Roman Emperor.”

9But Festus wanted to gain favour with the Jews, so he asked Paul, “Would you be willing to go to Jerusalem and be tried on these charges before me there?”

10Paul said, “I am standing before the Emperor's own court of judgement, where I should be tried. I have done no wrong to the Jews, as you yourself well know. 11If I have broken the law and done something for which I deserve the death penalty, I do not ask to escape it. But if there is no truth in the charges they bring against me, no one can hand me over to them. I appeal to the Emperor.”

12Then Festus, after conferring with his advisers, answered, “You have appealed to the Emperor, so to the Emperor you will go.”

Paul before Agrippa and Bernice

13Some time later King Agrippa and Bernice came to Caesarea to pay a visit of welcome to Festus. 14After they had been there several days, Festus explained Paul's situation to the king: “There is a man here who was left a prisoner by Felix; 15and when I went to Jerusalem, the Jewish chief priests and elders brought charges against him and asked me to condemn him. 16But I told them that we Romans are not in the habit of handing over anyone accused of a crime before he has met his accusers face to face and has had the chance of defending himself against the accusation. 17When they came here, then, I lost no time, but on the very next day I sat in the court and ordered the man to be brought in. 18His opponents stood up, but they did not accuse him of any of the evil crimes that I thought they would. 19All they had were some arguments with him about their own religion and about a man named Jesus, who has died; but Paul claims that he is alive. 20I was undecided about how I could get information on these matters, so I asked Paul if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and be tried there on these charges. 21But Paul appealed; he asked to be kept under guard and to let the Emperor decide his case. So I gave orders for him to be kept under guard until I could send him to the Emperor.”

22Agrippa said to Festus, “I would like to hear this man myself.”

“You will hear him tomorrow,” Festus answered.

23The next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp and ceremony and entered the audience hall with the military chiefs and the leading men of the city. Festus gave the order, and Paul was brought in. 24Festus said, “King Agrippa and all who are here with us: You see this man against whom all the Jewish people, both here and in Jerusalem, have brought complaints to me. They scream that he should not live any longer. 25But I could not find that he had done anything for which he deserved the death sentence. And since he himself made an appeal to the Emperor, I have decided to send him. 26But I have nothing definite about him to write to the Emperor. So I have brought him here before you — and especially before you, King Agrippa! — so that, after investigating his case, I may have something to write. 27For it seems unreasonable to me to send a prisoner without clearly indicating the charges against him.”

Reflect

Daily Reflection on Genesis 26

As famine pushes Isaac out of the land he loved, we head into two mini-narratives that feel strangely familiar. The first is the promise of God to Isaac. Isaac hears God for himself, receiving a similar promise to that of his father – an assurance that God is with him and will 'multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands' (verse 4, ESV). This affirms Isaac as the rightful descendant and his line as the one through which God will accomplish his promise to Abraham. And it means Isaac doesn't live just on the strength of his father's promise, but he has assurance of God’s purposes in his own life.

We head straight from the promise into another familiar-sounding story. As Isaac moves into Gerar, living as a 'sojourner' under the reign of King Abimelech, Isaac passes his wife off as his sister just as his father did. Faced with the fear of death, he acts in the same way and takes the same action in hopes of saving his own skin. 

History repeats itself. How far can you see a reflection or your parents or your past experiences in how you handle situations today? What have you learned and inherited, good and bad?

Pray

Pray

God, thank you for all the good I've inherited from my parents and my upbringing. Please bless and grow those things in me. I lift before you also the bad habits, lessons and reactions I've learned from those who've taught me.

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