And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac dwelled by the well Lahairoi.
1. After the death of Abraham, God blessed Isaac. What a contrast meets us as we turn to him. The longest lived of the patriarchs, yet what a little space he fills. Abraham has many chapters — so has Jacob, but Isaac has scarcely a single chapter to himself, this is the lesson of his life. We talk of most men because of their importance. I want to talk of Isaac because of his unimportance. His are the annals of a quiet life. God is the God of Abraham. Yes, we do not wonder at that — Abraham the hero, the warrior, the father and founder of great nations — the man of such gifts and such achievements. But God is the God of Isaac, too — the God of the quiet uneventful life. The heavenly Father hath room in His heart for all His children. He who maketh us to differ, loves us in all the separateness of our character.
2. Remember that Isaac is needed as well as Abraham. It is well that there should be some few men here and there, lifted up above the rest like the high hills that touch the sky. The sight of them is needful to refresh us, to expand our thought, to break the dead level of life, and to bring down blessings from heaven. But we need the quiet fields as well as the mountain heights — they give us the grass of the meadow and the corn of the valley. Earth has need of common people — and indeed most need of them. Some one said one day to Abraham Lincoln, referring to some prominent man, "He is a common-looking person." "Friend," said Abraham Lincoln, "the Lord prefers common-looking people, that is why He has made so many of them." If folks were all splendid geniuses, whirling to heaven in chariots of fire, who would do the humdrum work of life? Let us learn to think rightly of common-place people, including ourselves. George Eliot preaches a needed gospel when she writes of one of her characters, "He whose fortunes I have undertaken to relate was in no respect an ideal or exceptional character... a man whose virtues were not heroic, and who had no undetected crime within his heart; who had not the slightest mystery hanging about him, but was palpably and unmistakably common-place .... But, dear madam, it is so very large a majority of your fellow-countrymen that are of this insignificant stamp. Yet these common-place people — many of them — bear a conscience, and have felt the sublime prompting to do the painful right; they have their unspoken sorrows and their sacred joys; their hearts have perhaps gone out towards their first-born, and they have mourned over the irreclaimable dead. Depend upon it you would gain unspeakably if you would learn to see more of the poetry and pathos, the tragedy and comedy, lying in the experience of a human soul that looks through dull grey eyes and that speaks in a voice of quite ordinary tones."
3. Remember the advantages of such a life. "Isaac went into the field at eventide to meditate." Of such life, this is its distinction. If it have less of action, it certainly has more room for meditation. If it knows fewer things, yet it generally knows them better and deeper. If it has less glory and triumph, yet it has closer and steadier communion. If it cannot fight the Master's battles, it can sit at the Master's feet and learn of Him. The quiet life has its blessings. Down by the stream the little meadow lay; and it heard afar off the roar of the great city, and it saw the ruddy glare of its lights flung up against the murky sky. "Alas!" it sighed, "how dull a life is mine! Yonder, in the city, with its thousands, one might do some good. But I am so far away and useless." But in the night time came the stars and sang to it — "Foolish creature, we are thine in all our silvery brightness, we whom they scarcely see in the city." Then the dew fell and whispered to its heart — "And I am thine, I that am of no use on the hard city ways." And up rose the sun and woke the flowers and painted them afresh, and it said — "I am thine, I who have to fight with city fogs for many an hour yonder." And the meadow thought it had something to sing about after all, and the lark went soaring heavenward with music. But one day it heard some stray city sparrow tell a tale about the hungry little children, and the drunken men, and the wretched women, and about weary rich folks. And it grew sad again and said — "What can I do down here, out of the way, and so common-place!" Then came the breeze and it cried in a hurry, "Quick! give us your freshness and fragrance that we may bless the crowded courts and streets," and it was off. And there came some that picked the flowers from beside the stream, and told how they should gladden many a weary heart, and smile upon sick children, and light up many a dreary home. Then the meadow sang a sweeter song than ever, and was glad that He who maketh all hath so much room for the quiet and unknown, and can turn these to such good account. God blessed Isaac.
4. Remember, again, that if quiet people do not go up so high as others, they do not go down so low. "Happy is the nation whose annals are dull," said an authority. Think of Abraham and David and Elijah, and you will see that the life of Isaac has its compensations.
5. Again-there is a special beauty of character belonging to the quiet life. Take another of the few incidents in Isaac's life — that recorded in the sixty-seventh verse of the twenty-fourth chapter — "And he brought Rebekah into his mother Sarah's tent, and he loved her, and was comforted after his mother's death." The gentle heart grieving for his mother, and solaced by the love of Rebekah, is an aspect of the quiet life worth lingering over. These are the gifts with which the quiet people do enrich the world. We do not wonder now that God blessed Isaac.
6. Notice further — that the quiet life has its trials. We see it in the picture of the dim-eyed Isaac sitting in the tent door, bidding his son fetch for him the venison which his soul loved — an ease that breeds a self-indulgence is the besetment of the quiet life. It needs to be stirred up, and that sharply at times, and so there comes the famine, rousing him-making the somewhat sluggish life beat more vigorously. Bringing new wants that require new devices. Bringing new conditions that must be dealt with. No harvest ever did so much for Isaac as that famine. Yet another tendency of the quiet life is to fear and to cunning. We see it in Jacob the quiet man, the smooth man. But here in Isaac is the possibility. The story of the men of Gerar and Rebekah shows this tendency in Isaac. They who are weakest need most of all the help of God and have most room for it. They who have no other gifts must make the most of this.
7. Again, the quiet uneventful life has its victories — victories as brave and oftentimes alike more noble and complete than the victories of the warrior. Isaac pitched his tent in the Valley of Gerar and dwelt there, and Isaac digged the wells of water which they had digged in the days of Abraham his father (Genesis 18:23). Then the Philistines came and stopped up the well. Ishmael would have fought for it, but that would have taken time and men's lives, and have established a feud between himself and his neighbours. And after all he would have had to dig out the well again. So it was a saving of trouble and time and of much else at once to dig the well. So he digged again, and the Philistines came and filled that also. Again he might have fought about that too — but all that made it worth while to dig before made it worth while to dig again. So he removed from thence and digged another well; and for that they strove not. He had got to Rehoboth — "room." It is a good place to live, Rehoboth — where there is room for forgiveness and patience there is room for peace. And the Lord appeared to him the same night and said, "Fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee." Where there is room for love there is room for God. Then came the kings and chief captains who had sent him away and won by his gentleness, they sought an alliance with him — "We saw certainly. that the Lord was with thee: and we said, let there now be an oath betwixt us, and let us make a covenant with thee. Thou art now the blessed of the Lord. And he made them a feast, and they did eat and drink." It was a great triumph of peace principles; as pure a victory as was ever won. So the quiet man was a hero all unbeknown to himself, and won a more noble victory then ever came of cruel bloodshed. These gentle souls have a mighty power, mightier than we reckon — like the silent stars that rule the darkness by shining. Lastly, let us remember that it was not Isaac's natural character that singled him out for distinction; but it was his relation to the coming Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. This was Abraham's greatness; and here was Isaac as great as Abraham. And herein is our greatness too. Not in what we are can we find our glory, but in Him, our Saviour and our King.
(Mark Guy Pearse.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac dwelt by the well Lahairoi.