Every man is a legacy OF other people (good and bad) and TO other people (good and bad). Our wise and sinful patterns of behavior are passed down generationally. This is very clear in the lives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
As Genesis 26 opens there is “a famine in the land.” (Genesis 26:1, 12:10) Think of this as what we would call today a “recession.” Household incomes, business profits, and investment spending are all down. Unemployment, business failures and personal bankruptcies are all up. It is a hard time in the land. Isaac and Rebekah (this is probably before their twins were born) went to Abimelech, King of the Philistines in Gerar. This is probably the son or grandson of the Abimelech that Abraham knew. Abimelech would be the family name of the ruling family of the Philistines. When this happened to Abraham in Genesis 12, Abraham went down to Egypt and that didn’t go so well. Remember? This time, God tells Isaac, “Don’t go to Egypt.” God makes Isaac two promises:
- God promises his presence: “I will be with you.”
- God promises his blessing: “I will bless you.”
In the midst of God’s promise of His presence and blessing, check out the first thing Isaac does when he gets to Gerar:
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. (Genesis 26:7)
Where have we seen this before? (Genesis 12:13, Genesis 20:2) Just like his dad (I wonder if he had seen his dad do this), he lies about his wife being his sister. Rebekah is so hot, that he is afraid the local men will kill him to get her. This fear of man seems almost irrational, given God’s promises and how faithfully God had kept the same promises to Isaac’s father.
In verse 8, Abimelech looks out a window and sees Isaac and Rebekah in a playful moment, laughing together, and realizes that they are not acting like a brother and a sister. So Abimelech rebukes Isaac. (Genesis 26:9-11) Abimelech is an unbeliever who is behaving morally. Isaac is a believer acting immorally in this case. These are not the usual categories that we expect in the Bible, but that is what we have. Sometimes unbelievers behave more morally than unbelievers. Sometimes, a believer needs to accept the stinging rebuke of an unbeliever, because he is right.
Abraham lied twice about his wife being his sister, now Isaac is telling the same lie. Isaac’s son Jacob (whose name means “deceiver”) will be known specifically for his deceitfulness. But Jacob will also be deceived by his Uncle Laban. And this is the family of faith upon which the nation of Israel is built! They are believers in God, but they have a serious character flaw that gets passed down generationally – they are predisposed to lying when they are afraid.
What generational sins do you need to be watching out for in your life? You don’t have to give in to them. But you can only break them if you recognize them and seek God’s help for them.
But Abraham left Isaac another legacy – a name associated with faith in God:
From there he went up to Beersheba. 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.” 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. (Genesis 26:23-25)
I am not in any way implying that faith in God can be passed down or inherited. It cannot. But it can be modeled. The best way to become a faithful man is to walk in the footsteps of faithful men. I hope and pray that, despite my obvious faults and sins, I can leave a legacy to those who will come after me like Abraham left Isaac: “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.”