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Our covenant-keeping God who graciously deals with us

Date: 30 Jun 2024, 9.30 am

Speaker: Ps Daniel Tan Sermon Text: Genesis 26:1-33

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Blessed Sunday to everyone. If you are joining us for the first time, as a church, Hermon is going through the book of Genesis. Today, we will be looking at chapter 26.

Genesis has 2 main segments. 

Firstly chapters 1 to 11. Here Moses helps the Israelites to understand who God is – He is creator. About the Fall – Adam and Eve’s sin of disobedience and then God’s punishment during the time of Noah and the tower of Babel.

Yet at the same time, the promise that the seed of the Woman will crush the Serpent.

The second segment of Genesis is from chapters 12 to 50. Here Moses narrows it down to one family line. The call of Abraham and how the chosen people of God came to be.

The promise of salvation and redemption made in Genesis 3 is now to be carried out in and through the line of Abraham.

Today, with the New Testament in our hands, we see the fulfilment of God’s promises in Genesis. And so, because we are going through Genesis, we appreciate the significance of Matthew 1:1 -

Mt 1:1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Messiah Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s covenant promise to David and to Abraham. He is the seed that will crush Satan.

And Apostle Paul tells us how significant it is to believe in Jesus -

Gal 3:29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

The promises to Abraham are ours in Christ Jesus. So Genesis 26 is not just history, it’s personal to all of us who have put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

May I submit that in Genesis 26, we see our covenant-keeping God who graciously deals with us. And from the passage, I would like to observe 5 ways that God deals with us.

1.   Covenant Grace (v1-6)  

Gen 26:1 Now there was a famine in the land, besides the former famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Gerar to Abimelech king of the Philistines. And the Lord appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you. Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” 6  So Isaac settled in Gerar.

Genesis 26 begins on a challenging note. It reminds us that Issac though a child of the promise, nevertheless lives in a world that is stained by sin.

Thus famine, drought and hardship are constantly present. As it happened during Abraham’s time, so too will Isaac experience famine.

Yet, what we also can see from this episode is that God is the one who is unchanging. God is the one who will continue to fulfil His covenant promises.

In the last chapter, we saw Isaac’s persevering faith in God with regards to the expansion of his family. Rebekah was barren and Isaac prayed to the Lord for Rebekah for 20 years.

Now with the famine, Isaac needed to find ways for his family to survive.

Maybe Isaac remembered a story from Abraham, how Abraham and Sarah went down to Egypt before Issac was born to escape the famine. We read about it in Genesis 12.

So Issac must have thought in his heart, since Dad did it, maybe I should as well.

But God in His wisdom says otherwise.

God appeared to Isaac and says stay. Stay in the Promised Land, don’t go down to Egypt.

Remember and believe my promises to bless you and your offspring. Remember and believe that I will fulfil my promises to Abraham.

Ps Luwin spoke last week of the baton being passed from Abraham to Isaac. Is Isaac the correct runner to next take on the baton?

Yes, Isaac is, for the repetition of the covenant promise shows so. Thus, it was correct for Abraham in Genesis 25 to send all his other sons away.

Was it easy for Isaac to stay in the land of Gerar? I think not. There was a famine. He was an outsider, there was Abimelech the king of the Philistines in Gerar.

Yet we see Isaac walked by faith and not by sight.

God continues to encourage Isaac by telling him, Issac, you will receive the covenant promise not because of anything you have done, but because of how your faither Abraham responded.

V5 tells us, ‘because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandment, my statues and my laws’.

Abraham completely obeyed.

Obedience was Abraham’s response, but we know he did absolutely nothing to fulfil the promises of the covenant.

Instead, all of God’s promises were done for Abraham. What Abraham did was to be obedient to what God had revealed.

God said leave and go out from your country and Abraham did. God said Sarah will bear you the child even when they were old and barren and Abraham obeyed.

God said, sacrifice Issac your only child and Abraham obeyed.

So Issac is reminded, God’s covenant promise is given graciously. Issac can never do anything to obtain nor deserve it.

But now that he is a recipient of this gracious gift, the only appropriate response is complete obedience.

To obediently walk by faith and not by sight.

May I submit an application for us today – keeping the Sabbath.

God tells us, the sabbath is made for man. Keep it holy, keep it set apart from the other 6 days.

Trust God, He knows what you need, He will provide. He desires then that we set aside Sunday to worship Him and to interact with His people.

Would we in obedience, keep the Sabbath holy? Because God is a covenant-keeping God, let’s encourage one another to obediently walk by faith.  

2.   Providential Prevention (v7-11) 

Gen 26:7 When the men of the place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” for he feared to say, “My wife,” thinking, “lest the men of the place should kill me because of Rebekah,” because she was attractive in appearance. 8 When he had been there a long time, Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out of a window and saw Isaac laughing with Rebekah his wife. So Abimelech called Isaac and said, “Behold, she is your wife. How then could you say, ‘She is my sister’?” Isaac said to him, “Because I thought, ‘Lest I die because of her.’ ” 10  Abimelech said, “What is this you have done to us? One of the people might easily have lain with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.” 11 So Abimelech warned all the people, saying, “Whoever touches this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.”

Like father like son. Issac a man of faith who walked like his father Abraham in obedience, yet failed like any man.

Both married beautify women and both feared for their lives.

Abraham lied that Sarah was his sister in Egypt and Issac also lied that Rebekah was his sister to the people of Gerar.

On one hand, Isaac trusted God that God will feed him and his family even as God commanded that he remain in famine instead of going to Egypt.

Yet, on the other hand, when he felt that there was an immediate threat to his life, he lied – she is my sister, not my wife.

The fear of man overtook Isaac and he told a lie and disobeyed God.

As recorded by Moses, we see God’s providential hand of prevention in 2 ways.

Firstly, God allowed the king to observe the behaviour of Isaac and Rebekah and to then rebuke Isaac for his lie. 

This I submit, prevented Isaac from continuing to live in his lie. God enabled the king to bring to light the falsehood so that Isaac can come clean.

Secondly, we see that the king put a protection around Isaac and Rebekah in v11. This to prevent any of his country men to harm Isaac or violate Rebekah.

Interesting is it not? A pagan king who holds up the sanctity of marriage.

Since God is the one who created the institution of marriage in Genesis 2, has God not also put such natural laws into the hearts of man who He has created as well? I think so.

For Abimelech, it just seems natural and right that the marriage bond is to be respected.

God through Abimelech provided Issac with providential prevention.

And I submit, it raises the question for us today on the issue of integrity. How do we live in the society.

If God is our covenant-keeping God, would we trust Him enough that we live with integrity in our homes, our workplaces and our neighbourhoods?

That we don’t have to use white lies or half-truths to survive?

A few years ago, Dn David and I drove into JB for a Boys’ Brigade event. In the middle of the Causeway, we came across a Singapore car that had broken down. So we asked if the driver needed help.

The driver sheepishly told us, no need. His car had run out of petrol.

Yet we know Singapore has a ¾ tank rule right? If he was a believer, should he be in such a situation?

May we reflect about our integrity in society.  

Yes, we thank God that in spite of our lack of integrity, God continues to grant us providential prevention.

But Issac’s negative example is not for us to stretch the limits of God’s mercies, but instead I submit, to encourage us towards consistent integrity.

As the song goes, ‘May the footprints that we leave, lead them to believe and the lives we live, inspire them to obey’.

3.   Gracious Provision (v12-17)

Gen 26:12 And Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. The Lord blessed him, 13 and the man became rich, and gained more and more until he became very wealthy. 14 He had possessions of flocks and herds and many servants, so that the Philistines envied him. 15 (Now the Philistines had stopped and filled with earth all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father.) 16 And Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we.” 17 So Isaac departed from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar and settled there.

Because Abraham was chosen by God, he was to become a great nation and to be a blessing to all nations.

So to help the first listeners see that Isaac was the chosen one to receive the baton from Abraham, Moses records that Issac too received God’s blessings.

In the time of famine, Issac sowed and reaped a 100-fold. He became rich and very wealthy. So wealthy that the Philistines were jealous.

As famine is experienced by both believers and non-believers, so too opposition towards wealth will come to both believers and non-believers. This is the sin-stained world that we live in.

There will always be envy, jealously and strife. I think this is the reality that we need to accept. We cannot expect that God will always make smooth the path for us.

Yet at the same time, Scripture tells us, that persecution must be on account of Jesus and not because of our own wrong doing -

Mt 5:11  “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Here, significantly Jesus instructs, our reward will be received in heaven. A commendation from our Lord, saying well-done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Master.

The Lord so blessed Isaac that even the filling of the wells that had been dug during Abraham’s time did not diminish the wealth of Isaac.

And it seems that Issac was able to re-dig many of the wells that were filled and it yielded sustenance for him and his family.

Thus, Scripture records that all this blessings were because of the Lord gracious provision.

It shows that God is able and willing to bless His own. Abraham and Isaac were blessed because God have chosen them.

Regardless of the situation, God can sustain them and even give them abundance.

Since God never changes, we see that He continues to desire to bless us today as well.

For all of us who are struggling with doubts that God graciously provides, may Romans 8 be an encouragement.

Rom 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Scripture reminds us elsewhere that earthly wealth is fleeting for it can be stolen or destroyed. But importantly, God has given us the most precious gift - His son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

And because He has given us the greatest gift of all, thus He is willing and able to give everything that we need.  

It means when He does not give, it is for our own good. We need to trust that He knows what is best for us.

Now God does bless some of us like Isaac. In the here and now, God has multiplied our possessions.

For those of us in such a position, may I offer 2 Cor 9 for your consideration:

2 Cor 9:10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.

God has supplied so that through you, you may be generous and supply others. And the harvest is the harvest of righteousness. It is salvation linked.

Give generosity to impact the transferring people into God’s Kingdom and transforming them to be more like King Jesus.  

We thank God for our missions partners who came for the recent church camp. What they shared, I’m sure has touched the hearts of many.

Church, we need to know that we have be blessed to be a blessing. We have jobs, we have a stable government, our currency is strong.

Our drinking wells do not run dry. Unlike our missions partners, it is guaranteed that when we turn on the tap, water comes out.

We have no famine, when we need to preserve our food, our fridges continue to function because there is electricity.  

We worship a God who owns cattle on a thousand hills. When He blesses us, may our respond only be that of gratitude.

Grateful for what God has graciously provided. And importantly, gratefulness that is displayed in generosity towards others.

4.   Steadfast Sustenance (v18-22) 

Gen 26:18 And Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham his father, which the Philistines had stopped after the death of Abraham. And he gave them the names that his father had given them. 19 But when Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and found there a well of spring water, 20 the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen, saying, “The water is ours.” So he called the name of the well Esek, because they contended with him. 21 Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that also, so he called its name Sitnah. 22 And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, saying, “For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.”

Why did Isaac approach Abimelech king of the Philistines at the beginning of Gen 26 when the famine came?

We need to trace back Abraham’s relationship with Abimelech. And we see that in Gen 20.

Gen 20:14 Then Abimelech took sheep and oxen, and male servants and female servants, and gave them to Abraham, and returned Sarah his wife to him. 15 And Abimelech said, “Behold, my land is before you; dwell where it pleases you.” 16 To Sarah he said, “Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver. It is a sign of your innocence in the eyes of all who are with you, and before everyone you are vindicated.”

This promise of Abimelech happened when Abraham lied again about Sarah being his sister.

But God revealed the truth to Abimelech and he made restitution towards Abraham and Sarah.

We are not sure if the Abimelech in Gen 26 is the same person or it’s a descendant that has used Abimelech as a family name.

But I submit we can infer that all parties are aware that Abraham and his family should be able to dwell in Gerar.

Yet we see that due to jealously, Isaac faced opposition, even persecution and eventually isolation.

Could Issac have insisted on his rights as given to Abraham in Genesis 20? Would you and I have done that if we were in Isaac’s position?

Issac also had the advantage – v16 tells us Abimelech knew that Isaac was mightier than the Abimelech.

Abraham had an army strong enough to fight and rescue Lot from the 4 kings in Gen 14. So Issac must have inherited such military capabilities as well.

So significantly we see that Issac did not insist on his rights. Instead, he left the city of Gerar and camped in the valley.

Even as the headsmen of Gerar contested the wells that Issac has re-dug which the people of Gerar had filled up in the first place, he did not retaliate.

Instead, Isaac moved on to other wells. He kept moving further and further away till in v22, he dug one that they did not quarrel over.

There, Isaac significantly named it Rehoboth – it’s literal meaning is broad places. Indicating that God has led Issac to a place where there is enough room for him to dwell peacefully with the people of Gerar.

I submit that Issac displayed persevering trust in God through this challenging situation.

And because Issac trusted in God, he knew that God was dependable. God provides steadfast sustenance. Every well he re-dug, he found water.

Thus, Isaac did not insist on his rights nor did he respond aggressively towards the opposition.

Didn’t Abraham do the same thing when there was quarrelling between Lot and Abraham’s herdsmen in Gen 13?

Scripture says - Rom 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Isaac’s life here in Gensis 26 is a model example of Romans 12:18.

He trusted God that his place was to be in and around Gerar and not Egypt. That God will be steadfast in His sustenance.

Furthermore, God had promised that Isaac is to be a blessing to the nations. So, he patiently moved out of the way of the people of Gerar.

Today, do we trust God for the situations we find ourselves in?

That because He knows and He sustains, we don’t have to assert that our siblings acknowledge our contributions and insist on their exact support for say the upkeep of our parents.

Today, do we trust God that He understands and continues to sustain? Thus, we don’t have to explain elaborately and repeatedly so that our teammates see our side of the story with regards to the project.

Today, do we trust God that He cares and will sustain us?  Therefore, we don’t have to fight tooth and nail for our rights, stepping over others so that we get our fair share of the recognition and rewards.

5.   Sovereign Protection (v23-33) 

Gen 26:23 From there he went up to Beersheba. 24 And the Lord appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake.” 25 So he built an altar there and called upon the name of the Lord and pitched his tent there. And there Isaac’s servants dug a well. 26 When Abimelech went to him from Gerar with Ahuzzath his adviser and Phicol the commander of his army, 27 Isaac said to them, “Why have you come to me, seeing that you hate me and have sent me away from you?” 28 They said, “We see plainly that the Lord has been with you. So we said, let there be a sworn pact between us, between you and us, and let us make a covenant with you, 29 that you will do us no harm, just as we have not touched you and have done to you nothing but good and have sent you away in peace. You are now the blessed of the Lord.” 30 So he made them a feast, and they ate and drank. 31 In the morning they rose early and exchanged oaths. And Isaac sent them on their way, and they departed from him in peace. 32 That same day Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well that they had dug and said to him, “We have found water.” 33 He called it Shibah; therefore the name of the city is Beersheba to this day.

According to the Psalmist, every day we have has been ordained. It speaks of God’s sovereignty over us. That nothing happens to us outside of God’s knowledge nor permission.

Ps 139:16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

And we see this truth in Isaac’s life as well.

God’s sovereign protection was upon Issac for Abimelech who has driven Isaac away from the city, now comes and seeks a treaty with Isaac.

In v28, they declare that it is plain to see that the Lord is with Isaac.

Which is more comforting to us, the assurance of men or that of God?

If we walk by sight, that means responding to God only after we receive man’s affirmation. We would worship God after v28.

But Isaac walked by faith. He had confidence in God’s promises.

And so we see that after God appeared to Isaac in v24 to remind him of God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac immediately built an altar and called upon the name of the Lord.

It means, he publicly displayed his faith in God’s promises and Isaac proclaimed the goodness of God to all those nearby through his worship.

God graciously then allowed Issac to see the reality of His promises in v23-24 through the actions of Abimelech in v26-29.

And I’m sure for many of us, we too, have had God confirmed His sovereign protection through external events.

But it is significant I submit that Issac worshipped God and acknowledged His sovereign protection before Abimelech came to see him.

Can we today like Isaac, acknowledge God’s sovereign protection in our lives? Worshiping God based on His promises found in Scripture.


Whatever you are going through today, God assures us -

Rom 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?... 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

May we like Isaac, take hold of God’s promise of sovereign protection and respond in worship of Him.


Church, may the character of God recorded for us in Genesis 26 be our encouragement.  He is a God who is the same, yesterday, today and forever.

As we look at Isaac’s response to God and to his situation, may it be instructive for us too.

May we realize that God is one who can be trusted in the famines that we go through. That it is possible to live a live of obedience, integrity and worship because of who God is.

A story is told of 2 participants who was given an opportunity to recite Psalm 23.

The first was an actor, who read Ps 23 and ended with what he thought was an appropriate climatic finish. There was polite applause at the end.

Next came an elderly minister. He read it through thick glasses from a well-used bible.

But once he finished, there was just reverential silence, you could hear a pin drop.

When the elderly minister walked back to sit beside the actor, the actor leaned over and said, I read the words, but you knew the Shepherd.

In closing, we will sing Psalm 23 to a tune that has been modernized. I pray that the song will minister to each of us and that we will each know Jesus the Shepherd.

A Shepherd whom we can trust through all the tough and dry times.  






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