"Redigging the Ancient Wells: Part 2"
By Sue Towne
We’re looking at Chapter 26 of Genesis, where Isaac sojourns in the area near Gerar, as his father, Abraham, did years before. “Gerar,” we discovered last week, is connected to the idea of ruminating or meditating
We left Isaac last week redigging his father’s wells out in the countryside. He redigs three of these wells, each time striking water.
But for each of the first two wells, Isaac also encounters the jealously and opposition of the Philistines. He names these two wells, “Contention” (or “Strife”) and “Enmity.”
The third well he names “Broad Places”--kind of like saying he found a place big enough for his household where the Philistines would leave him alone, a place where he could receive God’s blessings.
If we see water as a type of the Holy Spirit’s ministry of life, then we can look at Isaac’s progression from one well to another as a type of spiritual revival or renewal--a rediscovering of his own spiritual heritage.
It’s like he is growing in wisdom and favor as he goes from well to well--even though he is opposed by others until he gets to the third well. Isaac perseveres, and that’s one reason why he eventually prospers in peace.
Though he does find the well of Broad Places, he digs one more well. This one is at Beersheba, a place that also figured in the life of his father, Abraham.
The night Isaac arrived at Beersheba, the Lord appeared to him and reaffirmed the promise of many descendants that He had given to Abraham. Isaac’s response was to build an altar and call upon the name of the Lord--to worship Him and ask His protection. Then Isaac pitched a tent there, and his servants started to dig a well--a sign that Isaac meant to camp out at that place for a while.
Shortly thereafter, Abimelech and his military advisor came to Isaac and asked to make covenant with him because they said they saw that the Lord “had been with Isaac” and that he was the blessed of the Lord.
In other words, Isaac was becoming powerful and prosperous despite being out in the desert. Abimelech and Isaac made blood covenant together, a kind of military and economic alliance. And on the same day Isaac’s servants struck water in the well they were digging.
So maybe out of reference to the covenant with Abimelech or maybe out of respect for his father Abraham, Isaac named the well “Shibah,” which literally means “seven,” a word that has an association with the oaths of blood covenants. Back in Chapter 21 Abraham had made covenant at Beersheba with Abimelech’s father (also named Abimelech) and his commander, in which the Philistines recognized Abraham’s right to the well at Beersheba. The name Beersheba comes from two words. One means “well.” The other is translated “oath,” but it actually means “seven”. When it says in v. 31 that they exchanged oaths, it literally means they “sevened themselves.”
Why seven? This is some speculation, but the number seven in scripture often points to completeness or to divinity. In a blood covenant between humans, a god was often invoked within the oaths taken, as a sign of the solemnity of the oath. To seal his covenant with Abimelech, Abraham gave him seven female sheep.
So the “Well of the Oath” served as the place where three covenants were affirmed: the covenant between Abraham and Abimelech, the covenant between Isaac and the son Abimelech, and the covenant between Isaac and the Lord.
What can the redigging of these wells in Genesis 26 mean for us today? First, the wells of Abraham represent an ancient spiritual heritage. They are as much a part of our heritage as New Covenant believers as they are a part of Isaac’s heritage.
We are Abraham’s spiritual seed through our covenant with Yeshua. We as believers in Yeshua can have much more of Abraham’s blessings than we now enjoy if we will look for his spiritual wells and redig them.
Some of those “wells” might include the practice of ruminating or meditating on what God has said to us, both by His written Word and in the Spirit. What did it mean for Abraham to walk by faith in what the Lord told him?
Abraham’s “wells” would certainly include living within a covenant relationship with God. In our culture it takes some real effort and some revelation from God to be able to begin to be “covenant-minded”--that is, to be aware of what it means to live in blood covenant with the Lord. What does it mean to be His partner in covenant in a practical sense? Abraham knew.
When we go digging spiritual wells, not every believer will be pleased to help us or even to drink from those wells. The Philistines did not drink from Abraham’s wells. They spurned these wells and filled them in, just as though they had never existed. They did NOT want to follow in Abraham’s ways. Later on in the time of famine when they needed extra water, they didn’t have it.
Isn’t this just like so many folks in the church through the centuries who didn’t want anything to do with revival or renewal? I know of one denomination which began during the Reformation, that revised its historical records, deleting every reference to the supernatural events which occurred in that denomination during a time of persecution.
That’s just like covering up Abraham’s wells and refusing to drink from them.
But here’s what’s even worse. When someone in the church does hit a “gusher” in the spirit, others within the church get offended--even leaders. If this were really of God, they reason, it would be happening with me. So it becomes, “If I can’t have it, you can’t have it.” Or “we don’t want that kind of thing here!”
It’s kind of like when Isaac redug the wells that became an occasion for strife! I believe that this next move of God will bring a division in the church, and we will all have to choose.
Isaac was his father’s son in more than just a physical sense. He redug his father’s wells--like father, like son. He knew his spiritual roots because Abraham had taught him well, as God knew he would. And so Isaac survived the rejection and opposition of the Philistines--in fact he even prospered.
Likewise we need to look to our spiritual roots. The Word says the we are only the wild olive branches, grafted into the cultivated olive tree. We must never see ourselves spiritually as the whole tree, nor forget the stock on which we are grafted!
To do so is to cut ourselves off from the blessed prosperity of the child of promise--Isaac (see Galatians 4). We need the full blessing and must not be satisfied with only part of the blessings, nor be deceived to think that our roots are not in the Old Covenant.
I want to take the application of this chapter to yet another level--next week! I’m going to pose three questions that might help us redig our own spiritual wells.