23 From there he went up to Beer-sheba. 24 And that very night the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham; do not be afraid, for I am with you and will bless you and make your offspring numerous for my servant Abraham’s sake.” 25 So he built an altar there, called on the name of the Lord, and pitched his tent there. And there Isaac’s servants dug a well. (Genesis 26:23-25 NRSV)
This chapter is structured in part around Isaac’s attempts to dig and name and claim wells for his people. Early in the chapter he re-digs wells his father had dug but the Phillistines had filled. Each time conflict arises. He is forced to move on to new places and different sites for his wells. This same pattern is reinforced by his interaction with a local king who forces him to move away because Isaac has grown too prosperous and is therefore a threat to him.
These wells would have been important as sources of water and also of marking people’s land and possessions. Their names suggest that the namer had ownership and control of it.
I wonder if this movement around is God forcing Isaac to make his own way. It is one thing to be the heir of Abraham and the recipient of God’s promises and the one with whom God makes covenant. It is another to simply inherit what Abraham struggled to receive, journeyed to find.
Perhaps Isaac – and Jacob his son as well – must find his own place in God’s plans, stake out his own territory in God’s land of promise. He cannot rest on what his father did. He cannot receive what he did not earn by sacrifice and struggle and journey of his own?
I have inherited much myself – a church as pastor that others have built and led (lay people and pastors). I am surrounded by books and blogs and resources that teach and bless me. But I have to struggle to own these blessings, to call this church “mine” (although “mine’ is not a good word I think – it is God’s!). There is no easy path to being blessed, no simple way to spiritual abundance. I have to dig my own wells. I have to find my own place even if it is with help of others and the blessing and grace of God.
O God of Isaac and Jacob, guide me as I dig wells today. Bless these feeble efforts with water and provide what I and those I lead and love need. Show me where to dig, give me the courage and persistence to move ahead. In Christ’s name.. Amen.