Stay in the Land as an Alien
2 The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt, but do as I tell you. 3 Live here as a foreigner in this land, and I will be with you and bless you. I hereby confirm that I will give all these lands to you and your descendants, just as I solemnly promised Abraham, your father. 4 I will cause your descendants to become as numerous as the stars of the sky, and I will give them all these lands. And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed. 5 I will do this because Abraham listened to me and obeyed all my requirements, commands, decrees, and instructions.” 6 So Isaac stayed in Gerar. (NLT)
God does not call us to withdraw from our problems or our culture; He calls us to live in the world, without letting the world live in us.
Often, our instinct is to flee from our problems. When there was a famine in the land, Isaac considered moving south to Egypt, just as his father Abraham had done during a previous famine. Isaac got as far as Gerar, when the Lord appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt… stay in this land as an alien, and I will be with you and bless you” (Genesis 26:2-3). Why would God tell him to stay in such a difficult situation, and why does God sometimes tell us to hang in there?
Years before, Isaac’s father Abraham had also fled from the famine, only to get into worse problems. He lied about his wife Sarah, saying she was his sister. When Pharaoh took Sarah into his harem, God struck the Egyptians with plagues. Eventually, Pharaoh drove Abraham out of Egypt in disgrace. During this time in Egypt, there is no record of Abraham calling on the Lord in prayer, although he had before (see Genesis 12:10-20).
Isaac needed to learn a spiritual lesson from his father. Running from our problems can create new ones. Quitting school or giving up on a job or marriage may seem the easy way at the time, but it often leads to greater problems. Staying in a relationship and seeing a difficult job to the end can be rough, especially if those around us are hostile to our faith. Yet the rewards can be tremendous.
The Lord repeated to Isaac the same promises of blessing that He had promised to Abraham: “I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars in the sky, I will give your offspring all these lands, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring” (v. 4; compare Genesis 13:16; 15:5). Thankfully, Isaac learned the right lesson from his father Abraham. Instead of following Abraham’s bad example of running away, he followed Abraham’s good example of faith. Verse 6 says that Isaac stayed where he was in Gerar. Likewise, Jesus told us to shine our light to the world (Matthew 5:14), and He prayed that we would remain in the world, but not be of the world (John 17:15-16). In what ways is God telling you to hang in there and engage your culture for the gospel, rather than “fleeing the famine”?