“Then he went up from there to Beersheba.
The LORD appeared to him the same night and said,
“I am the God of your father Abraham;
Do not fear, for I am with you.
I will bless you, and multiply your descendants,
For the sake of My servant Abraham.”
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.” Gen. 26:23-25
The LORD sometimes speaks at odd moments in scripture, seemingly inserting Himself almost at random in certain passages. With all the trials Isaac was going through – having moved due to famine, then being mistreated in Gerar repeatedly, Isaac was likely wondering if God was with him.
A significant element of the Genesis 26 narrative is encapsulated in these verses: that God is with Isaac, just as God was with Abraham. Isaac was not merely getting hand-me-down faith; he also had a direct relationship with God. As the rabbis say, He is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. He is not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. There is a difference.
God wants us to have our own personal relationship with Him. I believe this is why Isaac’s re-digging of Abraham’s old wells proved fruitless. It was as if Isaac re-dug those wells of his father, and named them the same names as his father almost in formulaic fashion, as if that was what he thought he was supposed to do. The digging of a well to get to the life-sustaining water hiding below is symbolic of how we reach out to our creator, and so Isaac was finding out that God doesn’t necessarily want us to try to get to Him the same way those before us did. Once Isaac understands this, he builds his first altar, and digs yet another new well. (v. 25)
In this case we see Isaac does not make any progress until he starts digging his own wells. Once Isaac begins doing things a new way, King Abimelech comes to him and says, as if prophetically, “you are now blessed of the LORD” (v.29).