“Sojourn in this land and I will be with you and bless you, for to you and to your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath which I swore to your father Abraham. “I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws.” Thus Isaac lived in Gerar. Gen. 26:3-6
Isaac was heading to Egypt via Gerar when God told him to stay in Gerar, that by doing so God would be with him, bless him, and establish the oath made to Abraham. The oath included multiplying their descendants and giving them the lands. God had called Abraham from Haran to Canaan, so Isaac was already where God wanted him to be.
Gerar may not have been the ideal destination for escaping the famine, but it was sufficient; and as we see, God did bless Isaac and he prospered there greatly. So much so, in fact, that King Abimilech sent him away from Gerar proper, telling Isaac “you are too powerful for us.” (v. 16) Some rabbis believe that Isaac ultimately had more wealth than the king, and Abimilech was embarrassed.
Isaac’s role as a patriarch was an interesting one, largely representing a transition between Abraham and Jacob. Abraham was mostly nomadic, and Jacob was for the most part settled, but Isaac is a bit of both; semi-nomadic then later settled. Just as God accomplishes His will in each of us individually, His larger plan looms. One could argue that it began with Abraham’s father Terah, who ultimately left Ur and ended up in Haran.
In many ways, Isaac’s job was to stay where he was at and watch God’s blessings unfold before him. There is something to be said of contentment here. All too often we want to race forward with our lives, but in our hurrying we fail to see that sometimes we just need to accept our current circumstances and resist our desire to “move on” to the next chapter of our lives too quickly. When we race forward like this, it is much like hurrying through the previous chapter of a book, only to realize in a few chapters we must have missed something crucial because now the story isn’t quite making sense.
Through Isaac’s obedience to stay in Gerar for a time, he likely gained much more than God’s material blessings. Things like patience by learning to wait on God; Trust, by seeing that God’s promises were coming to pass in time; Contentment by staying in Gerar and not merely pressing on to Egypt, and quite possibly humility, in seeing that God’s plan for him worked out better than the plan he had for himself. In Isaac’s dealings with Abimilech, we even see more of a willingness to reconcile with others than in the case of Abraham (compare Gen. 20:24-32 to Gen. 26:30-31)
In Isaac, God is cultivating positive traits beyond those of Abraham which will be further carried and refined through Jacob.