Well Digging

Written by Drew on January 18th, 2006

Below is the manuscript of a chapel address I’m giving at Jefferson Christian Academy tomorrow.

Have you ever heard the expression, “I’m my father’s son?” It is used of children who take after their fathers in certain respects. Some of us are spitting images of our parents. In some cases, this is a good thing; in others, it’s bad. It all depends on the quality of the father.

Isaac was his father’s son. And no one would argue that he had anything to be ashamed of. Consider some of the striking similarities between him and his father Abraham:

  • Both received the promise upon which the entire Bible hangs—“in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 22:18; 26:3-4).
  • Both sojourned to Gerar, the city of the Philistines, and apparently faced the same king, Abimelech (Gen. 20:2; 26:1), although Isaac’s Abimelech could be a son or a grandson.
  • Both nursed the same fear and told the same lie (Gen. 20:2; 26:7). Because they both married beautiful women, they feared their barbaric neighbors would kill them and take their wives. So they lied and said their wives were their sisters.
  • Both were successful in agricultural pursuits (Gen. 24:1; 26:12).
  • And both dug wells. In fact, in several cases they dug the very same well!

This last point of comparison was, unfortunately, not by choice. Isaac should not have had to dig wells, since his father had already dug them in the area long ago. But because of the irritating inhabitants of Gerar, Isaac had to redo much of his father’s work (Gen. 26:18-22).

Three important lessons are found in this geological tale. If absorbed early on, each has the potential of making life easier in the long run.

1. You have to stand on your own two feet. It did not matter that Abraham had dug wells in the same area. Years of opposition from the Philistines had filled them in, and Abraham was dead and gone. Isaac had to dig wells for himself.

Parents can only carry their children so far, and then it is time for them to stand on their own two feet. This is especially true when it comes to the matter of faith. It is impossible for a young person to “borrow” or “inherit” his faith from his parents. Every generation is responsible for its own salvation.

Accountability to God is a very personal thing. When Judgment Day comes, no one but Christ may take your place—not your parents, not your preacher, not your brothers or sisters—no one! Ezekiel prophesied, “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (18:20). Paul put it this way: “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:12, emphasis added).

Before moving on, it should be noted that what Abraham did mattered. His wells, though filled by the Philistines, were a testimony of his hard work and righteous example. When Isaac saw them, he was, no doubt, encouraged and motivated to fulfill his own responsibilities. A parent’s influence cannot be underestimated (Prov. 22:6).

2. Enemies will hamper your best efforts. The Philistines’ opposition did not stop with Abraham. Without skipping a beat, it was passed down to Isaac. Moses tells us “the Philistines envied him” (Gen. 26:14). Just in our text, we read of three occasions when Isaac had to dig wells in new places because he had been driven from other places where he was not wanted. The names he gave these wells betrayed the frustration in his heart: one well was named “Esek,” meaning “contention.” Another was called “Sitnah,” meaning “enmity.” The final one he named “Rehoboth,” meaning “room,” for he had finally reached a plain where there were no herdsmen to complain about his presence.

Notice Isaac’s attitude towards these enemies. He showed no alarm; he did not quit. He merely worked around them, recognizing that antagonism was a reality he had to deal with.

Another great example is found in Nehemiah’s efforts to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. No sooner had Nehemiah and his men begun than enemies from Samaria in the north began to jeer at them. Eventually, they were encompassed on all sides by armies who would rather see them dead than to succeed at rebuilding Jerusalem. What did Nehemiah do? Four things: (1) he instructed half of his personal servants to help with the construction and half of them to set up an armed guard; (2) he stationed the rulers behind the workers to direct and encourage them; (3) he commanded those who had the task of loading and carrying materials to use one hand for their work and the other for holding a weapon; (4) he made each builder work with a sword strapped to his side (Neh. 4:15-20). Think of how these precautions slowed down the work! Nehemiah and the rest of the Jews could have grown discouraged, but they were not distracted by their enemies. “The people had a mind to work” (Neh. 4:6). In fact, despite the efforts of Israel’s enemies, they finished the enormous project of fortifying Jerusalem in only 52 days! (Neh. 6:15).

You will face numerous enemies as you pursue your personal goals in life. In addition to these, as a Christian, you will have plenty of spiritual enemies to worry about (Eph. 6:11-12; 1 Pet. 5:8). But do not lose focus. Keep your cool, do not quit, and stay the course. This relates to our third and final lesson.

3. Through persistence, you will find success. As I said before, Isaac had to pull up his stakes (literally) on three occasions, digging who knows how many wells each time, before he found peace. His example shows that he learned the art of persistence from his father.

No matter how talented you are, and no matter how lucky you may be, you will fail and have to start again. This is a fact of life, and there is no use resisting it. Learn persistence. It’s the key to success.

Napoleon Hill, who studied the lives of many successful people, stated, “I had the happy privilege of analyzing both Mr. Edison and Mr. Ford, year by year, over a long period of years, and therefore the opportunity to study them at close range, so I speak from actual knowledge when I say that I found no quality save persistence, in either of them, that even remotely suggested the major source of their stupendous achievements.”

Paul said, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9).

I’ve often heard ditch digging derided as an occupation beneath most people. But I have a newfound respect for digging, especially the digging Isaac did in Gerar. The wells that came as a result not only provided fresh water for his livestock and herdsmen. They also provide us with important lessons that will lead to success.


1 Comments so far ↓

  1. Anonymous says:

    I have a website that may be of some interest to some of your readers. Within the pages of the Bible, you will find numerous passages pertaining to the ancient history of Mesopotamia. I have done and extensive study on the genealogy of the Bible and created a database that contains the information of every individual mentioned. I used numerous other history sites to compile and expand the information of the surrounding areas at the time of each Bible character. You will be able to see all the Egyptian dynasties, Babylonians, Assyrians, Sumerians and many more. If you are interested, you can find this information at http://www.BibleFamilyTree.com.

Leave a Comment