They said, “We see plainly that the LORD has been with you; so we said, ‘Let there now be an oath between us, even between you and us, and let us make a covenant with you, 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.’”
In context, Isaac is speaking with Abimelech—which some folks think might have been a title like Caesar or Pharaoh or Herod—and has stated plainly that Abimelech and his people hate Isaac and his coterie. So why does Abimelech come out with this bit about blessings and covenants and doing good?
Sometimes, the blessings of God on a life are obvious. Isaac had gone hunting for water and found it all over the place which is kind of a big deal in places like Israel. When the people living in the area argued over who owned the water, Isaac just let it go and wandered off to the next bit of water. Isaac had planted and, in the middle of a famine, had harvested so much that he became wealthy in short order. All this material blessing could not go unnoticed. As Isaac’s wealth increased and as his reputation for just letting things be spread, it created a paradox in the minds of those who increased their wealth by taking it from others—Wall Street types should be taking notes—and those people reported what they saw to their ruler. What they saw was their attempts to take this man’s substance turned around and made increase of his wealth. Every. Single. Time. Do I think that God is always going to protect people’s material wealth? Nope. If Jesus is going to claim that we will always have the poor with us (and He did) then it follows that some people are going to be poor for whatever reason, including being ripped off. What I do think is that the attack wherein the world intends to strip the believer of something God means for us to have is the attack that God will thwart and potentially turn back around into a blessing for us. Does the world mean to take away my peace? Then God may just pour out so much peace that it spills over onto others around me.
The issue of a covenant is a simple thing, really. Abimelech saw that Isaac had something supernatural going on for him. The ruler noticed that Isaac’s life was one of blessing. So he did what a good ruler does: he tried to make a peace treaty with someone who could be a potential threat. It makes sense, really. I mean, Abimelech hears through the grapevine that folks have tried to impoverish Isaac and it has backfired completely. He hears that Isaac doesn’t even bother himself with fighting over the water; dude just goes off and digs a new well. With water being as precious as it was back then, that alone was probably enough to blow Abimelech’s mind. Later, Paul would write that believers should, as far as it depends on us, live at peace with all people. Isaac was living this out and it was blowing minds.
What about the whole “doing good” thing? Either Abimelech is delusional and thinks running a dude away from water is a good thing (maybe he figured that everyone was still alive, so that was good, right?) or he hasn’t heard about the whole water thing (which I think unlikely) or he’s thinking of the recent incident where Isaac lied about Rebekah and Abimelech gave orders for no one to harm Isaac (which, apparently, did not include leaving Isaac’s stuff alone).
Regardless of Abimelech’s screwy notions of “doing good” to someone, he had seen the hand of God at work in the life of Isaac and wanted to make peace with the person touched by that hand. I think that believers today too often forget that God is capable of defending Himself and we feel the need to go protest something or picket something or whatever. Isaac didn’t protest or picket or take anyone to court, he just moved on. Can I honestly say that I would rather just move on and let God handle the details of things like me being defrauded? If not, why not? Because in that willingness to let God be the arbiter and leave God to plead my case, I leave room for an unbelieving world to see my God work on behalf of His child. And in that room where God works is the place where the unbelieving world is brought face-to-face with the reality of my God.