Isaac and His Wells - A Meditation on Genesis 26

Dr. Paul Robinson, Toronto

Few of us appreciate the luxury of a water faucet. Some remember the cold mornings outside pressing the handle of the old pump. A few may actually have carried the water buckets to draw from a distant cistern. But most, when thirsting for cold water, have simply gone and turned the chrome (or maybe gold-plated) spigot, filled the glass to our pleasure, and so satisfied our need.

But have you ever wondered what it would be like to find yourself in a wilderness with no water?

This gives us some idea of the importance of the wells in our chapter. The prominent feature in Abraham’s life was the altar. Jacob his son was the man of the tent. But Isaac from these references was obviously the man of the well.

First the well was essential to sustain life. Man and beast, family and flocks, and even vegetation depended upon the digging of a well and the water it could supply in the desert environment. The threat from the heat and dryness could only be thwarted by the vital liquid that flowed from a hidden resource. No wonder this shepherd soon learned to dig wells. So the child of God is in a like hostile environment, the world, that threatens the health of his spiritual life. The resource we have to draw from is the Word of God. Apart from it, we will dry up, lose our vitality and fruitfulness, and see our life wasted. But we must put out the effort of "digging" personally, for ourselves, that is, reading it, meditating upon it, pondering its precious truths and feeling its power in our lives. This resource is "hidden" as far as the world is concerned. The natural mind cannot grasp the things of God written in the scriptures. It is the Spirit within that searches the deep things of God (1 Cor. 2:10). Drawing from this well is the only way to survive the wilderness until we reach home.

Secondly, Isaac’s wells were markers of territorial boundaries between his herdsmen and those of Abimelech. They marked their relative positions making a line of demarcation. Our preservation from the world, our position on its issues, our separation from all that displeases Christ, are all delineated in the Word of God to the mind that desires to be exercised thereby.

Thirdly, wells were an avenue of guidance to bring Isaac back to Beersheba (meaning the well of the oath). He and his company could only go in a direction where they could obtain water. The chief means the Spirit uses to direct our pathway is the Word of God. He brings to our memory, verses, statements and principles we have learned as we have digged into the well of the Bible, and these we are able to apply to our varied circumstances and crises in life when we are wondering which way to turn. Oh that believers would be simple enough to trust God for a word from the Book to direct them.

Finally, it is pointed out to us that the wells originally digged had been filled in by the Philistines; they had stopped them and filled them with earth (v. 15). The Philistine world represents anything of this present age that can be used to prevent our time alone with God’s Word, and the enjoyment of it in our lives. The world places no value on the Book we prize so highly, so that we must constantly protect our time with the Word from the encroachment that would rob us of this source and sustainer of the new life in Christ.

Note, please, the wells Isaac digged on his own led to strife with Abimelech, while those related to his father Abraham brought satisfaction. The "old paths" is a much misused expression, but here is a case where getting back to the tried and proven was decidedly an advantage. It is not new ideas or revelations that are needed, but a return to those simple truths of practical Christian living and testimony that will bring inward joy and contentment.

Draw deeply from the well.