Digging New Wells and Re-Digging Old Ones in 2023
Topic: Challenges Passage: Genesis 26:12–33
New Year’s Day Message
Grace Community Church
Jan. 1, 2023
Digging New Wells and Re-Digging Old Ones in 2023
Happy New Year!
If you have your Bibles, please turn with me to Gen. 26. I want us to look at a very interesting period in Isaac’s life and glean some lessons and inspiration to carry with us as we enter 2023. Let’s begin in verse 12.
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. 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.”
Isaac returns to the land of his father Abraham, only to find the Philistines had filled in all the wells Abraham had done the work to dig. Wells in that region were a vital source of water for people and livestock so they were very important and treasured and after Abraham dug the wells he entered into an oath with Abimelech and the Philistines where he gave them seven ewes to secure these wells as belonging to him. The place was called the well of the oath.
But after Abraham died, the Philistines broke their oath and when Isaac gets there he finds the wells that once gave water are all plugged up. The wells that had been a source of refreshing and life were filled with dirt. That’s what Isaac finds, but he doesn’t complain and he doesn’t give up on them, he grabs a shovel and starts digging! Before long those wells are supplying water again and he gives them the same name his father had given them.
But Isaac doesn’t stop there. He re-digs the old wells and then he digs new wells. A land that had grown dry and unable to sustain life is once again flowing with water and life!
I believe the Lord has a word for us from this passage as we enter 2023.
- God’s blessing is over our lives but that doesn’t mean there won’t be challenges
God’s blessing is over Isaac’s life. We didn’t take the time to read it, but in verses 3-5 God promises to bless Isaac the way He did Abraham. Verse 12 tells us the Lord did bless him. And then, in verse 23, the Lord once again repeats His promise to bless Isaac.
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.
What drove Isaac’s life wasn’t what other people did or didn’t do. What drove Isaac’s life wasn’t what Isaac did or didn’t do. What drove Isaac’s life, and marked Isaac’s life, was God’s blessing over his life. The Lord appeared to Isaac and promised to be with him and to bless him. That blessing wasn’t based on Isaac deserving it, it was based on the covenant the Lord had freely made with his father Abraham and was now passing on to him.
And if we’re in Christ, we’re in that covenant too. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is our God as well and the blessing of the Lord rests over our lives.Eph. 1:3 says we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ. God’s promises to us are all yes and amen in Christ! God’s hand is on you and me for good. For blessing. I can say with confidence to all those who trust in Christ, 2023 will hold blessing for you.
But God’s blessing doesn’t mean everything comes easy. God blessed Isaac, but blessing created some challenges. The Philistines envied and feared him enough to ask him to leave their land. Blessing led to the herdsmen of Gerar to claim the wells he had dug now belonged to them. So he had to move on and dig some new wells.
2023 will hold some challenges for all of us – I’m pretty sure. Blessing doesn’t mean smooth sailing. Blessing doesn’t mean easy-street. Blessing means a fruitful life. Blessing means the Lord establishing the work – the work - of our hands. Blessing means God’s kindness and peace over our homes. Challenges will come and you know what, they’ll be a vehicle for God’s blessing too!
- God has new wells for us to dig and old wells to re-dig in 2023
Digging wells symbolizes doing practices that water our souls and provide refreshing for others. Wells represent work done to help us and others to flourish. I don’t know what wells God has for you to dig this year but I believe He has wells for us to dig in 2023.
- The wells of a living and active faith
The deepest wells of life spring from our faith in Christ but those wells get clogged up if we neglect them. We say things like:
- The Bible doesn’t speak to me like it used to
- I don’t feel God’s presence when I pray or worship the way I once did
- I’m not getting anything out of church anymore
The question isn’t, will this happen to me? At some point it happens to everyone. The question is what will we do about it? Do we give up reading the Bible, give up praying, give up going to church? The enemy would love to see that because it will result in our being spiritually dehydrated, weak, and no use to anyone else.
The first well we probably need to unclog is our hearts. Our hearts get stopped up, covered by the dirt of sin, distraction, misplaced priorities, discouragement, doubt and unbelief. That’s when we need to grab a shovel and start digging right here!
Lord, give me ears to hear Your word again! Give me eyes to see the beauty of my God again! Holy Spirit create in me a clean heart! Give me a soft heart! These prayers are asking God to bless the labor of our hands, then we need to grab the shovel and do the work the Bible commands us to of loving, believing, rejoicing, trusting, caring, etc.
Maybe we need to dig some new wells too. Find a devotional to supplement our time in God’s word (not replace it). Pray out loud. Take a walk in the woods and talk to God. Start a journal to capture your prayers, struggles, victories, and desires on paper.
We never leave the old wells of the Bible and prayer and fellowship, but we can dig new wells too. Our message doesn’t change, but our methods can. God leads us in the ancient highways, but He also does a new thing too. Dig new wells, and re-dig the old wells.
- The wells of relationships
It’s interesting to me that most of the challenges Isaac faced from God’s blessing were relational challenges. The Philistines kicked him out of town. A group of herdsmen took two of his wells away from him after he did the work of digging them. Fear, envy, contention, even enmity were at play in these relationships. But Isaac didn’t get discouraged and he didn’t give up - he kept digging!
And God made room for him. Room to be fruitful. Room for his life to flourish and expand. God will make room for you! Keep believing God’s blessing is over you and keep digging. And that’s really important when it comes to relationships. Many, if not most, of our challenges - and blessings – and work - will involve relationships. I want to encourage all of us to make it a goal in 2023 to dig new relational wells and re-dig the wells of older friendships that may have clogged up some.
I was wondering, why can relationships feel like so much work? Many people, if they were honest, enjoyed the lack of social interaction over the COVID lockdowns. The isolation and separation wasn’t good for us, loneliness was a very real problem, but more than a few didn’t mind dealing with those things if it meant not getting together with other people for social outings.
God made it so that relationships are the most important and most refreshing source of meaning and life in the world. First relationship with Him, and then with one another. When we come to the end of our lives, it won’t be our careers or wealth or pleasures we’ll look back on to find the meaning of our lives. It will be the relationships. So why do these wells so often feel so clogged?
I think it’s because, like digging wells, it takes work to get past the feelings of insecurity and “I don’t really know you” to a deeper place of trust, security, and affection. I’m not talking about everybody being everybody’s closest friend – that’s not practical or possible. I’m just saying let’s do some digging this year to deepen relationships within the church. Let’s be intentional to make that investment.
Dig some new wells to make new friends. To move past “I don’t know you at all” to “new friend!” Re-dig old wells – friendships that may have gone dormant and time and wind and busy schedules have clogged up those wells that once meant a lot to us. And that includes forgiving past hurts and wrongs when there has been a change of heart. That happened to Isaac.
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?”
Abimelech and his men must have burned some bridges when they told Isaac to leave cause Isaac felt their hatred. But now they see God at work and they want peace and they want to reinstate the covenant they made with Abraham.
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.
Nothing clogs up the heart and stops up the well faster than bitterness, unforgiveness and resentment. God moved on the heart of Abimelech to seek peace with Isaac and Isaac let that stuff go and made a feast. That’s a sign of friendship and fellowship.
Keep digging wells and God will make room for you. And sometimes enemies will come to make peace with you. Prov. 16:7 says when a man’s ways please the Lord, He will make even his enemies to be at peace with him.
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.
They just kept on digging! But things have come full circle: the well of the oath in Abraham’s day was restored to the well of the oath in Isaac’s day. This was the Lord’s doing and it’s pretty great.
What other wells might God have for you to dig or re-dig this year? Write them down! It might be a health goal, getting out of debt, applying for a new job or a promotion. It might be taking a step towards a dream you’ve had for a while but never acted on. Maybe it’s overcoming a fear that’s stopped you from digging. Believe God’s blessing is over your life and grab a shovel and dig!