There are really only 3 stories told of Isaac in Genesis. He’s the guy in the middle, between Abraham and Jacob. While we may not know much of his story what we do know all points in the same direction. He was a fairly peaceable guy. When Abraham is called upon by God to sacrifice his son, we find that Isaac doesn’t fight what appears to be the end of his life. He is compliant. In today’s reading, Isaac goes to great lengths to live peacefully with his neighbor, Abimelech. When the Philistines fill in his wells, he doesn’t retaliate, he just re-digs them. When water becomes a problem between his family and the Philistines, he moves to a new location. Never do we see him take up arms. And woven throughout the story Isaac just gets richer and richer. God blesses him in a big way; so much so that Abimelech is scared of him and makes a treaty with him rather than take up arms. That Abimelech was a smart guy!
The more I think about this, the more I’m impressed with this choice for passivity. Isaac would have been within his rights to march against those who would steal his water. He had a large group of people to care for and without water you’re dead in your tracks. Yet he always chooses the peaceful solution. In a world of violence and self-seeking advancement his actions stand as an interesting challenge. How often do we choose to surrender our toys to the bully and move to a different toy? Our culture doesn’t really support that attitude.
But maybe we should consider it. How much of life’s stress would be eliminated if we simply trusted that God would take care of our needs rather than scrapping to do so for ourselves. I see in Isaac a willingness to set down whatever is in his hands if it means that peace will win out. And yet he continued to grow in strength and blessing. We may not talk about him very much, but there sure is something there to emulate.