Fellow Passengers: This week’s Promise Passage* (Genesis 26:12-16) transports me to yet another Gaza strip conflict, this one famine-inspired. The back story to this is full of juicy details. Isaac travels south to the coastlands from the barren promised land where the milk and honey have dried up; he seeks better fortunes in the Philistine’s fertile fields. Out of fear he pulls a page from Father Abraham’s book of tricks by trying to pass beautiful ‘Bekah off as his sister. All is safe until King Abimilech plays the voyeur and catches Isaac caressing “sister” in a way that brothers ought not to do, and confronts him. When Isaac admits to the real relationship and confesses his fear, Abimilech also displays fear – fear of God, and spreads the word for none of his tribe to lay a hand on the lovely bride or her less than valiant husband, lest they catch the wrath of God.
So what does God do to this fearful and deceitful patriarch? God blesses the bum with one of those miraculous hundred-fold crop yields! Here’s the funny thing about all these early patriarch stories: God is so bound and determined to keep the salvation history going, to keep the movement progressing toward the covenant promise of blessing for all the families of the earth, that God works this history out toward the goal oftentimes in spite of the chosen people who are tapped to be the movement leaders. These old men lie, they cheat, they are afraid, they are scoundrels and thieves, and still the blessing keeps on trucking. It’s evidence of a fiercely stubborn grace. They reap that which they have not sown.
What’s particularly curious about this story is the result of Isaac’s bountiful blessing. It winds up cursing him. It creates envy and jealousy among his enemy neighbors, and it gets him exiled out of the community. The first thing you know old Isaac’s a millionaire, and the king’s folk said, Isaac move away from here! He has become too powerful for their liking. The power of blessing is a curse to those who don’t have eyes to see or ears to hear. It is a curse to those too distracted or too fearful or too preoccupied with the world’s wares to let the blessing take root in their lives. The good news of the patriarch stories and the Jesus story is that God’s grace does not stop when rejected. The seeds of hope keep on truckin’ through hardpan and rock and brier patch until they eventually find their way into fertile soil. In honor of Isaac, that good old salty soul, I’ll leave you with some lines penned by another soulful Isaac – who can name the song and the artists who made it famous? Comin’ to ya on a dusty road. . .
*Daily Passages are the weekday reflections of Stan Dotson, connecting culture to biblical texts. Each week takes its guiding theme for the daily posts from the gospel reading on Monday, the “Primary Passage.” This week’s theme is “Sowing and Reaping.” As always, your feedback and comments are welcome. Feel free to share where the passages take you in your journey of faith.