Isaac had failed, just as his father did. Despite the promise of God to bless him (vv.2-4), the fear that he felt for the Philistines had caused him to deny that Rebekah was his wife and that Esau and Jacob were the sons given by God to this union. Living close to the world makes us like that. We have to deny the blessings that the Lord has granted us, and the fruit that we have enjoyed from these blessings. Fear of the world encourages us to cover up where our affections really lie. But if these feelings are real they cannot be hidden forever, and there came a day when the relationship between Isaac and Rebekah became known (v.8).
Following this, Isaac prospered. Let all who are living too close to the world beware! Spiritual prosperity will not be enjoyed when our relationship to the Lord is kept concealed in order to avoid reproach or the "embarrassment" that would follow as a result of past conduct in the company of unbelievers. Assembly testimony is suffering in many areas because of worldliness amongst the saints. Absence from meetings, paucity of contributions in worship and work, and unhealthy attention to the interests that dominate the thinking of unsaved men and women are all signs of this malaise.
Perhaps there are some reading these words who know that they have lived too close to the "Philistines". There is a desire for recovery of past liberty in the presence of the Lord, of the enjoyment of His bounty and the refreshment of a parched barren soul. The summer months are over and the days of autumn lie ahead, but how great is the longing to get clear of the spiritual winter in which you find yourself. The winter work in the assembly awaits, but your appetite for the work of the Lord has been diminished. How can it be recovered?
The first thing that Isaac found was that the Philistines sought to deny him the wells that his father Abraham had dug (v.15). The prosperity that was now being enjoyed required the water of the wells for it to continue. As with the body, so with the soul: refreshment is necessary, and anyone on the pathway of recovery must have this. These wells picture for us that which is to be found in the Word of God. For the believer returning from being too close to the world this refreshment is vital. Read the Scriptures and enjoy again the things that once gripped you, the truth you were taught that "As cold waters to thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country" (Prov 25.25), the refreshment coming from the "far country" of heaven. Thus Isaac moved to the valley of Gerar and continued to open up Abrahams wells. In passing, note how a future generation enjoyed the good of the work of Abraham as we today enjoy the fruit of the work, study, and teaching of godly saints of past generations.
But relying on what had been originally "digged" by others was not enough by itself. Isaac now set about digging his own wells. Once again the Philistines intervened and on two occasions stopped the wells. Isaacs progress was then hindered by "Esek" (contention) and "Sitnah" (hatred) from those who opposed him. But removing to an area further away from the Philistines made it possible to dig a well where there was no strife. "Rehoboth" (room), as Isaac called it, was where there was space to flourish and room to grow.
The lesson requires little emphasis. Spiritual prosperity can only be enjoyed when we are not under in the influence of the world. Isaac was able there to enjoy his own well, unhindered by opposing forces. There we will be able to enjoy refreshment that is given to us alone. It is profitable to appreciate what others have digged, but there is a special sweetness about beauty and encouragement that we see for ourselves from Scripture. It does not come without effort. It has to be digged, but how refreshing to the soul it is.
Then we can move to Beersheba (v.23). Isaac had a tent, an altar, and a well, the worshipping pilgrim drawing refreshment from the well. That is a condition to be prized and sought. Away from the grip of the Philistines, even if they seem to be honourable, to where the well of springing water can be enjoyed to the full. Love for the Lord will now be a delight and not a denial. May that be our aim in the winter months ahead, if the Lord will.